United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION
ROSENTHAL CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Saunders sued Lincoln Manufacturing, Inc., alleging that
Lincoln failed to compensate him for overtime work as
required by the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §
207(a)(2). Lincoln moved for summary judgment, arguing that
because Saunders worked for Lincoln in an executive capacity,
he was exempt from the FLSA's overtime pay requirement.
29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1); (Docket Entry No. 16). Saunders
responded, submitting declarations from individuals who
worked under him, and Lincoln replied and moved to strike the
declarations. (Docket Entry Nos. 17-18). After a careful
review of the motions, responses, and replies; the record
evidence; and the applicable law, the court grants in part
and denies in part the motion to strike and grants summary
judgment for Lincoln. Final judgment is separately entered.
The reasons are explained in detail below.
based in Magnolia, Texas, manufactures products for the oil
and gas industry. (Docket Entry No. 16-1 at 1). Lincoln has
four manufacturing facilities, including one in Magnolia that
fabricates couplings, pipe threading, and other components.
(Id.). The Magnolia facility runs
“continuously.” (Id.). The day and night
shifts have separate Production Supervisors who direct
operations during the shift. (Id.). Beneath the
Production Supervisor are Inspectors, Machine Operators,
Pipeyard Forklift Operators, Process Technicians, Saw
Operators, Leadmen, and Janitors, for each shift.
(Id.). The Production Supervisors report to the
Plant Manager, who is the Magnolia Facility's final
October 2015, Lincoln hired Saunders to be the night-shift
Production Supervisor. (Docket Entry No. 16-2). His
employment offer stated: “You will be classified as an
exempt employee. Your initial compensation package includes
an annual salary of $60, 000 ($1153.85 payable weekly on
Fridays).” (Id.). After about a year, Lincoln
increased Saunders's “to $63, 120.20 per year,
equating to approximately $1, 213.85 per week.” (Docket
Entry No. 16-1 at 2). Saunders “earned more than the
second shift employees that reported to him.”
(Id. at 3). “For example, the average Forklift
Operator earned between $15.50 and $17.50 per hour.”
directed the night-shift production at the Magnolia facility,
working between 5:00 p.m. and 3:45 a.m. (Docket Entry No.
16-4 at 16-17). No. one was “ranked higher” at
the facility between those hours. (Id. at 17). Chris
Ritter, the Magnolia Plant Manager, did not work night
shifts. (Id. at 16). Saunders called Chris Ritter
“[m]aybe seven or eight times” during night
shifts to tell him about accidents or machines
malfunctioning. (Id.). The only other night-shift
supervisor was Oscar Gonzalez, a Quality Supervisor, who
monitored “the inspectors and everything.”
(Id. at 17). Saunders considered himself equal in
authority to Gonzalez, and they often discussed
“problems and stuff.” (Id.). Saunders
was responsible for setting the night-shift schedule.
(Id. at 17-18). He would get to work early to
“see what was happening, what was running, what [he]
needed to do, ” given that “[t]here wasn't
really a set schedule.” (Id. at 18).
understood his “main job” as supervising the
night shift. (Id. at 9). Saunders initially
supervised “around 15” employees, but over time
he supervised “close to 60.” (Id. at
13). Saunders described his duties as “to manage the
floor, make sure machines were running, to make sure the
employees were working safe, to oversee things.”
(Id.). He would “[w]alk around, make sure all
the machines were running, check, make sure they got the
proper heats at the machines . . . . [, ] make sure that it
was the right size that they were supposed to have been
running.” (Id. at 14). Saunders made sure that
employees “weren't out goofing off” and
“helped set up machines in some cases.”
(Id.). According to Saunders, “I wasn't
there to let them do whatever they wanted to do. . . . I was
there to supervise.” (Id. at 22).
spent “probably 85 to 90 percent of [his] day walking
around making sure everything was running properly.”
(Id. at 23). If employees made mistakes, Saunders
“would spend time there with them, try[ing] to go over
things.” (Id. at 24). At the beginning of each
night shift, Saunders held a safety meeting for “10 or
15 minutes, ” to “go over safe start, balance,
traction, grip, find the fire, lifting things, pinching
points[, the] whole works, to make sure [that the employees
were] working properly.” (Id. at 23). Saunders
gave his employees the night-shift schedule after the safety
instructions. (Id.). His supervisory duties included
getting orders completed, “processed[, ] and ready to
go.” (Id. at 17). To make sure their orders
were shipped on time, Saunders “stayed on the floor . .
. and made sure all the machines were running, monitored
people, making sure they were hitting their quota.”
could “write up” employees for violating Lincoln
policies. (Id. at 14). “Writing up”
required Saunders to complete and sign a form and send it to
the “front office for approval.” (Id. at
14, 23). If employees wanted time off, had to come in late,
or needed to see a doctor, they went to Saunders, who would
fill out and sign a form to send to Human Resources
“for approval.” (Id. at 15, 23).
Employees went to Saunders other requests as well, such as
transfer requests, which he would sign off on and forward to
Human Resources. (Id. at 18-20). During his time at
Lincoln, Saunders recommended that the company hire “a
couple of guys.” (Id. at 15). Lincoln
interviewed these candidates; but Saunders was not involved.
(Id.). Saunders was responsible for approving
employees' time cards, including for overtime.
(Id. at 17, 20). The cards were sent to Human
Resources for approval. (Id.). Saunders dealt with
and relayed employee complaints, submitted incident reports,
and signed employee evaluations and pay raises.
