Taylor v. White Oak Pastures, Inc., CASE NO.: 1:15-CV-156 (LAG)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Georgia
Citation454 F.Supp.3d 1317
Docket NumberCASE NO.: 1:15-CV-156 (LAG)
Parties Travis TAYLOR, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. WHITE OAK PASTURES, INC., Defendant.
Decision Date27 March 2020

454 F.Supp.3d 1317

Travis TAYLOR, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,

CASE NO.: 1:15-CV-156 (LAG)

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Albany Division.

Signed March 27, 2020

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John F. Beasley, Jr., Watkinsville, GA, Mitchell Douglas Benjamin, Atlanta, GA, for Plaintiffs.

Warren R. Hall, Jr., Brian Abrams, Thomas W. Cox, Atlanta, GA, for Defendant.



Before the Court are: (1) Defendant's Motion for Decertification (Doc. 71); (2) Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 77); and (3) Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 72). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Decertification is GRANTED , Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED , and Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is DENIED .


Plaintiff Travis Taylor, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, initiated this action on September 23, 2015. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendant White Oak Pastures, Inc. willfully failed to pay them overtime premiums in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). (Id. ¶¶ 1, 27.) Plaintiff Taylor filed a First Amended Complaint on October 10, 2016. (Doc. 25.) On April 20, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff's Second Motion to Certify Class and certified a class of plaintiffs who:

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(1) are or were employed by Defendant White Oak Pastures, Inc. from April ___ 2014 [three years prior to the mailing date of the notice] to April ___ 2017 [the mailing date];1 (2) worked in the Red Meat Abattoir or in support of the Red Meat Abattoir, specifically on the kill floor, in the cut room, in the grinding room, in order fulfillment, or on the loading docks of the Red Meat Abattoir; (3) were paid an hourly rate; and (4) worked more than forty hours in a work week without being paid overtime compensation.

(Doc. 30 at 8.) Approximately forty employees filed opt-in notices to be part of the class. (See Doc. 84 at 12.) After the opt-in period ended on November 3, 2017, Plaintiff Taylor filed a Second Amended Complaint, listing Terry Barrows and Layton Ferrell Duke as named plaintiffs. (Doc. 55.)

On February 14, 2019, Defendant filed Motions for Decertification and Summary Judgment (Docs. 71, 77.) Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 72) that same day. The Motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for review. See M.D. Ga. L.R. 7.3.1(A).


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 allows a party to move for summary judgment when the party contends that no genuine issue of material fact remains, and the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. "Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Maddox v. Stephens , 727 F.3d 1109, 1118 (11th Cir. 2013). "A genuine issue of material fact does not exist unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a reasonable jury to return a verdict in its favor." Chapman v. AI Transp. , 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000).

"An issue of fact is ‘material’ if it is a legal element of the claim under the applicable substantive law which might affect the outcome of the case." Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc. , 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). "It is ‘genuine’ if the record taken as a whole could lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party." Tipton v. Bergrohr GMBH-Siegen , 965 F.2d 994, 998 (11th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). The Court views all evidence and factual inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and determines whether that evidence could reasonably sustain a jury verdict in its favor. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322–23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) ; Allen , 121 F.3d at 646 (citations omitted).

The movant bears the initial burden of showing, by reference to the record, that there is no genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex , 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 ; Barreto v. Davie Marketplace, LLC , 331 F. App'x 672, 673 (11th Cir. 2009). The movant can meet this burden by demonstrating that the nonmoving party has failed to present evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. See Celotex , 477 U.S. at 322–23, 106 S.Ct. 2548 ; Barreto , 331 F. App'x at 673 (citation omitted).

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Local Rule 56 further requires that "[a]ll documents and other record materials relied upon by a party moving for or opposing a motion for summary judgment be clearly identified for the court." M.D. Ga. L.R. 56. "Material facts not supported by specific citation to particular parts of materials in the record and statements in the form of issues or legal conclusions (rather than material facts) will not be considered by the court." Id.

