622 F.3d 393 (5th Cir. 2010), 07-30942, Castellanos-Contreras v. Decatur Hotels, LLC

Docket Nº:07-30942.
Citation:622 F.3d 393
Party Name:Daniel CASTELLANOS-CONTRERAS; Oscar Ricardo Deheza-Ortega; Rodolfo Antonio Valdez-Baez, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. DECATUR HOTELS, LLC; F. Patrick Quinn, III, Defendants-Appellants.
Attorney:Jennifer Jean Rosenbaum (argued), New Orleans Workers' Ctr. for Racial Justice, Legal Dept., Tracie L. Washington, LA Justice Institute, New Orleans, LA, Mary Bauer, Southern Poverty Law Ctr., Immigrant Justice Project, Montgomery, AL, Edward J. Tuddenham, Law Office of Edward Tuddenham, Washingt...
Judge Panel:Before JONES, Chief Judge, and KING, JOLLY, DAVIS, SMITH, GARZA, BENAVIDES, STEWART, DENNIS, PRADO, OWEN, ELROD, SOUTHWICK and HAYNES, Circuit Judges. HAYNES, Circuit Judge, joined by EDITH H. JONES, Chief Judge, and E. GRADY JOLLY, JERRY E. SMITH, EMILIO M. GARZA, BENAVIDES, OWEN and LESLIE H. S...
Case Date:October 01, 2010
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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622 F.3d 393 (5th Cir. 2010)

Daniel CASTELLANOS-CONTRERAS; Oscar Ricardo Deheza-Ortega; Rodolfo Antonio Valdez-Baez, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

DECATUR HOTELS, LLC; F. Patrick Quinn, III, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 07-30942.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

October 1, 2010

Page 394

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 395

Jennifer Jean Rosenbaum (argued), New Orleans Workers' Ctr. for Racial Justice, Legal Dept., Tracie L. Washington, LA Justice Institute, New Orleans, LA, Mary Bauer, Southern Poverty Law Ctr., Immigrant Justice Project, Montgomery, AL, Edward J. Tuddenham, Law Office of Edward Tuddenham, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs-Appellees.

Leslie W. Ehret, Lit. Counsel, Joseph Nicholas Mole (argued), Suzanne Marie Risey, Frilot, L.L.C., New Orleans, LA, Ellen Shirer Kovach, Gretna, LA, for Defendants-Appellants.

Ann Margaret Pointer (argued), John Eugene Thompson, Fisher & Phillips, L.L.P., Atlanta, GA, Keith M. Pyburn, Jr., Timothy Hugh Scott, Fisher & Phillips, L.L.P., New Orleans, LA, for Amici Curiae: Amelia Island Plantation, Am. Hotel & Lodging Ass'n, Basin Harbor Club, Beaver Run Resort & Conference Ctr., The Broadmoor, Best Western Grand CanyonSquire Inn, Cheyenne Mountain Resort, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Ass'n, Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Ass'n, Homestead Resort, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Mandoki Hospitality Group, Maryland Nursery & Landscape Ass'n, Mid-Atlantic Solutions, Inc., Nat. Council of Agricultural Employers, Ocean Reef Club, The Sagamore, Stein Erickson Lodge and Virginia Agricultural Employers Ass'n.

Catherine K. Ruckelshaus, Nat. Employment Law Project, New York City, for Amici Curiae: Interfaith Worker Justice, New Orleans Workers' Ctr. for Racial Justice and Nat. Employment Law Project.

Diane Arlene Heim (argued), U.S. Dept. of Labor, Office of Sol., Washington, DC, for Secretary of Labor, Amicus Curiae.

William H. Beardall, Jr., Sr. Atty., Equal Justice Ctr., Austin, TX, for Equal Justice Ctr., Amicus Curiae.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Before JONES, Chief Judge, and KING, JOLLY, DAVIS, SMITH, GARZA, BENAVIDES, STEWART, DENNIS, PRADO, OWEN, ELROD, SOUTHWICK and HAYNES, Circuit Judges.[1

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HAYNES, Circuit Judge, joined by EDITH H. JONES, Chief Judge, and E. GRADY JOLLY, JERRY E. SMITH, EMILIO M. GARZA, BENAVIDES, OWEN and LESLIE H. SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judges, in full; joined by KING, W. EUGENE DAVIS, CARL E. STEWART and PRADO, Circuit Judges, as to Section III.A. only:

A group of hotel workers present in this country under H-2B visas 2 (" the Workers" ) sued Decatur Hotels and Patrick Quinn (collectively " Decatur" ) alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ). Decatur moved to dismiss and for summary judgment, and the Workers moved for partial summary judgment. In a single order, the district court granted the Workers' motion in part and denied Decatur's motions. Thereafter, the court certified that order for interlocutory appeal to this court. On appeal, a panel of this court reversed the district court and rendered judgment for Decatur. See Castellanos-Contreras v. Decatur Hotels LLC, 559 F.3d 332 (5th Cir.), withdrawn and replaced by 576 F.3d 274 (5th Cir.2009). En banc review was granted, thus vacating the panel opinion. Castellanos-Contreras v. Decatur Hotels LLC, 601 F.3d 621 (5th Cir.2010). We now REVERSE the district court's order denying Decatur's motion and REMAND for entry of judgment in favor of appellants.