(Id.). Saunders could also recommend that Lincoln
fire an employee. (Id. at 20-21, 24).
on his pre-employment interview with Ritter, Saunders thought
that he had to work 40 hours a week and that he would
“get time off” if he worked overtime.
(Id. at 12). Because the night shift was
understaffed when Saunders began his employment, he
“had to bring the parts in, move parts, empty hoppers,
the whole works.” (Id. at 13). Saunders
“walked the floors, empt[ie]d hoppers, drove the
forklift, moved parts, brought in parts, took parts to
processing, managed the floor, made sure all the employees
were working properly, ma[d]e sure nobody had
problems.” (Id. at 16-17). Even when Saunders
was operating the forklift, he continued to monitor his
employees “[t]he best [he] could.” (Id.
at 17). When Lincoln hired a forklift driver for the night
shift, Saunders spent “more time on the floor
monitoring people trying to improve their
productivity.” (Id. at 26).
his employment, Saunders complained “all the
time” to Chris Ritter, the Magnolia Plant Manager,
about “all the overtime [he] was working, and about the
job duties [he] was having to perform.” (Id.
March 2018, Lincoln fired Saunders, stating as the reason
that he was “[u]nable to meet performance standards and
expectations.” (Docket Entry No. 16-3). Saunders's
Employment Termination Notice was signed by Chris Ritter and
by Mabel Olivas, Lincoln's Human Resources Manager.
(Docket Entry No. 16-1 at 2).
complaint alleged that Lincoln misclassified him as exempt
because “[h]is duties did not differ materially from
those whom he supervised.” (Docket Entry No. 1 at 2-3).
The complaint alleged that he lacked the “authority to
hire or fire” and “discretion or independent
judgment . . . as to matters of overarching importance to the
business.” (Id. at 3). The complaint alleged
that he “operated equipment and machinery like the
employees who were supposedly his subordinates, but who in
fact made more money than Saunders doing the same work he
did-because they were paid overtime.” (Id.).
discovery that followed included Saunders's deposition,
in which he testified as follows:
I'm pretty much upset because I-for the past two and a
half years when I was at Lincoln all I done [was] work and
sleep, work and sleep. And everybody else was doing the same,
you know, working, running machines and stuff, making more
than I was. And I was even having to drive the forklift,
empty hoppers. I done that over a year. I kept asking for
help and never got it until after a year and a half. . . . I
constantly complained about not having a maintenance man or
nothing else. On day shift they had several forklift drivers.
They had all the maintenance people. On night shift we
didn't have nothing. I didn't have nothing.
(Docket Entry No. 16-4 at 8). Saunders finally contacted a
lawyer to “see if [he] can get compensated for all the,
the things that [he did that he] really shouldn't of
had-have to do.” (Id. at 9).
moved for summary judgment, arguing that Saunders worked in
an executive capacity and was not entitled to overtime pay.
(Docket Entry No. 16). Lincoln points to a declaration from
Lincoln's Human Resources Manager, Saunders's
deposition, and two emails that Saunders sent, arguing that
the undisputed facts shown by the record support that, as a
matter of law, Saunders's primary duty was management and
that his recommendations about employees were given
particular weight. (Id. at 14-20). Lincoln contends
that Saunders has not identified any properly considered
evidence showing factual disputes material to these issues.
responded by submitting declarations from two people who
worked under him on the night shift. He argued that those
declarations and his deposition support a reasonable
inference that he “spent most of his time driving a
forklift, loading hoppers, and operating machinery, ”
work that is not managerial. (Docket Entry No. 17 at 2).
Saunders argues that he had no “say in hiring, firing,
discipline, or such other managerial responsibilities,
” and that the employees who worked under him
“made more money than he did, when accounting for their
overtime pay.” (Id.). Saunders's point is
that the primary-duty issue presents “a hotly disputed
issue of material fact” that precludes summary
replied and moved to strike parts of the declarations
Saunders submitted. (Docket Entry No. 18). Lincoln identifies
statements that it argues are speculative, conclusory, and
contradict statements in Saunders's earlier deposition.
(Id. at 2-4). Lincoln also argues that even if these
statements are considered, they do not support a reasonable
inference that Saunders's primary duty was not
management, or that his recommendations as to employee status
were not given weight. (Id. at 5-10). Lincoln argues
that even considering the declarations in their entirety, the
undisputed facts show that, as a matter of law, it properly
classified Saunders as exempt. (Id.).
responded to the motion to strike, contending that the
individuals' statements were based on the declarants'
personal observations of the Magnolia facility night shift.
(Docket Entry No. 20 at 1-2). Saunders argues that the
statements were neither conclusory nor inconsistent with his
deposition testimony. (Id.).
argues that Saunders has not carried his burden of showing
that the declaration statements are admissible. (Docket Entry
No. 23 at 3-5).
parties' arguments are considered in detail below.
judgment is appropriate only if there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Vann v. City of
Southaven, Miss., 884 F.3d 307, 309 (5th Cir. 2018)
(quotation omitted); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
“A genuine dispute of material fact exists when the
‘evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Burrell v.
Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 820 F.3d 132, 136 (5th Cir.
2016) (quoting Savant v. APM Terminals, 776 F.3d
285, 288 (5th Cir. 2014)). The moving party “always
bears the initial responsibility of informing the district
court of the basis for its motion, and ...