"When that burden has been met, the burden shifts to the nonmovant ... to go beyond the pleadings and to present competent evidence in the form of affidavits, answers to interrogatories, depositions, admissions and the like, designating specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Lamar v. Wells Fargo Bank , 597 F. App'x 555, 557 (11th Cir. 2014) (citations omitted). "All material facts contained in the movant's statement which are not specifically controverted by specific citation to particular parts of materials in the record shall be deemed to have been admitted, unless otherwise inappropriate." M.D. Ga. L.R. 56; see also Mason v. George , 24 F. Supp. 3d 1254, 1260 (M.D. Ga. 2014).

Notably, "cross-motions for summary judgment ‘must be considered separately,’ and ‘each movant bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.’ " Progressive Nw. Ins. Co. v. Boyden , 2017 WL 1045061, at *3 (M.D. Ala. Mar. 17, 2017) (first quoting Shaw Constructors v. ICF Kaiser Engineers, Inc. , 395 F.3d 533, 538–39 (5th Cir. 2004) ; and then citing Bricklayers, Masons & Plasterers Int'l Union of Am. v. Stuart Plastering Co. , 512 F.2d 1017, 1023 (5th Cir. 1975) ; and then citing Ga. St. Conf. of NAACP v. Fayette Cty. Bd. of Comm'rs , 775 F.3d 1336, 1345 (11th Cir. 2015) ). Thus, where "the parties disagree as to the facts and take inconsistent legal theories the mere filing of cross motions for summary judgment does not warrant the entry of such judgment." Shook v. United States , 713 F.2d 662, 665 (11th Cir. 1983).


I. History of White Oak

Defendant White Oak Pastures (White Oak) is a 3,000-acre farm in Bluffton, Georgia. (Doc. 86 ¶ 1.)2 ,3 The Harris family has owned the farm for more than 150 years, and Will Harris currently owns and operates it. (Id. ¶ 2; Doc. 89 ¶ 2.) Since its inception in 1866, the Harris family has continually used the land for cattle grazing. (Doc. 86 ¶¶ 2–3; Doc. 89 ¶ 2.) In addition to its cattle business, Defendant cultivates crops and raises other livestock. (Doc. 86 ¶¶ 6, 8.) Defendant sells several products from the farm such as the following: certified organic fruits, vegetables, pecans, artisan goods including soaps and leather goods, and grass-fed or pasture-raised meat like beef, pork, and lamb. (Id. ¶¶ 8–10.)

Before 2007, Defendant's cattle business focused on selling cattle for slaughter within the "industrial beef complex," a system in which calves are born and weaned at one location, sold and transported to a

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stocker operation to be fattened, and then transported to a feedlot where they finish their growth and are slaughtered. (Id. ¶¶ 11–13.) In this system, the slaughterhouses do not own the cattle and charge the owners a fee for slaughter. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 70.) Additionally, the slaughter process is automated and mechanized to maximize production. (Id. ¶ 18.) Cattle are generally truck-hauled long distances, fattened in confined feedlots for days or months, and then slaughtered using an automated assembly line. (Id. ¶¶ 68, 75.) Industrialized slaughterhouses may slaughter several thousand cattle per day. (Id. ¶ 74.)

In 2007, Defendant stopped shipping cattle to industrialized slaughterhouses based on animal welfare and environmental concerns. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 17.) Defendant began construction on a Red Meat Abattoir (RMA) to slaughter cattle using manual and humane methods. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 17, 31.) In 2008, Defendant opened the RMA, becoming one of a handful of similar farm-based slaughterhouses in the country. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 72.)

II. RMA Employees and Operations

Defendant employs approximately 35 workers at the RMA, accounting for roughly 25% of its total workforce. (Id. ¶ 79; Doc. 89 ¶ 59.) Each day, RMA employees manually slaughter approximately 29 cattle one at a time, with saws, knives, scissors, and blades and use a hand...

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