I. Facts and Procedural Background

In the wake of the devastation wrought upon the city of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, Decatur found itself unable to hire a sufficient number of American workers to staff its hotel properties. It was solicited by Virginia Pickering, who had a business known as Accent Personnel Services, to use her service to navigate the regulations necessary to allow Decatur to legally hire workers from other countries. Pickering also had a business known as VP Consultants that provided data about employers seeking foreign workers to various foreign recruitment companies. The Workers allege these foreign recruitment companies charged them to provide information about U.S. companies seeking foreign workers and the procedures for obtaining such jobs and securing necessary visas.

The Workers consist of one hundred people3 from various Latin American countries who came to New Orleans on H-2B visas to work at Decatur's hotels in housekeeping and other service roles. The Workers allege they were required to pay (1) placement fees charged by various recruitment companies, (2) their own visa-application fees, and (3) all transportation expenses necessary to relocate to the United States. The parties do not dispute that Decatur did not reimburse the Workers for these expenses. The parties also do not dispute that Decatur paid its own H-2B application fees and the recruitment fees Pickering and Accent charged it.

All parties agree that Decatur paid the Workers more than the minimum wage should the court find Decatur was not required to reimburse the disputed expenses. However, the Workers argue that federal law requires Decatur to reimburse them for their travel expenses, visa fees, and recruitment payments during their first week of work, failing which, such sums must be deducted from the first week's wage before calculating whether a

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minimum wage, under the FLSA, was paid. Contending that these deductions took their pay below the minimum wage, the Workers sued Decatur under the FLSA.

In the district court, Decatur moved for summary judgment, contending that it was not required under the FLSA (or any other applicable law) to reimburse the travel, visa, and recruitment expenses in question. For their part, the Workers moved for summary judgment contending that the court was required to deduct the disputed expenses as part of the minimum wage calculation and that, under that calculation, Decatur had violated the FLSA. In a single order, the district court granted the Workers' motion in part and denied Decatur's motion entirely. The district court held that the only remaining issues were the strictly mathematical calculations of wages actually paid and, should that yield a finding of liability, the amount of damages due. Thereafter, it certified this order under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) for interlocutory appeal, and a motions panel of this court granted leave to appeal.

The parties and the en banc court agree that the FLSA applies to the Workers in the situation before the court. However, the parties disagree on the threshold question of whether this court has jurisdiction to consider this appeal and, unsurprisingly, on the merits question of whether the disputed expenses can or should be deducted as part of the FLSA calculation. A panel of this court opted to utilize its discretion to exercise jurisdiction in this case and ultimately found that Decatur was correct on the merits. After granting en banc rehearing and following reargument of the case, we now issue this opinion, again finding jurisdiction and reversing the district court on the merits.

II. Standard of Review

The court reviews its own jurisdiction de novo. Nehme v. INS, 252 F.3d 415, 420 (5th Cir.2001).

The court reviews certified orders de novo. Tanks v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 417 F.3d 456, 461 (5th Cir.2005). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), a grant or denial of summary judgment is reviewed de novo, applying the same standard as the district court, First Am. Bank v. First Am. Transp. Title Ins. Co., 585 F.3d 833, 836-37 (5th Cir.2009), but review only extends to controlling questions of law, Tanks, 417 F.3d at 461. Further, the court's inquiry " is limited to the summary judgment record before the trial court." Martco Ltd. P'ship v. Wellons, Inc., 588 F.3d 864, 871 (5th Cir.2009). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986), and the movant has the burden of showing this court that summary judgment is appropriate, Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate where the competent summary judgment evidence demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Bolton v. City of Dallas, 472 F.3d 261, 263 (5th Cir.2006); see FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable jury could enter a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

III. Discussion

A. Jurisdiction

The jurisdiction question presented to the en banc court breaks down into two

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parts: (1) is there appellate jurisdiction to reach any question other than whether the FLSA generally applies to the Workers ( i.e., do we have the power to hear the issues Decatur presents), and, if so, (2) should we exercise our discretion to hear this appeal? We address each question in turn.

1. Appellate Jurisdiction

The Workers contend that the district court only certified the question of whether the FLSA generally applies to the Workers, i.e., were the Workers entitled to be paid the minimum wage? In turn, they argue that this question is not one " as to which there is a substantial ground for difference of opinion" and, thus, they contend that we lack jurisdiction at all. As a fall back position, they contend that, at most, we have jurisdiction to decide only this threshold question but not the question of whether federal law requires reimbursement of the expenses in question. Decatur contends that jurisdiction is proper because the order certified necessarily includes consideration of the " merits" question of whether the disputed...

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