Stansbury v. Dr. Lee Faulkner & Physicians of Hearts, P. L. L.C.

Decision Date18 February 2020
Docket NumberNo. 2:18-02746,2:18-02746
Citation443 F.Supp.3d 918
Parties Eugena J. STANSBURY, Plaintiff, v. Dr. Lee FAULKNER and Physicians of Hearts, P.L.L.C., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Tennessee

Janelle Crandall Osowski, William B. Ryan, Donati Law Firm, LLP, Memphis, TN, for Plaintiff.

Yollander E. Hardaway, Law Office of Yollader Hardaway, Memphis, TN, for Defendants.



This is a failure-to-pay-overtime case brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq. (the "FLSA"). Before the Court are two motions. The first is Plaintiff Eugena Stansbury's October 16, 2019 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 45.) Defendants Lee Faulkner and Physicians of Hearts, P.L.L.C. ("PoH") (collectively, the "Defendants") responded on November 6, 2019. (ECF Nos. 51-52.) Stansbury replied on November 18, 2019. (ECF No. 55.) The second motion is Defendants' October 21, 2019 Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 49-50.) Stansbury responded on November 18, 2019. (ECF No. 56.) Defendants did not file a reply.

For the following reasons, Stansbury's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is DENIED in part and GRANTED in part. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

I. Background

PoH is a cardiology medical clinic in Memphis, Tennessee. (ECF No. 51-1 ¶ 1.) Faulkner is the sole member and owner of PoH. (Id. ) For each of the calendar years 2016, 2017, and 2018, PoH had a gross volume of sales made or business done of not less than $500,000. (ECF No. 46 ¶ 1.)

In August 2016, Faulkner hired Stansbury to work in his home to assist his ailing mother ("Mrs. Faulkner"). (ECF No. 56-1 ¶¶ 19, 48.)1 Stansbury was scheduled to work from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and was paid $15 per hour. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 29, 58.) The parties dispute Stansbury's exact role and the duties she performed while working in Faulkner's home, but agree that Stansbury was instructed to be attentive to Mrs. Faulkner; assist her with bathing; make sure that she was steady while using her walker; monitor her eating; perform light housework; sweep; mop; clean the bathrooms; clean any accidents; do laundry; and wash dishes. (See id. ¶¶ 22, 47.)

In September 2016, in addition to working four days at Faulkner's home, Stansbury started working one day a week in PoH's medical office doing office work. (See ECF No. 56-2 at 10:19-12:15.) While working in the medical office, Stansbury brought patients back and got lists of their medications. (ECF No. 55-1 ¶ 6.) Sometime near the end of September 2016 or beginning of October 2016, Stansbury stopped working in PoH's medical office and continued to work five days a week at Faulkner's home. (ECF No. 56-1 ¶ 28.) Sometime in October or November 2016, Stansbury's pay was increased to $20 per hour. (See ECF No. 45-4 at 126:12-127:15; ECF No. 56-1 ¶ 56.)

When Faulkner hired Stansbury in August 2016, Faulkner provided her with a PoH employee handbook and instructed her to read it. (ECF No. 45-4 at 27:22-28:2; ECF No. 56-1 ¶¶ 21, 60.) That handbook included a rule that Faulkner must approve all overtime before it was performed. (See ECF No. 45-3 at 59:10-14; ECF No. 56-1 ¶¶ 42, 57, 60; ECF No. 56-4 at 26.)

On May 14, 2018, Faulkner and PoH terminated Stansbury. (See ECF No. 45-3 at 22-25; ECF No. 56-1 ¶¶ 63-64.) On October 26, 2018, Stansbury filed her complaint against Faulkner alleging unpaid overtime wages under the FLSA. (ECF No. 1.) Stansbury alleges that she worked from October 11, 2016, to November 2017 at an average of fifty-five hours per week without receiving overtime compensation. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 9; see also ECF No. 28 ¶ 12.) On July 8, 2019, after the Court granted leave to amend, (ECF No. 27), Stansbury filed an amended complaint that added PoH as a defendant. (ECF No. 28.) Defendants filed an amended answer to Stansbury's amended complaint. (ECF No. 40.) On October 21, 2019, Stansbury moved for partial summary judgment. (ECF No. 45.) On October 21, 2019, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 49.)

