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Blair v. Brands

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

April 28, 2017

ALLEN R. BLAIR PLAINTIFF
v.
YUM BRANDS and TACO BELL DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' [62] MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT is the Motion [62] for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Yum Brands and Taco Bell. This Motion is fully briefed. Having considered the Motion, related pleadings, the record, and relevant legal authority, the Court is of the opinion that Defendants' Motion [62] for Summary Judgment should be granted, and Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed with prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual background

         This case arises out of Plaintiff Allen R. Blair's (“Plaintiff” or “Mr. Blair”) employment at a Taco Bell restaurant in Gulfport, Mississippi. Mr. Blair worked as an at-will employee at Taco Bell from May 12, 2015, until he was terminated on December 4, 2015. Decl. of Nicholas “Nick” Moret [62-1] at 2-3; Pl.'s Dep. [62-2] at 67. Mr. Blair worked at the restaurant in several different capacities. Pl.'s Dep. [62-2] at 61-62. Sometimes Mr. Blair would take orders; at other times, he would prepare food or clean. Id. at 62.

         While he was working on the clock and taking orders at Taco Bell, Mr. Blair was asked by management to solicit customers to complete customer service satisfaction surveys. Id. at 62, 63. According to Mr. Blair, his general manager and area coach would receive bonuses for having customers complete the surveys. Id. at 62-63. Mr. Blair complains that he did not receive any part of these bonuses. Id. at 63.

         After Mr. Blair realized management was receiving bonuses, he refused to solicit surveys from customers, id. at 102, on grounds that it was not part of his job description to solicit surveys from customers, id. at 102-03. Mr. Blair alleges that if he did not obtain completed customer surveys, he feared that he would not be scheduled for as many hours on the work schedule. Id. at 103-04.

         Mr. Blair also charges that there were two weeks where Taco Bell was shut down due to water contamination. Id. at 64, 104. Despite being scheduled to work for the first week, Mr. Blair was not able to work either week due to the restaurant's closure. Id. Mr. Blair voiced a request for a “hardship payment” for these two weeks on an employees' group chat software application (“app”), for which he says he was disciplined by management. Id. Mr. Blair maintains that he was therefore denied his freedom of speech. Id. at 63-64.

         According to Nick Moret (“Mr. Moret”), the “area coach” who managed this Taco Bell location in Gulfport, Taco Bell counseled and disciplined Mr. Blair several times during his short employment with the company, and terminated Mr. Blair “after an investigation determined that Mr. Blair attempted to steal a customer's cell phone.” Decl. of Nicholas “Nick” Moret [62-1] at 3, 4; see also Corrective Action Reports [62-1] at 19-21.

         During his employment at Taco Bell, Mr. Blair was paid an hourly wage and was required to clock-in at the beginning and end of a shift, using a unique employee identification number. Decl. of Nicholas “Nick” Moret [62-1] at 4; Timelog Reporting [62-1] at 22-28; Pl.'s Dep. [62-2] at 68. According to records submitted by Taco Bell, Mr. Blair was paid $7.50 an hour when he was hired and was being paid $7.60 per hour at the time of his termination. Decl. of Nicholas “Nick” Moret [62-1] at 4; Pay Records [62-1] at 29-43. It is undisputed that Mr. Blair never worked more than 40 hours during a workweek and was paid by Taco Bell every two weeks. Decl. of Nicholas “Nick” Moret [62-1] at 4; Timelog Reporting [62-1] at 22-28; Pay Records [62-1] at 29-43; Pl.'s Dep. [62-2] at 69, 72.

         Every two weeks, Mr. Blair signed a payroll report supplied by Taco Bell confirming that the hours listed on the payroll report were the actual hours he had worked. Decl. of Nicholas “Nick” Moret [62-1] at 4; Pl.'s Dep. [62-2] at 69-70. Taco Bell has presented competent summary judgment evidence that Mr. Blair was paid for all hours that he worked during his time at Taco Bell. Decl. of Nicholas “Nick” Moret [62-1] at 4; Timelog Reporting [62-1] at 22-28; Pay Records [62-1] at 29-43.

         Taco Bell provided multiple avenues for its employees to report if they felt that they were not being paid for all hours worked. Id. According to Mr. Moret's sworn Declaration, “Mr. Blair did not report any concerns about his pay or incorrect hours logged during his employment.” Id.

         B. Procedural history

         Plaintiff filed a pro se Complaint [1] in this Court on December 7, 2015, alleging that he was terminated from Taco Bell on December 6, 2015, “because [he] gave voice to [his] civil rights being violated.” Compl. [1] at 3-4. Plaintiff alleged that the “extent of [his] employment was ‘slavery'” because hours he worked were not processed in payroll if he “wouldn't adheed [sic] to the area coach and general manager [sic] wishes for profitable benefits.” Id. at 3. Plaintiff asserted that he was entitled to relief because slavery was abolished in 1865; presumably, Plaintiff was referring to the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Id. Plaintiff sought $250, 000, 000.00 in damages. Id. at 5.

         On February 17, 2016, Defendants moved [9] to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or in the alternative for the Court to order Plaintiff to provide a more definite statement pursuant to Rule 12(e). On March 21, 2016, the Court granted Defendants' Motion [9] to ...


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