Bynum v. Cal-Me. Farms, Inc., CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:10-CV-862-DPJ-FKB

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 3:10-CV-862-DPJ-FKB
Decision Date26 July 2012




Dated: July 26, 2012


This wage-and-hour dispute is before the Court on Defendant Cal-Maine Farms, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment [28] and Plaintiff Sic Bynum's motion for partial summary judgment as to liability [20]. Having considered the parties' memoranda and submissions, along with the pertinent authorities, the Court finds that Bynum was employed in agricultural and therefore ineligible for overtime wages. Defendant's motion is granted and Plaintiff's motion is denied.

I. Facts and Procedural History

Bynum worked at Defendant Cal-Maine's Mendenhall hatchery where fertilized eggs are hatched, and the chicks are processed for transportation to other Cal-Maine egg-laying facilities. Bynum received no overtime wages for his work, and he filed this suit for himself and on behalf of all similarly situated current and former Cal-Maine employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (the "FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.

Cal-Maine previously moved to dismiss Bynum's Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), but the Court found that Cal-Maine had relied on facts not alleged in the Complaint. The parties have now engaged in discovery and filed cross-motions for summary judgment. All applicable facts are undisputed, leaving one issue of law for the Court to decide—whether Bynum was

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employed in agriculture and therefore ineligible for overtime. The Court has personal and subject-matter jurisdiction and is prepared to rule.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is warranted under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when 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 sufficient showing 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 (1986).

III. Analysis

The central question is whether Cal-Maine's hatchery is exempt from the FLSA on the grounds that Bynum was an "employee employed in agriculture" under § 213(a)(6). Bynum contends that the agricultural exemption is inapplicable because some of the eggs used in the hatchery came from outside sources. For reasons that follow, the Court disagrees.

A. Statutory and Regulatory Background

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was created to benefit and protect employees by establishing a minimum-wage requirement as well as a forty-hour workweek. Section 207 of the Act provides that

[e]xcept as otherwise provided in this section, no employer shall employ any of his employees . . . for a workweek longer than forty hours unless such employee receives compensation for his employment in excess of the hours above specified at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed.

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Those individuals covered by the FLSA's provisions are protected by a number of enforcement mechanisms. In particular, § 216(b) authorizes employees to sue employers to recover unpaid minimum wages or overtime compensation.

But exceptions apply, including the one central to this case. Wage-and-hour provisions are inapplicable to any "employee employed in agriculture." 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(6). The term "agriculture" is defined in § 203(f) to

include[] farming in all its branches and among other things includes the . . . raising of. . . poultry, and any practices . . . performed by a farmer or on a farm as an incident to or in conjunction with such farming operations, including preparation for market, delivery to storage or to market or to carriers for transportation to market.

Id. § 203(f) (emphasis added). This "provision defines agriculture in both a primary and a secondary sense." NLRB v. Cal-Maine Farms, Inc., 998 F.2d 1336, 1338 n.1 (5th Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). "The primary meaning encompasses 'farming in all its branches,' including such practices . . . as the raising of poultry." Id. The secondary meaning covers practices "incident[] to or in conjunction with such farming operations." Id. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).


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