Wright v. Balise Motor Sales Co., 102819 MASUP, 1684CV3477BLS2

Docket Nº:1684CV3477BLS2
Opinion Judge:Janet L. Sanders Justice of the Superior Court
Party Name:Derek Wright et al., On Behalf of Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated v. Balise Motor Sales Company et al.[1]
Judge Panel:Judge (with first initial, no space for Sullivan, Dorsey, and Walsh): Sanders, Janet L., J.
Case Date:October 28, 2019
Court:Superior Court of Massachusetts
 
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Derek Wright et al., On Behalf of Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated

v.

Balise Motor Sales Company et al.1

No. 1684CV3477BLS2

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Department of Trial Court, Suffolk

October 28, 2019

Judge (with first initial, no space for Sullivan, Dorsey, and Walsh): Sanders, Janet L., J.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR PARTIAL JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

Janet L. Sanders Justice of the Superior Court

Plaintiffs, two former car salesmen for defendant Balise Motor Sales Company (Balise), brought this putative class action alleging among other things that Balise violated the Massachusetts Overtime Statute, G.L.c. 151, § 1A. It did so by crediting commissions and draws against the overtime compensation owed to plaintiffs instead of providing for separate overtime payments. The instant motion, brought pursuant to Rule 12(c), asks this Court to determine that Balise’s method of paying overtime to its commissioned salesmen is lawful. This Court concludes that the SJC’s decision in Sullivan v. Sleepy’s, LLC, 482 Mass. 227 (2019) (Sleepy’s ) compels the conclusion that the payment arrangement is a violation of the Overtime Statute. The defendants’ Motion is therefore DENIED.

BACKGROUND

The following is taken from the Complaint as well as those documents of which the Court may take judicial notice. Balise is located in West Springfield, Massachusetts and operates a chain of over 20 auto dealerships known as the "Balise Auto Group." Balise employed plaintiff Derek Wright as a car salesman in its Hyannis, Massachusetts dealership from July 2014 until December 2015. It employed plaintiff Nathaniel Towse in its West Springfield dealership from September 2013 until February 2014. Balise regularly required both Towse and Wright to work more than 40 hours per week.

Balise paid Towse and Wright entirely by commission. Their wages took the form of a weekly draw and any sales commissions in excess of the draw. Balise credited the draws and commission payments toward any owed overtime compensation. The plaintiffs’ pay plans in effect beginning in January 2014 specifically provided that: Sales Associates will receive a gross payment of $600 per week as a draw or advance against commissions to be earned each calendar month, which shall be subject to Balise’s regular required deductions (i.e., taxes, FICA, etc.).

In the unusual situation where the $600 draw would be insufficient to cover Federal and/or Massachusetts minimum wage and applicable overtime or premium pay due to an Associate in a given week, an additional draw or advance will be paid for that week so that all minimums are met.

At the end of each calendar month, Balise will compare the total gross amount of draws or advances paid during that month against the total commission earned by the Sales Associate that same month ...

In the event that the Associate’s monthly commission exceeds the draws, the overage will be paid in the next weekly payroll cycle. In the event that the commissions earned for a particular calendar month does not cover the draws paid, Balise reserves the right to carryover all amounts owed to be paid back at the end of the next month or months in which the commission earned sufficiently exceeds the draws paid.

Def. Sup. Brief, Ex. 2, at 1.2

On March 27, 2018, the defendants filed the instant Motion, which seeks dismissal of those portions of the plaintiffs’ claims arising from the failure to make separate overtime payments. This Court (Salinger, J.) heard oral argument on the Motion in June 2018 and took the matter under advisement. While the Motion was pending, the plaintiffs filed a motion to stay the action until the SJC answered two certified questions sent to it from the federal court in Sullivan v. Sleepy’s, LLC, No. 17-12009-RGS (D.Mass). The motion to stay the proceedings was allowed. In May 2019, the SJC issued the Sleepy’s decision, the stay was lifted and the Motion is once again before this Court with...

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