United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
ANGEL MARTINEZ, on his own behalf and PLAINTIFF On behalf of all others similarly situated
TRI-STATE ENTERPRISES LLC, REGINA BROCK, MICHAEL L. BROCK, and LEE BROCK DEFENDANTS
MICHAEL P. MILLS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion
for Summary Judgment . The Court, having considered
the memoranda and submissions of the parties, along with
relevant case law and evidence, is now prepared to rule.
Plaintiff, Angel Martinez, began working for Defendant,
Tri-State Enterprises LLC (Tri-State), in 2012. Tri-State,
located in Walls, Mississippi, is owned by Defendant, Michael
Brock. Defendant Mike Brock's wife, Regina Brock, and his
son, Lee Brock, were also involved in certain operations of
Tri-State. Regina Brock was responsible of ensuring all
workers were compensated their earned wages and Lee Brock
helped with other needs.
contends that Tri-State, Michael Brock, Regina Brock, and Lee
Brock (collectively “the Defendants”) failed to
compensate him with overtime pay for all hours worked over
the normal forty hours per week, thereby violating the Fair
Labor Standards Act (FLSA). According to Plaintiff, the
Defendants owe him $16, 000 (estimate) in overtime pay for
his labor since February 16, 2013. In the motion at hand,
Plaintiff seeks summary judgment on grounds that he was an
employee for purposes of the FLSA; that the Defendants are
joint-employers; and that the Defendants acted willfully in
violating the FLSA. Plaintiff would also have this court
grant summary judgment as to liquidated damages and
judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). A genuine dispute of material fact exists “if
the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505,
91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). At the summary judgment stage, the
court must “draw all reasonable inferences in favor of
the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility
determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v.
Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct.
2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000). Once the moving party shows
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, the
nonmoving party “must come forward with specific facts
showing a genuine factual issue for trial.” Harris
ex rel. Harris v. Pontotoc Cty. Sch. Dist., 635 F.3d
685, 690 (5th Cir. 2011). “[A] party cannot defeat
summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated
assertions, or ‘only a scintilla of
evidence.'” Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med.
Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th
Plaintiff to recover under the FLSA, the Plaintiff must
demonstrate that he was an employee of the Defendant. 29
U.S.C. § 207(a)(1).
Plaintiff Was An Employee of Tri-State for FLSA
determine if a worker qualifies as an employee, we focus on
whether, as a matter of economic reality, the worker is
economically dependent upon the alleged employer or is
instead in business for himself.” Hopkins v.
Cornerstone America, 545 F.3d 338, 343 (5th Cir. 2008).
As to economic reality, the court considers the following
five factors: (1) the degree of control exercised by the
alleged employer; (2) the extent of the relative investments
of the worker and the alleged employer; (3) the degree to
which the worker's opportunity for profit or loss is
determined by the alleged employer; (4) the skill and
initiative required in performing the job; and (5) the
permanency of the relationship. Id. “No single
factor is determinative.” Id.
The degree of control exercised by Tri-State and the degree
to which Plaintiff's opportunity for profit and loss was
determined by Tri-State weigh in favor of employee
the control and opportunity for profit and loss factors, the
Court finds that both were largely determined by Tri-State.
“Control is only significant when it shows an
individual exerts such a control over a meaningful part of
the business that [he] stands as a separate economic
entity.” Brock v. Mr. W Fireworks Inc., 814
F.2d 1042, 1049 (5th Cir. 1987). “The lack of
supervision over minor regular tasks cannot be bootstrapped
into an appearance of real independence.” Id.
case at hand, Defendants argue that Plaintiff retained
control, and that his opportunity for profit and loss was not
determined by Tri-State, because Plaintiff set his own hours,
negotiated his rate of pay and was originally intended to be
hired as a cutter. This court, however, finds that such
arguments are not fully convincing. Although Plaintiff was
originally intended to be hired as a cutter, he was instead
hired to take charge of any support work for the cutters with
whom Tri-State contracted (as discussed below). Per Defendant
Mike Brock's deposition, he (an employer of Plaintiff-as
discussed below) held and negotiated contracts with other
companies, cutters then entered into contractual agreements
with Tri-State, and Defendant Mike Brock would then pay
Plaintiff out of the “contract per ton price of the
metal that [he] would buy back from the cutters.”
During his time at Tri-State, Plaintiff earned an hourly wage
by working for Tri-State to support the contracted cutters.
This Court notes that Plaintiff's initial wages were at a
rate of $9 per hour and increased throughout his time with
Tri-State. However, the fact that Tri-State granted wage
increases to Plaintiff does not itself keep Plaintiff from
being an employee under the FLSA. This Court finds that
Plaintiff had no opportunity to profit beyond his hourly wage
earnings, and, although Plaintiff was able to set his own
hours, he ...