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Espinosa v. Stevens Tanker Division, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

December 5, 2017

MICHAEL ESPINOSA, Plaintiff,
v.
STEVENS TANKER DIVISION, LLC, Defendant

          ORDER

          XAVIER RODRIGUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On this date the Court considered United States Magistrate Judge Henry J. Bemporad's Report and Recommendation in the above-numbered and styled case, filed November 9, 2017, (Docket no. 135) and Defendant Stevens Tanker Division, LLC (“Stevens”)'s objections thereto (Docket no. 136). After careful consideration, the Court will ACCEPT Magistrate Judge Bemporad's recommendation, DENY Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket no. 114), GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART Dispatcher Class's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket no. 118), and GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART Plaintiff Espinosa's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket no. 119).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) collective action “on behalf of all similarly situated present and former employees of Defendant who were either misclassified and/or not properly paid for all overtime due and/or not paid for all hours worked.” Docket no. 1 at 3. Plaintiff is a former employee of Stevens and, during his employment, Plaintiff was classified as an exempt employee. Id. During the workweeks that he worked, Plaintiff worked about eighty-four hours, but he was allegedly not paid for overtime or wages for all hours worked. Id. Plaintiff states he was misclassified as exempt. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant “knowingly, willfully, or with reckless disregard” failed to pay Plaintiff overtime compensation, and that Plaintiff complained. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated provisions of Sections 6 and 7 of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 206-7 and 215(a)(2) by employing employees in an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce for workweeks longer than forty hours without proper compensation for the work in excess of forty hours per week. Id. at 4.

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff was an exempt employee in accordance with the administrative exemption under the FLSA. Docket no. 5 at 9. Plaintiff argues that he and opt-in class members engaged in work that was clerical in nature, and thus, the administrative exemption does not apply. Docket no. 118 at 6.

         On May 31, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. Docket no. 114. On the same date, the Dispatcher Class filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, Docket no. 118, and Plaintiff Espinosa filed an individual Motion for Summary Judgment. Docket no. 119. All three motions were referred to Magistrate Judge Bemporad.

         Magistrate Judge Bemporad issued a Memorandum and Recommendation evaluating the pending Motions for Summary Judgment on November 9, 2017. Docket no. 135. Judge Bemporad found that there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the administrative exemption applies to Defendant's dispatchers. Id. at 10. Judge Bemporad found that there was no genuine dispute of material fact as to the administrative exemption not applying to training periods, but that there was such a genuine dispute as to what damages, if any, Plaintiffs are entitled. Id. at 12. Judge Bemporad found that there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether any misclassification on being exempt was willful. Id. at 14. Judge Bemporad finally found that although Espinosa is not a member of the class because his consent was untimely, he sufficiently states an individual claim to proceed. Id. at 16.

         Pursuant to Rule 72(b), the parties were given fourteen days to file written objections to the Report and Recommendation. Id. at 18. On November 27, 2017, Defendant timely filed an objection. Docket no. 136. Defendant objects to Judge Bemporad's recommendations to deny Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, grant Plaintiff and the Class's Motions for Summary Judgment finding that the administrative exemption is inapplicable during the training period, and to grant Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment that his individual claim should proceed. Id. at 1. Plaintiff and the Dispatcher Class did not file an objection.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Where no party has objected to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, the Court need not conduct a de novo review of it. See 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1) (“A judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings and recommendations to which objection is made.”). In such cases, the Court need only review the Report and Recommendation and determine whether it is either clearly erroneous or contrary to law. United States v. Wilson, 864 F.2d 1219, 1221 (5th Cir. 1989). On the other hand, any Report or Recommendation that is objected to requires de novo review. Such a review means that the Court will examine the entire record and will make an independent assessment of the law. The Court need not, however, conduct a de novo review when the objections are frivolous, conclusive, or general in nature. Battle v. United States Parole Commission, 834 F.2d 419, 421 (5th Cir. 1987). Additionally, “[p]arties filing objections must specifically identify those findings objected to.” Nettles v. Wainwright, 677 F.2d 404, 410 n.8 (5th Cir. 1982).

         Defendant filed its objections to the Magistrate Judge's recommendations before the expiration of the fourteen-day deadline. As a result, the Court is required to conduct a de novo review.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Summary Judgment

         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). To establish that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, the movant must either submit evidence that negates the existence of some material element of the non-moving party's claim or defense, or, if the crucial issue is one for which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, merely point out that the evidence in the record is insufficient to support an essential element of the non-movant's claim or defense. Lavespere v. Niagra Machine & Tool Works, Inc., 910 F.2d 167, 178 (5th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 859 (1993). Once the movant carries its initial burden, the burden shifts to the non-movant to show that summary judgment is inappropriate. See Fields v. City of S. Hous., 922 F.2d 1183, 1187 (5th Cir. 1991).

         In order for a court to conclude that there are no genuine issues of material fact, the court must be satisfied that no reasonable trier of fact could have found for the non-movant, or, in other words, that the evidence favoring the non-movant is insufficient to enable a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-movant. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 n.4 (1986). In making this determination, the court should review all the evidence in the record, giving credence to the evidence favoring the non-movant as well as the “evidence supporting the moving party that is uncontradicted and unimpeached, at least to the extent that evidence comes from disinterested witnesses.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 151 (2000).

         II. ...


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