Stanbrough v. Vitek Solutions, Inc., ED 100567.

Decision Date08 July 2014
Docket NumberNo. ED 100567.,ED 100567.
Citation445 S.W.3d 90
PartiesShaun STANBROUGH, Appellant, v. VITEK SOLUTIONS, INC., Respondent.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

Mark A. Kistler, Brady & Associates, Overland Park, KS, for appellant.

Joy D. McMillen, Jeffrey B. Hunt, Doster Ullom, LLC, Chesterfield, MO, for respondent.

KURT S. ODENWALD, Judge.

Introduction

Appellant Shaun Stanbrough (Stanbrough) appeals from the entry of summary judgment in favor of Vitek Solutions, Inc. (Vitek). Stanbrough alleged in a two-count petition that Vitek violated the Missouri Minimum Wage Law (“MMWL”) by failing to pay overtime compensation he was due and that Vitek breached its contract with him and violated Section 290.1001 by unilaterally decreasing his pay without notice. Vitek filed a motion for summary judgment claiming that Stanbrough was estopped from bringing a claim for unpaid overtime because Stanbrough submitted daily timesheets that he certified as true and accurate and Vitek relied on the accuracy of those timesheets. Vitek also argued it was undisputed that its pay schedule changed only once during Stanbrough's employment and that Stanbrough received notice of the change, which increased his pay. The trial court granted summary judgment on both counts for Vitek.

On appeal, Stanbrough claims that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment for Vitek because a genuine dispute exists as to the facts necessary to support Vitek's affirmative defense of estoppel. Stanbrough also claims the trial court erred in entering summary judgment in favor of Vitek on his claim for breach of contract and violation of Section 290.100 because he provided evidence to establish a genuine issue of fact as to whether Vitek unilaterally decreased his pay without 30 days' notice. Because the summary judgment evidence in the record establishes the existence of a genuine issue of material fact as to both of Stanbrough's claims, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand this matter for trial.

Factual and Procedural History

Viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the record contains the following uncontroverted facts. Stanbrough worked as a technician for Vitek from January 1, 2009, until November 10, 2010. As a technician for Vitek, Stanbrough repaired or installed cable television, internet services, and telephone services for Charter Communications, Inc. (“Charter”) customers in the St. Louis area. Because of the nature of Stanbrough's job, he often worked outside of Vitek's corporate offices in the homes of Charter customers. Stanbrough's route, the number of customers he serviced, the type of installation or repairs he performed, and the complexity of any particular job he completed varied from day to day.

Stanbrough was required to submit timesheets and self-report the hours he worked each day. During the course of his employment with Vitek, Stanbrough submitted 424 daily, self-reported timesheets, signing all but six of them. Beneath the signature line was a sentence stating, “I represent the above information is true and accurate.” Vitek paid Stanbrough for all of the hours that Stanbrough recorded and submitted on his daily timesheets, including overtime for hours he reported working in excess of 40 hours per week. Stanbrough reported on his timesheets that he worked in excess of 40 hours per week for 16 of the 94 weeks he worked for Vitek. Stanbrough reported working less than 30 hours per week for 37 weeks, less than 40 hours per week for 40 weeks, and exactly 40 hours for one week.

Vitek paid Stanbrough on a “piece-rate” basis in accordance with two published schedules, dated January 1, 2009 (2009 schedule”), and January 3, 2010 (2010 schedule”). The piece-rate schedules prescribed the amount a technician was to be paid for performing specific installation or repair tasks. On a weekly basis, a technician's total piece-rate earnings were added up and divided by the total number of hours worked in order to determine the technician's hourly rate for that week. If the technician worked overtime, the employee was entitled to his or her hourly rate of pay for all hours worked plus an additional 50 percent of that hourly rate for any hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Prior to the 2010 schedule taking effect, Vitek provided Stanbrough with a copy of the updated piece rates. On December 4, 2009, Stanbrough signed and dated a written acknowledgment of his receipt and understanding of the updated schedule. The 2010 schedule provided for either the same or higher piece rates when compared with the 2009 schedule.

