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Beck v. Access Eforms, LP

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

August 7, 2019




         Pending before the Court are Plaintiff's first Amended Rule 59(e) Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment (Dkt. #99) and Defendant's Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment (Dkt. #97). The Court, having reviewed the competing motions, relevant evidence, and pertinent caselaw, finds that the Court's Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law (Dkt. #90) should be amended as to apply the facts of this case to the applicable law without construing the FLSA narrowly. In doing so, the Court finds that the result of the final judgment is not disturbed.


         This case involves the interpretation of a provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., as applied to Plaintiff Sidney Beck. Plaintiff was employed by Defendant Access eForms, LP, as a Project Specialist. On December 29, 2016, Plaintiff initiated this action against Defendant for alleged violations of the FLSA.

         The FLSA mandates that “no employer shall employ any of his employees . . . for a workweek longer than forty hours unless such employee receives compensation for his employment in excess of the hours above specified at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed.” 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1); see Harvill v. Westward Communications, LLC, 433 F.3d 428, 441 (2005). When enacted, the FLSA contained a number of exemptions to the overtime requirement. Defendant contends that Plaintiff was a computer professional employee, exempt from the FLSA pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(17).

         On March 12, 2018, this action came before the Court for a two-day bench trial that concluded on March 13, 2018. Plaintiff and Defendant appeared with counsel. The Court took testimony from the Plaintiff and other witnesses, received documents into evidence, and heard argument from the parties' counsel. The Court heard evidence and, upon reviewing the record, made its finds of fact and conclusions of law (Dkt. #90). The Court rendered final judgment in Plaintiff's favor and awarded Plaintiff damages in the amount of $24, 914.00.

         On September 4, 2018, Defendant filed its Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment (Dkt. #99) and Amended Rule 59(e) Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment (Dkt. #99). On September 18, 2018, Plaintiff filed her response (Dkt. #103) and Defendant filed its response (Dkt. #104).


         A motion seeking reconsideration may be construed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), 59(e), or 60(b) depending on the circumstances. “The Fifth Circuit recently explained that ‘Rule 59(e) governs motions to alter or amend a final judgment,' while ‘Rule 54(b) allows parties to seek reconsideration of interlocutory orders and authorizes the district court to revise at any time any order or other decision that does not end the action.'” Dolores Lozano v. Baylor Univ., No. 6:16-CV-403-RP, 2018 WL 3552351, at *1 (W.D. Tex. July 24, 2018) (quoting Austin v. Kroger Tex., L.P., 864 F.3d 326, 336 (5th Cir. 2017)). Further, “‘[i]nterlocutory orders,' such as grants of partial summary judgment, ‘are not within the provisions of 60(b), but are left within the plenary power of the court that rendered them to afford such relief from them as justice requires [pursuant to Rule 54(b)].” McKay v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., 751 F.3d 694, 701 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Zimzores v. Veterans Admin., 778 F.2d 264, 266 (5th Cir. 1985)) (citing Bon Air Hotel, Inc. v. Time, Inc., 426 F.2d 585, 862 (5th Cir. 1970)).

         A motion seeking reconsideration of a final judgment that is filed within 28 days of the judgment is considered under Rule 59(e). See Shepherd v. Int'l Paper Co., 372 F.3d 326, 328 n.1 (5th Cir. 2004); Milazzo v. Young, No. 6:11-CV-350-JKG, 2012 WL 1867099, at *1 (E.D. Tex. May 21, 2012). Such a motion “‘calls into question the correctness of a judgment.'” Templet v. HydroChem Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 478 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting In re Transtexas Gas Corp., 303 F.3d 571, 581 (5th Cir. 2002)). Here, the parties filed their motions to alter the judgment within 28 days and accordingly the Court analyzes the motion under Rule 59(e).

         A Rule 59(e) motion is “not the proper vehicle for rehashing evidence, legal theories, or arguments that could have been offered or raised before the entry of judgment.” Templet, 367 F.3d at 479 (citing Simon v. United States, 891 F.2d 1154, 1159 (5th Cir. 1990)). “Rule 59(e) ‘serve[s] the narrow purpose of allowing a party to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.'” Id. (quoting Waltman v. Int'l Paper Co., 875 F.2d 468, 473 (5th Cir. 1989)). “Relief under Rule 59(e) is also appropriate when there has been an intervening change in the controlling law.” Milazzo, 2012 WL 1867099, at *1 (citing Schiller v. Physicians Res. Grp., 342 F.3d 563, 567 (5th Cir. 2003)). “Altering, amending, or reconsidering a judgment is an extraordinary remedy that courts should use sparingly.” Id. (citing Templet, 367 F.3d at 479).


         Defendant contends that final judgment in this matter should be vacated because the Court erred in (1) narrowly construing FLSA; (2) relying on the FLSA exemption in § 213(a)(1) instead of the exemption set out in § 213(a)(17); and (3) finding that Plaintiff carried her burden of proof on damages.

         Plaintiff agrees that the Court erred in narrowly construing the FLSA but argues that the Court reached the correct result. That is, Plaintiff asserts that the even if the Court engaged in a general application of the FLSA, instead of narrowly construing the statute, the Court would still find that Defendant failed to carry its burden of proving that Plaintiff was exempt as a computer professional. Plaintiff further contends that Defendant's ...

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