Frye v. Baptist Mem'l Hosp. Inc. D/b/a Baptist Mem'l

Decision Date27 April 2011
Docket NumberNo. 07-2708,07-2708
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Tennessee

Plaintiff James Allen Frye ("Frye") alleges that Defendant Baptist Memorial Hospital, Inc. ("Baptist") violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et. seq., by failing to compensate him and similarly situated hourly employees for time worked during meal breaks. (See Compl. 55 89, 24-25, 33, ECF No. 1.) Before the Court is Baptist's January 15, 2010 motion for summary judgment as to Frye. (See Def. Baptist Memorial Hospital Inc.'s Mot. for Summ. J. as to Named Pl. James Allen Frye, ECF No. 343.) ("Baptist's Mot.") After an initial stay of the motion, Frye responded in opposition onDecember 10, 2010. (See Mot. for Supplemental Scheduling Order, ECF No. 366; Minutes, ECF No. 369; Minutes, ECF No. 399; Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 400 ("Pl.'s Resp.").) Baptist replied on December 20, 2010. (See Def.'s Reply in Supp. of its Mot. for Summ. J. as to Named Pl. James Frye, ECF No. 403.) ("Baptist's Reply") For the following reasons, Baptist's motion is GRANTED.

I. Background1

While Frye was employed as a nurse at Baptist from 2004 through 2007, Baptist had a policy of providing hourly employees with daily unpaid meal breaks and automatically deducting from their compensation an amount representing the time they spent on those breaks. (See Compl. ¶¶ 8-9; Barbaree Decl. Ex. 1, ECF No. 343-4 (containing excerpts from Baptist's policy manual).) Baptist also had a policy of compensating hourly employees for time worked during meal breaks, and individual departments were responsible for maintaining systems to ensure that employees were compensated for that time. (See Def. Baptist Mem.Hospital, Inc.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in Supp. of its Mot. for Summ. J. as to Named Pl. James Allen Frye ¶¶ 1516, ECF No. 343-2.) ("Facts") Hourly employees subject to the automatic deduction policy received instructions, generally at their departmental orientation, on documenting missed or interrupted meal breaks to ensure they received compensation for time worked during those breaks. (See id. ¶¶ 12, 15.) To ensure employees were paid for all time worked, many departments used paper records known as "exception logs," which they maintained in a common area accessible to department employees. (See id. ¶ 16.) Employees could use the exception logs to record time worked during meal breaks and other time worked outside their regular hours. (See id.) According to Jerry Barbaree, Baptist's Director of Human Resources, Baptist has not received any indication from the Department of Labor or any other organization that its automatic deduction policy or department-based exception system might violate the FLSA. (See id. ¶ 13.)

When Frye began his employment at Baptist, he received information about Baptist's overtime, attendance, and pay procedures at his departmental orientation. (See Facts ¶ 11.) Although Frye received periodic training about using the exception log, including a memorandum reminding him to do so, and he used the exception log to record some time worked outsidehis regular hours, Frye did not use the exception log to report time worked during meal breaks because he forgot to do so. (See id. ¶¶ 6, 9-10; see also Frye Dep. 23:24-24:8, 29:2-29:4, Feb. 26, 2009, ECF No. 343-4.) Frye was never told not to use the exception log, and, when he used the exception log, his time entries were approved. (Facts ¶ 5.) When Frye brought errors in his compensation to the attention of Baptist's payroll department, those errors were corrected. (Id. ¶ 7.) After Baptist had terminated Frye's employment in April 2007, it issued his final paycheck on April 27, 2007. (See id. ¶ 1.) On behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Frye filed this suit against Baptist on November 2, 2007, alleging that Baptist had willfully failed to pay hourly employees for time worked during meal breaks in violation of the FLSA. (Id. ¶ 2.) On September 16, 2008, the Court conditionally certified a class of Baptist employees who had been subject to an automatic thirty-minute payroll deduction for meal breaks. (See Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Mot. to Certify Collective Action, ECF No. 144.) On November 4, 2008, the Court approved the parties' plan for providing notice to the class so that similarly situated employees could "opt-in" to the collective action by filing a written consent to join. (See Order Approving Notice and Notice Plan, ECF No. 147.) Frye did not file a written consent to join the suit before theCourt's January 10, 2009 deadline for filing written consents. (Facts ¶¶ 3-4.)

