Gonzalez v. Sara, Inc., Case No. 4:12CV1586 CDP

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
Writing for the CourtCATHERINE D. PERRY
PartiesENRIQUE GONZALEZ, Plaintiff, v. SARA, INC., d/b/a IHOP #5328, and KHALID WHALID RAMADAN, Defendants.
Docket NumberCase No. 4:12CV1586 CDP
Decision Date02 January 2014

SARA, INC., d/b/a IHOP #5328, and KHALID WHALID RAMADAN, Defendants.

Case No. 4:12CV1586 CDP


Dated: January 2, 2014


Plaintiff Enrique Gonzalez brought this suit against his former employer seeking to recover unpaid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Both sides have moved for summary judgment on the issue of whether Gonzalez was exempt from the FLSA's overtime requirements as an executive employee. Both sides seek summary judgment on issues related to the calculation of overtime claimed, and plaintiff seeks summary judgment that defendants violated the FLSA's record-keeping provision. I conclude that genuine questions of material fact preclude summary judgment on any issue.

I. Background

Defendant Sara, Inc., is an IHOP franchise located in St. Peters, Missouri. It is owned by defendant Khalid Ramadan. Plaintiff Enrique Gonzalez began working at Sara, Inc. in 2006 as a line cook. He was initially paid $10 per hour.

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The restaurant had a store manager responsible for the overall operation of the restaurant. The store manager directly supervises "front of the store" staff, such as hosts and servers. The store manager is also ultimately responsible for kitchen staff, but in some IHOPs these staff may report to an intermediate supervisor called a "kitchen manager." In December 2008, Gonzalez' rate and method of pay changed, and defendants began paying him $550 per week. According to defendants, Gonzalez was promoted to kitchen manager at that time, and $550 represented Gonzalez' new weekly salary. That amount later increased to $650 per week, and then $670 per week, both in May 2009. Gonzalez testified that he worked 60 to 65 hours per week, and although he was not paid overtime, he was given $50 or $100 in cash if he worked an extra day. Gonzalez was terminated in July 2012. Since then, Sara, Inc. has not hired a replacement kitchen manager. Gonzalez initially filed this suit as a collective action, seeking to represent others similarly situated, but he is now the only plaintiff.

II. Discussion

The summary judgment standards do not change when both parties have moved for summary judgment. See Wermager v. Cormorant Twp. Bd., 716 F.2d 1211, 1214 (8th Cir. 1983). In determining whether to grant either party's motion, the court views the facts - and any inferences from those facts - in the light most

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favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The movant bears the burden of establishing that (1) it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law and (2) there are no genuine issues of material fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Where a factual record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmovant, there is no genuine issue for trial. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.

Generally, the Fair Labor Standards Act demands that employees be compensated at an increased rate for all overtime hours. 29 U.S.C. § 207; Auer v. Robbins, 65 F.3d 702, 709-10 (8th Cir. 1995). However, the FLSA provides an exemption from this rule for bona fide executive employees. 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1). This exemption must be narrowly construed, Mitchell v. Lublin, McGaughy & Assocs., 358 U.S. 207, 211 (1959), and its application is an affirmative defense on which the employer has the burden of proof. Hertz v. Woodbury County, Iowa, 566 F.3d 775, 783 (8th Cir. 2009).

The Department of Labor has set forth four factors to consider in determining whether an employee falls under the FLSA's executive exemption. An employee employed in a "bona fide executive capacity" means any employee:

(1) Compensated on a salary basis of not less than $455 per week . . . ;

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(2) Whose primary duty is management of the enterprise in which the employee is employed or of a customarily recognized department or subdivision thereof;
(3) Who customarily and regularly directs the work of two or more other employees; and
(4) Who has the authority to hire or fire other employees or whose suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring, firing, advancement, promotion or any other change of status of other employees are given particular weight.

29 C.F.R. § 541.100(a)(1)-(4).

A. Issues of Fact Prevent Summary Judgment on Exemption

Both parties seek summary judgment on the issue of whether Gonzalez is a "bona fide executive" employee. The...

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