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White v. Ntc Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

September 27, 2013

CHARLES WHITE, on his own behalf and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
NTC TRANSPORTATION, INC., et al., Defendants.


SHARION AYCOCK, District Judge.

Numerous motions have been filed in this case to date. Defendants seek to establish that individual Defendants, Jackie Netterville, Sr., and Evelyn Netterville are not personally liable under the Mississippi Limited Liability Act by motion for partial summary judgment [49]. Plaintiffs' then sought to strike Defendants' reply brief filed in support thereof [56]. Defendants then filed another Motion for Summary Judgment [81] seeking a determination that Defendants are not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Plaintiffs filed a motion to deny the request for summary judgment as premature [85]. The Court considers all arguments made in the briefing on those motions, and also considers the filings in support and in response to Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment [129].

Accordingly, the Court finds: (1) Defendants are covered by the FLSA; (2) Jackie Netterville, Sr., is an "employer" under the FLSA, and therefore can be held liable under that statute, while a question of fact exists as to whether Evelyn Netterville is an "employer;" and (3) there exist genuine disputes of material fact as to whether Plaintiffs were paid for all time worked and whether those alleged violations were willful or liquidated damages are due to Plaintiffs. Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [49] is therefore, DENIED. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [81] is DENIED. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [129] is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. All other motions except Defendants' Motion for Decertification [131] and Motion for Hearing [134] are terminated.

Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff Charles White was an hourly-paid driver employed by Defendant NTC Transportation, Inc., a Mississippi corporation. He seeks to bring this claim on behalf of those similarly situated, and a class has been conditionally certified.[1] In their capacity as employees, Plaintiffs picked up, transported, and dropped off non-emergency Medicaid medical patients. Plaintiffs contend that because they were not allowed to use the company-provided vehicles for personal business, and NTC maintained a policy requiring drivers to pick up patients within ten to fifteen minutes of their appointments ending, Plaintiffs derived no benefit from the time they spend waiting in Defendants' vehicles. Accordingly, Plaintiffs contend that all time spent in Defendants' vehicles without patients therein was compensable time for which they were not paid pursuant to a "down time" policy. Plaintiffs further contend Defendants deducted automatically a one hour lunch break, which Plaintiffs claim they were not able to take. In addition to the "down time" and "lunch hour" deductions, Plaintiffs contend Defendants failed to pay them for the hours as calculated by Defendants that they worked. Plaintiffs also complain that they were not paid the promised premium for "lift pay" and that Defendants failed to compensate overtime including the "lift pay" premium. Plaintiffs submit that these FLSA violations were willful, and thus, subject to the FLSA's three year statute of limitations, as opposed to the statutorily-imposed two years.

Because NTC Transportation is a Mississippi corporation, only transporting passengers intrastate, it contends its work is "purely local" and does not affect interstate commerce such that its actions are covered by the FLSA. Indeed, Plaintiffs never claimed to have used an NTC vehicle to transport a passenger over Mississippi state lines; however, Plaintiffs claim that NTC purchased at least twenty vehicles, maybe closer to seventy vehicles, that had, at some point, moved in interstate commerce. The Court first determines whether the FLSA applies to Defendants' business.

Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is warranted under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when the evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The rule "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

The party moving for summary judgment "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. The nonmoving party must then "go beyond the pleadings" and "designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (citation omitted). In reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be resolved in favor of the nonmovant, "but only when... both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts." Little v. Liquid Air Corp. , 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc). When such contradictory facts exist, the Court may "not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc. , 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000). However, conclusory allegations, speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic arguments have never constituted an adequate substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James of Wash. , 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002); SEC v. Recile , 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1997); Little , 37 F.3d at 1075.

Discussion and Analysis

1. Application of the FLSA

"In 1938 Congress enacted the FLSA as a means of regulating minimum wages, maximum working hours, and child labor in industries that affected interstate commerce." Reich v. Tiller Helicopter Servs., Inc. , 8 F.3d 1018, 1024 (5th Cir. 1993); Griffin v. S&B Eng'rs & Constructors, Ltd., 507 F.Appx. 377, 380 (5th Cir. 2013). In order to be eligible for the FLSA protections, an employee must first demonstrate that he is "covered" by the FLSA. There are two types of FLSA coverage. First, an employee may claim "individual coverage" if he regularly and "directly participat[es] in the actual movement of persons or things in interstate commerce." Josendis v. Wall to Wall Residence Repairs Inc. , 662 F.3d 1292, 1299 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Thorne v. All Restoration Servs., Inc. , 448 F.3d 1264, 1266 (11th Cir. 2006)); see also 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1) (mandating time-and-a-half for "employees... engaged in [interstate] commerce or in the productions of goods for [interstate] commerce"). Second, an employee is subject to "enterprise coverage" if he is "employed in an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, " 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). In relevant part, an enterprise is engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce if it

(i) has employees engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, or that has employees handling, selling, or otherwise working on goods or materials that have been moved in or produced for commerce by any person; and
(ii) is an enterprise whose annual gross volume of sales made or business done is ...

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