United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
WILIAN MEJIA ROMERO, Plaintiff, .
GRANITE CENTER, LLC, Defendant.
M. HILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Center, LLC ("Defendant") fabricates and installs
granite stone countertops for residential and commercial
customers. In March 2013, Defendant hired Wilian Mejia Romero
("Plaintiff") to perform granite installation
services as a subcontractor. Plaintiff typically worked in a
team of two at a customer's home or office. On an average
work day, Plaintiff would clock in at Defendant's office,
travel to his worksite and perform an installation, and then
return to Defendant's office and clock out. Plaintiff was
paid hourly, and he generally tracked his hours using his
fingerprint on a biometric timeclock. If Plaintiff arrived at
the office after closing, he would leave a note indicating
the time he was clocking out.
had a policy requiring all employees to take a one hour lunch
break, which was not paid. Plaintiff alleges that he could
not take a lunch break and still complete his job on time, so
he rarely took a lunch break. At Plaintiff's request,
Defendant changed the lunch break policy from one hour to
thirty minutes. Plaintiff alleges that he regularly worked
more than forty hours per week without being paid overtime
January 2016, the Department of Labor ("DOL") began
an investigation into Defendant's employment practices.
Along with interviewing various employees, the DOL reviewed
the employment records kept by Defendant, including time
records, pay records, and tax records. The DOL never
2016, Defendant's business was slow, and one of the
owners, Mr. Karaman, sent Plaintiff a text message telling
him to not come to work until Defendant had more installation
jobs. Plaintiff responded with a series of texts containing
obscene language. After the series of inappropriate texts,
Defendant never asked Plaintiff to perform another
installation and terminated Plaintiff's employment.
August 2016, the DOL concluded its investigation and
determined that some employees were owed compensation.
Defendant entered into a settlement agreement with the DOL.
As part of the settlement, the DOL provided Defendant with
the forms required for each employee that the DOL determined
was owed compensation. Plaintiff, who was entitled to some
further compensation, went to Defendant's office and
received two Form WH-58 documents. One of the forms was in
English and the other form was in Spanish.
signed the form, which released his claims against Defendant
for any unlawful employment practices. The form specifically
states that an employee who signed the form waived any right
to sue Defendant for payment of minimum wages or overtime
compensation for the period from February 1, 2014, through
December 19, 2015. When he received and signed the Form
WH-58, Plaintiff also received and then cashed two checks.
The first check was in the amount of $3, 692.22, which was in
the amount of gross wages owed minus deductions, and the
second check was $5, 550.81, which was identified as
signing the form and cashing the checks, Plaintiff filed a
Complaint in this Court on August 12, 2016, against Defendant
asserting three causes of action: (1) failure to pay overtime
in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act
("FLSA"), (2) failure to pay minimum wages in
violation of the FLSA, and (3) retaliatory termination in
violation of the FLSA. On May 9, 2017, Defendant moved for
summary judgment, and this matter is ripe for resolution.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a court should grant
summary judgment if the pleadings and evidence show that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) . In reviewing a motion for summary
judgment, the court views the facts in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Once a
motion for summary judgment is properly made, the opposing
party has the burden to show that a genuine dispute of
material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986).
FLSA requires employers to pay non-exempt employees at least
the minimum wage and restricts the maximum hours an employee
can work without receiving overtime compensation. Trejo
v. Ryman Hosp. Properties, Inc., 795 F.3d 442, 446 (4th
Cir. 2015). If an employer fails to pay minimum wage or
overtime compensation, the employee is entitled to the amount
of his unpaid wages and in some circumstances an equal amount
in liquidated damages. Id. There is a two-year
statute of limitations on FLSA claims unless a plaintiff
proves that the defendant willfully violated the FLSA. See 29
U.S.C. § 255(a).
Defendant is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law
because Plaintiff has no actionable claims against Defendant.
There are three relevant time frames at issue: (1) from when
Plaintiff was hired until February 1, 2014; (2) from February
1, 2014 until December 19, 2015; and (3) from December 19,
2015 until Plaintiff was terminated. Plaintiff filed his
Complaint on August 12, 2016, which was more than two years
after the first time-frame. Accordingly, any claims from the
first time period are barred by the two-year statute of
limitations unless Plaintiff proves that Defendant willfully
violated the FLSA. Plaintiff has failed to prove that
Defendant willfully violated the FLSA during this time
period. Thus, Plaintiff's claims, if any, from the first
period are barred by the statute of limitations.
Plaintiff waived his claims from the second period of time,
the period from February 1, 2014, until December 19, 2015. If
an employee accepts payment for unpaid wages pursuant to a
DOL settlement, the employee releases any claims he may have
had for unpaid wages. See 29 U.S.C. § 216(c).
The DOL investigated Defendant and found that Plaintiff was
entitled to certain sums of unpaid wages. Defendant provided
Plaintiff with two waivers, one in Spanish and one in
English. Plaintiff signed the waiver form and cashed the two
checks for the amount of unpaid wages and liquidated damages
that he was owed. Thus, Plaintiff has no claim for unpaid
wages from this time period.
Plaintiff does not have an actionable claim for the third
period of time, the period from December 19, 2015, until
Plaintiff was terminated in June 2016. The employee has the
burden to establish: (1) that he worked overtime without
compensation, and (2) the amount and extent of his overtime
hours. Davis v. Food Lion, 792 F.2d 1274, 1276 (4th
Cir. 1986). To be liable for overtime wages, the employer
must have either actual or constructive knowledge that an
employee worked overtime but did not receive overtime
compensation. See Bailey v. Cty. of Georgetown, 94
F.3d 152, 157 (4th Cir. 1996). Plaintiff s failure to ...