Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Poole v. Dhiru Hospitality, LLC

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

August 15, 2019

REBECCA POOLE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DHIRU HOSPITALITY, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER

          XAVIER RODRIGUEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On this date, the Court considered Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and related filings.[1] By their motion, Plaintiffs seek a partial summary judgment on liability on their FLSA claims, and seek to dismiss Defendant's affirmative defense and counterclaims. The motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         Background

         Plaintiffs Rebecca Poole, Monica Ayala, and Robert Gongora filed this action against their alleged former employer, Dhiru Hospitality, LLC, d/b/a Motel 6, for violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (“FLSA”). The First Amended Complaint is the live pleading. Docket no. 5.

         Plaintiff Poole alleges that she performed primarily front desk duties and some duties as assistant manager in 2017 and 2018, was paid by the week at a rate of $200/week, regularly worked at least 48 hours per week, and did not receive a paycheck at all some weeks. Id. ¶¶ 12-15. Plaintiff Ayala alleges that she performed housekeeping duties from 2016 to 2018 but was never paid, despite regularly and frequently working at least 42 hours per week. Id. ¶¶ 18-21. Plaintiff Gongora alleges that he performed housekeeping, maintenance, and security duties for Defendant from 2016 to 2018 and regularly worked at least 42 hours per week. Id. ¶¶ 23-24. Gongora alleges he was paid $125/week regardless of hours worked, and that he did not receive a paycheck at all some weeks. Id. ