United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY
JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Karéon Sierra worked for several years for defendant
New England Personnel (NEP). She has filed this lawsuit
against NEP as well as two of its principals, claiming that
defendants failed to pay her overtime in violation of the
federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Connecticut
Minimum Wage Act (CMWA). Plaintiff has now moved for partial
summary judgment on various issues of liability and damages.
For the reasons set forth below, I will grant in part and
deny in part the motion for summary judgment.
worked for defendant NEP from 2011 to 2014. NEP was in the
business of the recruitment and placing of candidates in the
management, healthcare, nursing, financial, construction,
architecture, manufacturing, and legal fields. It was owned
by defendant Thomas Melanson who also served as the company
president. His spouse, defendant Kathryn Clark Melanson, was
its chief operating officer. Because of significant medical
issues, Thomas Melanson was far less involved in the business
than Kathryn Melanson during the years that plaintiff worked
recruiter, plaintiff was responsible for aggregating and
pre-screening potential candidates that could fill jobs for
NEP's clients. Plaintiff would be given a folder of
resumes from Kathryn Melanson, as well as a set of criteria
that potential candidates would have to meet to be eligible
for a client's open position. From that folder, plaintiff
would reach out to specific candidates she believed met the
criteria, and she would inquire whether the potential
candidate was interested in the potential job opening. Based
on her conversations with a potential candidate, plaintiff
would generate a written summary about each candidate on a
template created by defendants, setting forth work histories
and other pertinent information that would be used in turn by
Kathryn Melanson to propose certain candidates to a client.
Kathryn Melanson retained discretion to veto a candidate, she
relied heavily on her recruiters' recommendations about
whether a potential candidate should be recommended to a
client, because only the recruiter would have had direct
contact with a candidate during the initial stages. Using
recruiter recommendations, Kathryn Melanson would speak to
the client and propose candidates; she did not allow
plaintiff to speak directly with clients. Afterwards and
based on Kathryn Melanson's conversations with the
client, plaintiff would contact selected candidates and
schedule interview appointments. Plaintiff's annual
salary was $47, 000, but if a candidate screened by plaintiff
was placed with a client, plaintiff received payment of an
additional commission that could range from hundreds of
dollars to thousands of dollars per placed candidate.
See Doc. #29-3 at 2-3.
she was hired, plaintiff was originally told to work a
40-hour work week. In fact, she worked more than 40 hours per
week for at least some of her weeks of employement, and she
was not paid overtime when she did. In justifying why NEP did
not pay plaintiff overtime, Kathryn Melanson explained that
she had relied on a labor lawyer's opinion from about 33
years ago. Doc. #29-2 at 18-19. Additionally, Kathryn
Melanson was “updated” in “labor law”
from her internet searches and her involvement in the
National Association of Personnel Consultants. Doc. #29-2 at
lawsuit alleges three causes of action. Count One of the
complaint alleges that defendants failed to pay overtime in
violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Count Two alleges that defendants failed to pay overtime in
violation of the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act (CMWA). Count
Three alleges that defendants failed to pay commissions in
violation of the CMWA.
now moves for partial summary judgment on four diverse
grounds. First, plaintiff moves for partial summary judgment
as to her FLSA and CMWA overtime claims, contending that
there is no genuine issue of fact that she worked more than
40 hours per week for at least some weeks of her employment,
that she was eligible under both the FLSA and CMWA for
overtime payments, and that she was not otherwise an exempt
employee. Second, plaintiff moves for summary judgment on the
applicable FLSA statute of limitations, contending that it
should be longer because of defendant's willful conduct.
Third, plaintiff moves for summary judgment on the issue of
whether she is entitled to double damages, contending that
such damages are warranted because defendants did not act in
good faith. Lastly, plaintiff moves for summary judgment on
the issue of whether the individual defendants-Kathryn and
Thomas Melanson-are individually liable as
“employers” for purposes of her federal and state
principles governing a motion for summary judgment are well
established. Summary judgment may be granted only “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); see also Tolan
v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (per
curiam). “A genuine dispute of material fact
‘exists for summary judgment purposes where the
evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party, is such that a reasonable jury could decide in that
party's favor.'” Zann Kwan v. Andalex Grp.
LLC, 737 F.3d 834, 843 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting
Guilbert v. Gardner, 480 F.3d 140, 145 (2d Cir.
2007)). The evidence adduced at the summary judgment stage
must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party and with all ambiguities and reasonable inferences
drawn against the moving party. See, e.g.,
Tolan, 134 S.Ct. at 1866; Caronia v. Philip
Morris USA, Inc., 715 F.3d 417, 427 (2d Cir. 2013). All
in all, “a ‘judge's function' at summary
judgment is not ‘to weigh the evidence and determine
the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a
genuine issue for trial.'” Tolan, 134
S.Ct. at 1866 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986)).
and Exemptions under the FLSA and CMWA
parties do not presently dispute that plaintiff worked more
than 40 hours per week in at least some weeks of her
employment. The focus of their dispute is whether
plaintiff qualified for one or more exemptions under the FLSA
and the CMWA.
enacted the FLSA to eliminate “labor conditions
detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standard of
living necessary for health, efficiency, and general
well-being of workers.” 29 U.S.C. § 202(a). The
FLSA imposes numerous “wage and hour”
requirements, including that employers must pay an employee
at a rate of “not less than one and one-half times the
regular rate at which he is employed” for any hours
worked in excess of forty hours in a given week. Id.
§ 207(a). The CMWA imposes similar obligations as the
FLSA for the payment of overtime wages. See Arasimowicz
v. All Panel Sys., LLC, 948 F.Supp.2d 211, 216 (D. Conn.
employer bears the burden of proving that an employee falls
within one of the FLSA's exemptions. See Corning
Glass Works v. Brennan, 417 U.S. 188, 196-97 (1974).
Because the FLSA is a remedial law, its exemptions are
narrowly construed, and any exemption must be plainly and
unmistakably within the terms and spirit of the FLSA. See
Reiseck v. Universal Commc'ns of Miami, Inc., 591
F.3d 101, 104 (2d Cir. 2010); Bilyou v. Dutchess Beer
Distributors, Inc., 300 F.3d 217, 222 (2d Cir. 2002).
The parties have addressed three potential exemptions, and I
will consider each of them in turn.
Exemption for Employment in Bona Fide ...