On December 22, 2011, Stanbrough filed a First Amended Petition for Damages against Vitek and two of its executives: Steve Tihen (“Tihen”) and Kevin Schaefer (“Schaefer”) (collectively, Defendants).2 In his petition, Stanbrough first alleged that Defendants violated the MMWL by failing to pay him overtime compensation he had earned. Stanbrough claimed that Defendants routinely deducted 30 minutes to an hour from his daily timesheet for a work break, even if he did not take a break. Stanbrough additionally alleged that after finishing his last scheduled service call, he was required to stay near his vehicle on his assigned route until 5 p.m. However, Defendants routinely did not count this “remain on route” time in determining the number of hours Stanbrough worked for the purposes of paying overtime. Stanbrough claimed that by undercounting the hours he worked, Defendants knowingly and intentionally failed to pay him overtime in violation of the MMWL. Stanbrough also brought a claim for breach of contract, alleging that Vitek unilaterally and without notice decreased his piece-rate pay in violation of Section 290.100.

In its answer to Plaintiff's First Amended Petition, filed January 30, 2012, Vitek raised the affirmative defense of estoppel with regard to Stanbrough's claim for unpaid overtime. On January 25, 2013, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment also based on the theory of estoppel. In their motion, Defendants claimed that Stanbrough submitted 424 daily timesheets that documented all of the hours Stanbrough attested he had worked each day. Stanbrough signed all but six of the timesheets directly above a sentence that read “I represent the above information is true and accurate.” The Defendants averred it was undisputed that they relied upon Stanbrough's daily timesheets in order to calculate his pay, Stanbrough was paid for all of the hours he submitted, and they neither knew nor had reason to know that the hours Stanbrough recorded on his daily timesheets were inaccurate or false. Accordingly, Defendants argued that these undisputed facts estopped Stanbrough from seeking recovery for any overtime hours that he did not record on his timesheets. As to Stanbrough's claim that Defendants decreased his piece-rate pay without notice, Defendants noted the facts were uncontroverted that during Stanbrough's employment, the piece rates changed only once, Stanbrough received 30 days' notice of the change, and the piece-rate compensation either stayed the same or increased.

Stanbrough filed suggestions in opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment, which included Stanbrough's sworn affidavit. In his affidavit, Stanbrough stated that J.R. Payne, a Vitek executive, told Stanbrough's supervisors, Tom Mahaney, Jeremy Huff, and Matt Hammond, not to allow Stanbrough to include time spent performing administrative work at the Vitek office on his timesheets. Stanbrough also stated in his affidavit that Mahaney, Huff, and Hammond instructed him to inaccurately record three specific segments of daily compensable time. First, Stanbrough stated that he was instructed to deduct time for a meal break from his daily time sheet, regardless of whether he took a meal break or not. On days that his timesheet indicated at least eight hours of work, he was told to record his meal break as one hour. On days that Stanbrough worked between four hours and eight hours, the meal break was to be recorded as 30 minutes. If Stanbrough worked less than four hours, no break was required to be recorded. Stanbrough stated in his affidavit that Huff and Mahaney also told him that Stanbrough's drive time between jobs should be considered his meal break, even if he ate while he was driving and did not actually take a meal break. On two or three occasions when Stanbrough turned in a completed time sheet that did not include a meal break, Stanbrough stated in his affidavit that Huff returned the timesheet to Stanbrough and demanded that he deduct time for an unpaid meal break. Because Huff was his supervisor, Stanbrough complied with his demands. Second, Stanbrough stated in his affidavit that he was instructed not to include on his timesheets any of the required “remain on route” time spent waiting for additional work orders between the completion of his last job and 5 p.m. Third, Stanbrough stated in his affidavit that his supervisors instructed him not to record any time worked prior to arriving at his first assigned job in the field, despite the fact that he was required to report to the Vitek office by 7:30 a.m. to pick up his equipment for the day. Stanbrough also averred in his affidavit that he questioned Huff several times as to why he was not receiving the full piece rates due to him. Stanbrough claimed that Huff told him his pay was based on what Charter paid Vitek.

In his suggestions in opposition to summary judgment, Stanbrough acknowledged that he provided no evidence that either Tihen or Schaefer controlled Stanbrough's supervisors or directed them to instruct Stanbrough to underreport his hours. Stanbrough conceded that summary judgment in favor of Tihen and Schaefer was appropriate; accordingly, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Tihen and Schaefer. Upon...

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