II. Jurisdiction

The Court has jurisdiction over Stansbury's claim. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, United States district courts have original jurisdiction "of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." Stansbury's amended complaint alleges that Defendants failed to pay her overtime compensation under the FLSA. (ECF No. 28 ¶ 1). Stansbury's claim arises under the laws of the United States.

III. Standard of Review

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a court must grant a party's motion for 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 moving party must show that the nonmoving party, having had sufficient opportunity for discovery, lacks evidence to support an essential element of her case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1) ; Peeples v. City of Detroit, 891 F.3d 622, 630 (6th Cir. 2018).

When confronted with a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine dispute for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). "A ‘genuine’ dispute exists when the plaintiff presents ‘significant probative evidence’ ‘on which a reasonable jury could return a verdict for her.’ " EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., 782 F.3d 753, 760 (6th Cir. 2015) (en banc) (quoting Chappell v. City of Cleveland, 585 F.3d 901, 913 (6th Cir. 2009) ). The nonmoving party must do more than simply "show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Lossia v. Flagstar Bancorp, Inc., 895 F.3d 423, 428 (6th Cir. 2018) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) ).

Although summary judgment must be used carefully, it "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) (quotation marks and citations omitted).

Although the parties in this case have filed cross-motions for summary judgment, the legal standard remains the same, and each motion will be considered separately. See Lee v., LLC, No. 14-cv-01084-EFM, 2016 WL 4382786, at *3 (D. Kan. Aug. 17, 2016) (citations omitted). To the extent the cross-motions overlap, the Court addresses the legal arguments together. Id. (citation omitted).

IV. Analysis

The relevant FLSA overtime provision states:

(a) Employees engaged in interstate commerce; additional applicability to employees pursuant to subsequent amendatory provisions
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, no employer shall employ any of his employees who in any workweek is engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, or is employed in an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, 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.

29 U.S.C. § 207(a). This provision dictates that employees are not required to work more than forty hours per seven-day week without overtime compensation at a rate not less than one and one-half times their regular pay. Elwell v. Univ. Hosps. Home Care Servs., 276 F.3d 832, 837 (6th Cir. 2002) (citing 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1) ). Employers who fail to comply with this requirement may be liable to their affected employees in the amount of their unpaid overtime compensation and an equal amount of liquidated damages. Whaley v. Henry Ford Health Sys., 172 F. Supp. 3d 994, 1001 (E.D. Mich. 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Moran v. Al Basit LLC, 788 F.3d 201, 204 (6th Cir. 2015) ).

To establish an FLSA overtime claim, a plaintiff must show that the employer or its employees are engaged in interstate commerce. See Bey v. WalkerHealthCareIT, LLC, No. 2:16-cv-1167, 2018 WL 2018104, at *3 (S.D. Ohio May 1, 2018) ; 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1) ("[N]o employer shall employ any of his employees who in any workweek is engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, or is employed in an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, ....") (emphasis added). Because the FLSA governs only employers, a plaintiff must also establish an employer-employee relationship. See Whaley, 172 F. Supp. 3d at 1001 ; 29 U.S.C. § 207(a) ("[N]o employer shall employ any of his employees ....") (emphasis added).

The FLSA creates exemptions that are affirmative defenses to an employer's duty to pay a covered employee overtime. See 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1)-(19). An employer has the burden of proving that an employee falls under any of these exemptions. Elwell, 276 F.3d at 837 (citation omitted); see also Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, 417 U.S. 188, 196-97, 94 S.Ct. 2223, 41 L.Ed.2d 1 (1974) (noting the general rule that the application of an exemption under the FLSA is an affirmative defense on which the employer has the burden of proof).

To succeed on an unpaid overtime claim under the FLSA, a plaintiff must establish: (1) an employer-employee relationship; (2) that the employer or its employees are engaged in interstate commerce; (3) that the employee worked more than forty hours; and (4) that overtime was not paid. See Whaley, 172 F. Supp. 3d at 1001 (citations omitted). Once a plaintiff has established these elements, the burden shifts to the employer who may show by a preponderance of the evidence that one of the exemptions afforded by § 213 of the FLSA applies to the employment in question. Kowalski v. Kowalski Heat Treating, Co., 920 F. Supp. 799, 806 (N.D. Ohio 1996).

A. Stansbury's October 16, 2019 Motion for Partial Summary...

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