United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
ARTEMIO ARMAS and EMA ARMAS, and all others similarly situated under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), Plaintiffs,
ST. AUGUSTINE OLD ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. FITZWATER SENIOR JUDGE.
collective action, plaintiffs Artemio Armas
(“Artemio”) and Ema Armas (“Ema”) sue
defendants St. Augustine Catholic Church and School
(“St. Augustine”), John Parnell
(“Parnell”), and St. Augustine Old Roman Catholic
Church, a Parish of the Old Roman Catholic Church in North
America (“Old Roman”), under the Fair Labor
Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §
201 et seq., and under Texas law. In separate
motions, Old Roman, and Parnell and St. Augustine, move for
summary judgment. Although the motions present several close
questions, for the reasons that follow, the court grants in
part and denies in part the motion filed by Parnell and St.
Augustine, and it grants the motion filed by Old Roman and
dismisses with prejudice plaintiffs' federal-law claims
against Old Roman and dismisses without prejudice
plaintiffs' state-law claims against Old Roman by
judgment filed today.
Augustine is a small church located on a residential lot in
Fort Worth, Texas, where Parnell has served as pastor since
1991. St. Augustine's facilities include a
chapel, church office, Parnell's office, storage
space/apartment, and a yard. Although the parishioners of St.
Augustine share many doctrinal beliefs with the Roman
Catholic Church, defendants maintain that St. Augustine
operates autonomously and independently from the Roman
Catholic Church, sustaining its operations by relying on
Sunday mass collections and volunteer work.
addition to conducting weekly masses in English and Spanish,
St. Augustine provides a place for the congregation to
celebrate weddings and quinceañeras and to hold
funeral services. The church also operates a home-school
program for high school students that offers the equivalent
of a high school diploma. According to plaintiffs, beginning
in 2008, Parnell manufactured cigars at St. Augustine using
tobacco imported from the Dominican Republic.
Artemio and his wife Ema met Parnell and became active
members of St. Augustine. Defendants maintain that Artemio
and Ema volunteered at the church on “parish work days,
” during which church members volunteered to perform
tasks such as vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms, cleaning the
yard, and emptying the trash.
and Ema contend that they provided general maintenance,
janitorial, and housekeeping services at St. Augustine from
2008 through August 31, 2016, and that in September 2016
Artemio assisted Parnell and St. Augustine in transporting
goods from California to Texas. Prior to January 2, 2016
Parnell's then-wife Caroline Parnell allegedly paid
Artemio and Ema for their work at St. Augustine. According to
Artemio and Ema, however, beginning on January 2, 2016, and
continuing through August 31, 2016, they worked an average of
35 hours per week but were not paid for their work, despite
Parnell's having informed Artemio that he would be paid
$10.00 per hour and that Ema would be paid $9.00 per hour for
their work in 2016.
September 2016 Artemio asked Parnell to be paid for the work
that he and Ema had performed at St. Augustine that year.
According to plaintiffs, Parnell responded to this request by
threatening and physically assaulting Artemio.
and Ema then filed this lawsuit against St. Augustine,
Parnell, and Old Roman. In their second amended complaint,
they sue Parnell, St. Augustine, and Old Roman under the FLSA
for unpaid minimum wages and retaliation, and under Texas law
on claims for breach of contract, assault, quantum meruit,
and promissory estoppel. Parnell and St. Augustine, and Old
Roman, separately move for summary judgment. Plaintiffs
oppose both motions. The court has heard oral
party moves for summary judgment on claims on which the
opposing parties will bear the burden of proof at trial, the
moving party can meet its summary judgment obligation by
pointing the court to the absence of admissible evidence to
support the nonmovants' claims. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the moving party
does so, the nonmovants must go beyond their pleadings and
designate specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for
trial. See Id. at 324; Little v. Liquid Air
Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc) (per
curiam). An issue is genuine if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmovants'
favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986). The nonmovants' failure to produce proof
as to any essential element of a claim renders all other
facts immaterial. See TruGreen Landcare, L.L.C. v.
Scott, 512 F.Supp.2d 613, 623 (N.D. Tex. 2007)
(Fitzwater, J.). Summary judgment is mandatory if the
nonmovants fail to meet this burden. Little, 37 F.3d
and St. Augustine move for summary judgment on
plaintiffs' FLSA minimum wage claim on the ground that
neither Artemio nor Ema was a covered employee under the
FLSA guarantees certain minimum wages for employees
“engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for
commerce” or “employed in an enterprise engaged
in commerce or in the production of goods for
commerce.” 29 U.S.C. § 206(a). To establish FLSA
coverage, plaintiffs must show that they (1) personally
engaged in commerce or the production of goods for commerce
(individual coverage) or (2) were employed by an enterprise
engaged in such activity (enterprise coverage). See
Martin v. Bedell, 955 F.2d 1029, 1032 (5th Cir. 1992)
(quoting 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1)). “Either
individual or enterprise coverage is enough to
invoke FLSA protection.” Id.
court considers first whether plaintiffs have presented
sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find that they
are covered under the FLSA based on individual coverage.
the FLSA does not define what it means for an employee to be
“engaged in interstate commerce, ” the Fifth
Circuit has adopted a “practical test, ” which
asks “whether the work is so directly and vitally
related to the functioning of an instrumentality or facility
of interstate commerce as to be, in practical effect, a part
of it, rather than isolated local activity.”
Sobrinio v. Med. Ctr. Visitor's Lodge, Inc., 474
F.3d 828, 829 (5th Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (quoting
Mitchell v. H.B. Zachry Co., 362 U.S. 310, 324
(1960)). “[A]ny regular contact with commerce, no
matter how small, will result in coverage.”
Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Marshall
v. Victoria Transp. Co., 603 F.2d 1122, 1124 (5th Cir.
