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Mims v. Starbucks Corp.

January 2, 2007

KATHLEEN MIMS, KEVIN KEEVICAN, BERNIE CASTILLO, CYNTHIA NERLINGER, MICHAEL TERRAZAS, CHAD KNEPP, ROLANDO CHAPA, CHRISTINA GRIFFITH, PATRICIA JOHNSON, AND ROBIN WRIGHT, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
STARBUCKS CORPORATION AND DOES 1 THROUGH 100, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ewing Werlein, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Pending is Defendant Starbucks Corporation's Corrected Motion for Partial Summary Judgment with Respect to the Claims of Kevin Keevican and Michael Terrazas (Document No. 52). After carefully considering the motion, response, reply, and applicable law, the Court concludes the motion should be granted for the reasons that follow.

I. Background

Plaintiffs Kevin Keevican ("Keevican") and Michael Terrazas ("Terrazas") (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), who are former Store Managers at Defendant Starbucks Corporation ("Defendant"), claim that they were improperly classified as exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).*fn1 Plaintiffs assert that, despite their "store manager" titles, they were, in reality, "glorified baristas," and they primarily performed the job duties of these non-exempt, hourly employees.*fn2 In addition to overtime wages, Plaintiffs seek liquidated damages, injunctive relief, attorneys' fees, and costs.

Defendant operates retail stores that sell coffee and related products. Keevican was hired as an entry-level barista in March, 2000. Document No. 54 ex. A at 13. Keevican, who had prior management experience, was promoted to shift supervisor, assistant store manager, and then, in November, 2001, to store manager. See id. at 13-14, 17-18, 160-63 & ex. A-10. According to Keevican, in his first Starbucks store manager position, he "improved [the] store substantially," and he won a retail sales award and improved pastry sales by 200 percent. Id. at 31. Keevican was then "solicited" to work as manager for a larger Starbucks store, where he increased annual revenues from $500,000 to $1.4 million in "10 or 11 months" and again won a retail award. Id. at 30-32. As a store manager, Keevican worked an average of 70 hours per week. See Document No. 61 ex. B ¶ 3. His starting base salary as store manager was approximately $650 per week, and it increased to almost $800 per week (not including bonuses). See Document No. 54 ex. A at 22 & ex. C ¶ 3.*fn3 Keevican reported to a district manager, who supervised from 9 to 13 different stores in the district. See id. ex. A at 258. Keevican resigned from Starbucks in 2004. See id. at 140 & ex. A-9.

Terrazas was hired as a Starbucks barista in December 2000, and he was promoted to shift supervisor, assistant store manager, and then to store manager in May, 2002. See id. ex. B at 10, 13-14. Terrazas worked as store manager for two different Starbucks stores, each of which generated between $1.2 and $1.4 million in annual revenue. See id. at 14-15, 36. Prior to October, 2002, Terrazas worked approximately 55 hours per week, and, after October, 2002, he worked an average of 65 hours per week. See Document No. 61 ex. D ¶ 3. Terrazas's starting base salary as store manager was approximately $615 per week, and it increased to approximately $750 per week. See Document No. 54 ex. C ¶ 4. Terrazas was terminated in 2005. See id. at 15, 279.

It is undisputed that Plaintiffs, as store managers, were the highest-ranking employees in their respective stores, and they "[s]upervised and motivated" staffs of six to 30 Starbucks employees, including entry-level baristas, shift supervisors, and, in certain stores, assistant managers. See Document No. 54 ex. A at 29, 166-67; ex. A-10 at 1; ex. B at 10-14, 36-37, 173; ex. B-10 at 1. Plaintiffs testified that they were responsible for supervising store personnel, "driv[ing] sales" and developing strategies to increase revenues, control costs, and ensure compliance with Starbucks policies. See id. ex. A at 166, 175-76, 221-22, 311-12; ex. B at 155, 163-64, 240, 243. They also oversaw customer service; prepared store reports and communications; processed employee time records, payroll, and inventory counts; ensured the safety of customers and employees; and implemented Starbucks policies and procedures. See, e.g., id. ex. A at 70-71, 177-78, 204, 318-319; ex. B at 217-220, 238-39, 251-52; ex. B-17; ex. B-22. In short, as Terrazas testified during his deposition, Plaintiffs were responsible for "anything that was to go wrong in [their] store[s] and anything that was done correctly." See id. ex. B at 66.

Defendant now moves for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiffs were executive employees who were exempt from the FLSA's overtime provisions as a matter of law.

II. Standard of Review

Rule 56(c) provides that summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interroga-tories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). The moving party must "demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553 (1986).

Once the movant carries this burden, the burden shifts to the non-movant to show that summary judgment should not be granted. See id. at 2553-54. A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon mere allegations or denials in a pleading, and unsubstantiated assertions that a fact issue exists will not suffice. See Morris v. Covan World Wide Moving, Inc., 144 F.3d 377, 380 (5th Cir. 1998) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2514-15 (1986)). "[T]he nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing the existence of a 'genuine' issue concerning every essential component of its case." Id.

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the district court must view the evidence through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden. See Anderson, 106 S.Ct. at 2513-14. All justifiable inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356 (1986). "If the record, viewed in this light, could not lead a rational trier of fact to find" for the non-movant, then summary judgment is proper. Kelley v. Price Macemon, Inc., 992 F.2d 1408, 1413 (5th Cir. 1993) (citing Matsushita, 106 S.Ct. at 1351). On the other hand, if "the factfinder could reasonably find in [the non-movant's] favor, then summary judgment is improper." Id. (citing Anderson, 106 S.Ct. at 2511). Even if the standards of Rule 56 are met, a court has discretion to deny a motion for summary judgment if it believes that "the better course would be to proceed to a full trial." Anderson, 106 S.Ct. at 2513.

III. Discussion

A. FLSA ...


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