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Tina Pepperling v. Materials Evaluation & Technology Corporation

April 29, 2013

TINA PEPPERLING,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MATERIALS EVALUATION & TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") case is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment ("Motion") [Doc. # 15] filed by Defendant Materials Evaluation & Technology Corporation ("METCO"), to which Plaintiff Tina Pepperling*fn1 filed a Response [Doc. # 16], METCO filed a Reply [Doc. # 17], and Plaintiff filed a "Rejoinder" [Doc. # 18]. Having reviewed the record and applied governing legal authorities, the Court grants the Motion.

I. BACKGROUND

METCO is an inspection company that provides a variety of testing and inspection services to client industries such as oil and gas, shipping, and aviation.

Plaintiff began working for Defendant as the Office Manager/Coordinator in June 2008. Until January 2011, Plaintiff was paid on an hourly basis. In January 2011, Plaintiff was given a salary of $60,000.00 per year, in excess of $1,150.00 per week. Her title and job responsibilities remained unchanged. Plaintiff resigned in March 2012.

Plaintiff filed this FLSA lawsuit in July 2012. Plaintiff alleges that, after she began receiving a salary in January 2011, she was not paid overtime for the hours she worked in excess of forty hours per week. After an adequate time to complete discovery, Defendant moved for summary judgment. The Motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for decision.

II. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a sufficient showing of the existence of an element essential to the party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc); see also Baton Rouge Oil and Chem. Workers Union v. ExxonMobil Corp., 289 F.3d 373, 375 (5th Cir. 2002). Summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322--23; Weaver v. CCA Indus., Inc., 529 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2008).

For summary judgment, the initial burden falls on the movant to identify areas essential to the non-movant's claim in which there is an "absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Lincoln Gen. Ins. Co. v. Reyna, 401 F.3d 347, 349 (5th Cir. 2005). The moving party, however, need not negate the elements of the non-movant's case. See Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005). The moving party may meet its burden by pointing out "'the absence of evidence supporting the nonmoving party's case.'" Duffy v. Leading Edge Prods., Inc., 44 F.3d 308, 312 (5th Cir. 1995) (quoting Skotak v. Tenneco Resins, Inc., 953 F.2d 909, 913 (5th Cir. 1992)).

If the moving party meets its initial burden, the non-movant must go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Littlefield v. Forney Indep. Sch. Dist., 268 F.3d 275, 282 (5th Cir. 2001) (internal citation omitted). "An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action. A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." DIRECT TV Inc. v. Robson, 420 F.3d 532, 536 (5th Cir. 2006) (internal citations omitted).

In deciding whether a genuine and material fact issue has been created, the court reviews the facts and inferences to be drawn from them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Reaves Brokerage Co. v. Sunbelt Fruit & Vegetable Co., 336 F.3d 410, 412 (5th Cir. 2003). A genuine issue of material fact exists when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant. Tamez v. Manthey, 589 F.3d 764, 769 (5th Cir. 2009) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The non-movant's burden is not met by mere reliance on the allegations or denials in the non-movant's pleadings. See Diamond Offshore Co. v. A&B Builders, Inc., 302 F.3d 531, 545 n.13 (5th Cir. 2002). Likewise, "conclusory allegations" or "unsubstantiated assertions" do not meet the non-movant's burden. Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 399 (5th Cir. 2008). Instead, the nonmoving party must present specific facts which show "the existence of a genuine issue concerning every essential component of its case." Am. Eagle Airlines, Inc. v. Air Line Pilots Ass'n, Int'l, 343 F.3d 401, 405 (5th Cir. 2003) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In the absence of any proof, the court will not assume that the non-movant could or would prove the necessary facts. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075 (citing Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990)).

III. FLSA CLAIM -- ADMINISTRATIVE EXEMPTION

Plaintiff alleges that she worked in excess of forty hours per week and that she was not compensated for the overtime hours. Generally, the FLSA requires an employer to pay overtime compensation for work performed by an employee in excess of forty hours per week. See 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1); Talbert v. Am. Risk Ins. Co., Inc., 405 F. App'x 848, 852 (5th Cir. Dec. 20, 2010).

There are, however, certain exemptions that apply. In this case, Defendant argues that Plaintiff is exempt from FLSA overtime wages pursuant to the "administrative" exemption found in 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1). Whether an employee falls within the administrative exemption is primarily a question of fact, but the ultimate decision whether the employee is exempt is a question of law. See Lott v. Howard Wilson Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 203 F.3d 326, 330 (5th Cir. 2000). The Court construes FLSA exemptions narrowly, and the employer bears the burden of proof. Cheatham v. Allstate Ins. Co., 465 F.3d 578, 584 (5th Cir. 2006).

An employee within the administrative exemption is one (1) who is compensated on a salary or fee basis at a rate of not less than $455 per week, (2) whose "primary duty is the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer's customers"; and (3) whose "primary duty includes ...


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