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Kenney v. Palmer-Stuart Oil Company, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division

October 13, 2017

TIMOTHY KENNEY, Plaintiff,
v.
PALMER-STUART OIL COMPANY, INC. d/b/a PRESTON AVENUE SHELL, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Glen E. Conrad United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Timothy Kenney filed this action against defendant Palmer-Stuart Oil Company, Inc., alleging a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et se£, and breach of contract. The Clerk has entered default, and this matter is currently before the court on plaintiffs motion for default judgment. Defendant has not responded to the motion. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.

         Background

         Since the defendant is in default, the facts underlying this litigation are uncontested. The defendant, a restaurant, gas, and service station in Charlottesville, Virginia, employed the plaintiff in the restaurant's kitchen from December 2013 to December 2014 and September 21, 2015 to May 29, 2016. During the first period of employment, the plaintiff signed an agreement establishing his pay at $10.00 per hour for eight hours a day. During the second period of employment, the defendant orally agreed to pay the plaintiff $10.00 per hour and required the plaintiff to work eight-and-a-half hours per day without any breaks.

         According to the plaintiff, however, the defendant routinely reduced the plaintiffs total hours of work by an average of five hours per week for an average of seven-and-a-half hours per day. The plaintiff asserts that he notified the defendant's management about the unpaid wages, but the defendant denied that it had underpaid the plaintiff and refused to produce the plaintiffs time cards.

         On July 28, 2017, the plaintiff filed the instant action alleging two counts against the defendant: (1) that the defendant failed to pay plaintiff overtime wages, in violation of the FLSA ("Count I"), and (2) that the defendant had breached the parties' contract to pay the plaintiff the agreed-upon hourly wage for all hours worked ("Count II"). On September 1, 2017, the Clerk made an entry of default against the defendant. The plaintiff now moves for default judgment.

         Standard of Review

         Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth a two-step process for obtaining a default judgment. When a defendant fails to plead or otherwise defend an action, the Clerk has the authority to enter a default. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). After the Clerk's entry of default, a party may move for default judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b).

         In reviewing the motion, the court may view all well-pleaded facts alleged in the complaint as true for purposes of liability. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(6) ("An allegation - other than one relating to the amount of damages - is admitted if a responsive pleading is required and the allegation is not denied."); see also Ryan v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780 (4th Cir. 2001) ("The defendant, by his default, admits the plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations of fact.") (internal citation omitted)). Accordingly, in the default judgment context, "the appropriate inquiry is whether or not the face of the pleadings supports the default judgment and the causes of action therein." Anderson v. Found, for Advancement, Educ. & Emp't of Am. Indians, 187 F.3d 628 (4th Cir. Aug. 10, 1999) (unpublished table opinion).

         If the facts alleged in the complaint establish liability, the court must then determine the appropriate amount of damages. Ryan, 253 F.3d at 780-81. In so doing, the court may conduct an evidentiary hearing under Rule 55(b)(2). The court may also decide the amount of damages without a hearing if the record contains sufficient evidence. See Anderson v. Found, for Advancement. Educ. & Employment of Am. Indians, 155 F.3d 500, 507 (4th Cir. 1998) (noting that "in some circumstances a district court entering a default judgment may award damages ascertainable from the pleadings without holding a hearing"); Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. Capital Restoration & Painting Co., 919 F.Supp.2d 680, 684 (D. Md. 2013) (finding that the court need not conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine damages and "may rely instead on affidavits or documentary evidence in the record to determine the appropriate sum.").

         Discussion

         I. Fair Labor Standards Act

         Plaintiff alleges that the defendant violated the FLSA by failing to pay the plaintiff earned overtime wages. The FLSA creates a private right of action for employees to recover unpaid overtime wages from employers. 29 U.S.C. § 207. The FLSA's broad definition of "employer" includes "any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in ' relation to an employee." Id. § 203(d). The employee must be "engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, or [be] employed in an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce." Id. § 207(a)(1).

         The FLSA requires that an employee receive overtime pay for work performed over 40 hours in any workweek at a rate not less than one and a half times the employee's regular rate of pay. Id. § 207(a)(2). The "regular rate" means the hourly rate. 29 C.F.R. § 778.109. While an employer need not compensate employees on an hourly basis, overtime compensation must be based on an hourly rate. Id. "The statute, however, exempts from this requirement 'any employee employed in a bona fide executive . ...


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