1979)). The employee's work, however, must be
“entwined with the continuous stream of interstate
commerce.” Marshall, 603 F.2d at 1125
(citation omitted). “It is therefore not sufficient,
for purposes of the ‘engaged in commerce' clause of
the individual coverage provision, that an employee's
work merely ‘affects' interstate commerce in some
way.” Mendoza v. Detail Sols., LLC, 911
F.Supp.2d 433, 439 (N.D. Tex. 2012) (Fish, J.) (citing
Wirtz v. Wohl Shoe Co., 382 F.2d 848, 850 (5th Cir.
and St. Augustine contend that plaintiffs were not engaged in
interstate commerce when they allegedly provided handyman and
janitorial services at St. Augustine, and, instead, that
their work was “isolated local activity.” Ds. Br.
8. Plaintiffs respond that much of their work was custodial
in nature; Parnell manufactured cigars on the property owned
and operated by St. Augustine using tobacco imported from the
Dominican Republic; Artemio “witnessed bishops with
briefcases full of cigars at St. Augustine, ” Ps. Br.
16; Parnell told Artemio that he “earned a lot of money
selling [the cigars], ” id. at 17 (alteration
in original); and Artemio testified that a number of the
bishops involved with St. Augustine were from locations
outside the state of Texas.
on plaintiffs' summary judgment evidence, a reasonable
jury could not find that the work Artemio and Ema performed
at St. Augustine was so “directly and vitally related
to the functioning of an instrumentality or facility of
interstate commerce as to be, in practical effect, a part of
it, rather than isolated local activity.”
Sobrinio, 474 F.3d at 829. At most, plaintiffs have
shown that Parnell rolled cigars on church property using
tobacco from the Dominican Republic. But they have not
adduced sufficient summary judgment evidence for a reasonable
jury to find that Parnell ever sold the cigars he rolled or
that St. Augustine profited in any way from Parnell's
alleged cigar-rolling operation. In other words, plaintiffs
have failed to create a fact issue on whether the cigars
allegedly manufactured at St. Augustine ever entered the
stream of commerce. Plaintiffs' bare allegation that
Parnell manufactured and sold cigars on church property is
insufficient, without more, to establish that plaintiffs were
“engaged in commerce, ” as is required to
establish individual coverage. In fact, at oral argument,
plaintiffs' counsel acknowledged that plaintiffs'
argument that they could establish individual FLSA coverage
based on Parnell's alleged cigar manufacturing was
allegation that, in September 2016, Artemio drove a truck to
California to transport goods back to Texas is likewise
insufficient to enable a reasonable jury to find that
plaintiffs were “engaged in commerce.” “A
key factor in determining if a plaintiff engaged in commerce
for purposes of individual coverage under the FLSA is whether
such activities were a ‘regular and recurrent' part
of the plaintiff's employment duties.” Tran v.
Thai, 2010 WL 5232944, at *3 (S.D. Tex. Dec. 16, 2010)
(citing 29 C.F.R. § 776.10(b)); see also
Sobrinio, 474 F.3d at 829 (“[A]ny
regular contact with commerce, no matter how small,
will result in coverage, ” (alteration in original)
(emphasis added) (quoting Marhall, 63 F.2d at
1124)). In other words,
for an employee to be “engaged in commerce” under
the FLSA, he must be “directly participating in the
actual movement of persons or things in interstate commerce
by (i) working for an instrumentality of interstate commerce,
e.g., transportation or communication industry employees, or
(ii) by regularly using the instrumentalities of interstate
commerce in his work, e.g., regular and recurrent
use of interstate telephone, telegraph, mails, or
Tran, 2010 WL 5232944, at *3 (emphasis added)
(quoting Thorne v. All Restoration Servs.,
Inc., 448 F.3d 1264, 1266 (11th Cir. 2006)).
Assuming arguendo that Artemio actually assisted
Parnell in transporting goods from California to Texas in
September 2016,  plaintiffs have adduced no evidence that
would enable a reasonable jury to find that this was anything
more than an isolated, one-time occurrence. This activity,
even if it occurred, is insufficient to permit a reasonable
jury to find that plaintiffs were “engaged in
the court considers whether plaintiffs have introduced
sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find individual
coverage based on the domestic services that plaintiffs
allegedly performed for Parnell and St. Augustine.
the FLSA, “the employment of persons in domestic
service in households affects commerce.” 29 U.S.C.
§ 202(a). “The term domestic service employment
means services of a household nature performed by an employee
in or about a private home (permanent or temporary)”
and includes “services performed by employees such as .
. . maids, housekeepers, . . . janitors, . . . caretakers,
handymen, [and] gardeners.” 29 C.F.R. § 552.3.
do not appear to dispute that the services Artemio and Ema
provided were of a “household nature.” Instead,
they maintain that plaintiffs cannot establish individual
coverage because the domestic services they provided were not
performed in a private home. In response, plaintiffs point to
evidence that one of the buildings on the church property,
Building B, was Parnell's residence and personal office
during 2016, and they posit that this evidence supports a
finding that plaintiffs' domestic service tasks,
“such as cleaning the residence and doing Parnell's
laundry, ” were performed at a private residence and
fall within the domestic service individual coverage arm of
the FLSA. Ps. Br. 19.
arguendo that Building B was Parnell's personal
residence, as plaintiffs contend, plaintiffs have failed to
establish individual coverage because they fail to cite any
evidence that would enable a reasonable jury to find that
they performed domestic services in Parnell's
personal residence as opposed to the other buildings and
structures located on the church property. The mere fact that
Parnell maintained a private residence on the church property
does not convert plaintiffs' work in the public areas of
the church property into “domestic service in [a]
household[ ].” 29 U.S.C. § 202(a). Without
evidence that ...