On January 15, 2010, Baptist filed a motion to decertify the collective action and the motion for summary judgment now before the Court. (See Mot. to Decertify Collective Action, ECF No. 339; Baptist's Mot.) The Court stayed the motion for summary judgment pending resolution of the motion to decertify. (See Mot. for Supplemental Scheduling Order, ECF No. 366; Minutes, ECF No. 369.) After the Court granted the motion to decertify on September 20, 2010, the Court gave Frye until December 10, 2010 to respond to Baptist's motion for summary judgment on his claim. (See Order Granting Mot. to Decertify Collective Action, ECF No. 395; Minutes, ECF No. 399.) Frye has responded, and Baptist has replied. (See Pl.'s Resp.; Baptist's Reply.)

II. Jurisdiction

Because Frye alleges violations of the FLSA, this Court has subject matter jurisdiction under the general grant of federal question jurisdiction in 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

III. Standard of Review

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, on motion of a party, the court "shall grant summary judgment 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). The party moving for summary judgment "bears the burden of clearly and convincingly establishing the nonexistence of any genuine [dispute] of material fact, and the evidence as well as all inferences drawn therefrom must be read in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Kochins v. Linden-Alimak, Inc., 799 F.2d 1128, 1133 (6th Cir. 1986); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The moving party can meet this burden by pointing out to the court that the respondent, having had sufficient opportunity for discovery, has no evidence to support an essential element of his case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2); Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479 (6th Cir. 1989).

When confronted with a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the respondent must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine dispute for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine dispute for trial exists if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The nonmoving party must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). One may not oppose a properly supported summary judgment motion by mere reliance on the pleadings. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324(1986). Instead, the nonmovant must present "concrete evidence supporting [his] claims." Cloverdale Equip. Co. v. Simon Aerials, Inc., 869 F.2d 934, 937 (6th Cir. 1989) (citations omitted); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). The district court does not have the duty to search the record for such evidence. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3); InterRoyal Corp. v. Sponseller, 889 F.2d 108, 111 (6th Cir. 1989). The nonmovant has the duty to point out specific evidence in the record that would be sufficient to justify a jury decision in his favor. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1); InterRoyal Corp., 889 F.2d at 111. "Summary judgment is an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action[,] rather than a disfavored procedural shortcut." FDIC v. Jeff Miller Stables, 573 F.3d 289, 294 (6th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

IV. Analysis

Baptist argues that summary judgment should be granted because Frye's claim is barred by the statute of limitations. (See Def. Baptist Memorial Hospital Inc.'s Mem. of Law in Supp. of its Mot. for Summ. J. as to Named Pl. James Allen Frye 6-11, ECF No. 343-1.) ("Baptist's Mem.") Baptist argues that, because Frye has not filed a written consent to join the collective action, his claim is barred by the two-year statutoryperiod. (See id. 7-11.) Baptist also argues that, because Frye has not shown willfulness on its part, the three-year statutory period does not apply. (See id.)

A FLSA action must be commenced within two years of the date the cause of action accrues, unless there is a willful violation of the FLSA, in which case the action must be commenced within three years of accrual. See 29 U.S.C. § 255(a). A cause of action under the FLSA accrues "at each regular payday immediately following the work period during which the services were rendered for which the wage or overtime compensation is claimed." Hughes v. Region VII Area Agency on Aging, 542 F.3d 169, 187 (6th Cir. 2008) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Archer v. Sullivan Cnty., Tenn., Nos. 95-5214, 95-5215, 1997 WL 720406, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 14, 1997) (citation omitted).

A. Written Consent

The FLSA permits employees to sue collectively to recover unpaid wages. See 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) ("An action to recover... may be...

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