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Monroe v. J.H.O.C., Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 24, 2019

SCOTT MONROE Plaintiff,
v.
J.H.O.C., INC., d/b/a PREMIER TRANSPORTATION Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

          KARI A. DOOLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case arises out of the termination of plaintiff Scott Monroe from his employment as a truck driver for defendant J.H.O.C., Inc., d/b/a Premier Transportation (“Premier”). The operative complaint contains a single claim under the anti-retaliation provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. Premier has moved for summary judgment arguing that Monroe cannot establish that he engaged in a protected activity under the FLSA. For the reasons set forth below, Premier's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

         Facts[1]

         In June 2009, Monroe was hired as a truck driver for Premier. (Def.'s SMF at ¶ 2.) During the relevant period, Premier paid truck drivers $0.41 per mile plus additional compensation amounts, including detention pay. (Id. at ¶ 4.) Detention pay is compensation for the time a driver is detained at a customer shop in excess of the allotted two-hour delivery window. (See Id. at ¶ 5.) Premier paid detention pay at a rate of $5 for every fifteen minutes of excess detention, and detention pay comprises “a very small component of a driver's total compensation.” (Id.) To receive detention pay, Monroe, like all drivers, was required to: (1) record his arrival and departure times in the electronic log, (2) call in and report an interruption of service to the dispatcher, and (3) submit a completed Unloading Detention Time form. (Id. at ¶ 7.)

         Throughout his employment with Premier, Monroe would occasionally notice discrepancies in his detention pay. (Def.'s Ex. C, Monroe Depo. at 34, 37.) Sometimes he would ignore the issue if the discrepancy was very small, e.g., $5. (Id. at 44-45.) Other times, he would report the missing detention pay to his dispatcher, and Premier would resolve the issue. (Id. at 43, 66, 112-113.)

         In December 2015, Monroe complained to his dispatcher, Daniel Gardiner, that his detention time had not been recorded accurately again and, therefore, he was not paid for all of the detention time that he recently worked. (Def.'s SMF at ¶¶ 8-11.) Although Monroe cannot recall the specific dates on which he complained to Gardiner, or whether he made them over the phone or in person, he recalls making oral complaints to Gardiner on one to three occasions in December 2015. (Id. at ¶ 10.) All of his complaints were something to the effect of, “Hey, I didn't get paid for my detention time again.” (Id. at ¶ 12.) Premier subsequently investigated these complaints and either showed Monroe why detention pay was not due or paid any amounts due and owing. (Id. at ¶ 13.)

         In January 2015, Monroe failed to appear for a random drug and alcohol test mandated by the United States Department of Transportation.[2] (Id. at ¶ 17.) Thereafter, Monroe was terminated from his employment with Premier.

         In the operative complaint, Monroe contends that Premier fired him in retaliation for his complaints about the discrepancies in his detention pay, not because of his failure to appear for the random drug and alcohol test.[3] Premier has moved for summary judgment arguing that there is no issue of material fact that Monroe did not engage in protected activity under the FLSA and Premiere is therefore entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         Standard of Review

         The standard under which the Court reviews motions for summary judgment is well-established. “The court shall grant 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). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law, ” while a dispute about a material fact is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         Significantly, the inquiry being conducted by the court when reviewing of a motion for summary judgment focuses on “whether there is the need for a trial - whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.” Id. at 250. As a result, the moving party satisfies his burden under Rule 56 “by showing . . . that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case” at trial. PepsiCo, Inc. v. Coca-Cola Co., 315 F.3d 101, 105 (2d Cir. 2002) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks omitted). Once the movant meets his burden, the nonmoving party must set forth “‘specific facts' demonstrating that there is ‘a genuine issue for trial.'” Wright v. Goord, 554 F.3d 255, 266 (2d Cir. 2009) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). “[T]he party opposing summary judgment may not merely rest on the allegations or denials of his pleading” to establish the existence of a disputed fact. Id.; accord Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). “[M]ere speculation or conjecture as to the true nature of the facts” will not suffice. Hicks v. Baines, 593 F.3d 159, 166 (2d Cir. 2010) (citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted). Nor will wholly implausible claims or bald assertions that are unsupported by evidence. See Carey v. Crescenzi, 923 F.2d 18, 21 (2d Cir. 1991); Argus Inc. v. Eastman Kodak Co., 801 F.2d 38, 45 (2d Cir. 1986). “[T]here is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted).

         In determining whether there exists a genuine dispute as to a material fact, the Court is “required to resolve all ambiguities and draw all permissible factual inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought.” Johnson v. Killian, 680 F.3d 234, 236 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Terry v. Ashcroft, 336 F.3d 128, 137 (2d Cir. 2003)). “In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the district court's function is not to weigh the evidence or resolve issues of fact; it is confined to deciding whether a rational juror could find in favor of the non-moving party.” Lucente v. Int'l Bus. Machines Corp., 310 F.3d 243, 254 (2d Cir. 2002).

         Discussion

         The “primary remedial purpose [of the FLSA is] to prevent abuses by unscrupulous employers, and remedy the disparate bargaining power between employers and employees.” Ortiz v. My Belly's Playlist LLC, 283 F.Supp.3d 125, 126 (S.D.N.Y. 2017) (quoting Cheeks v. Freeport Pancake House Inc., 796 F.3d 199, 207 (2d Cir. 2015)). To that end, the FLSA “sets forth employment rules concerning minimum wages, maximum hours, and overtime pay.” Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., 563 U.S. 1, 4 (2011). Importantly, “[t]he FLSA statute requires payment of minimum wages and overtime wages only, therefore, the FLSA is unavailing where wages do not fall below the statutory minimum and hours do not rise above the overtime threshold.” Nakah ...


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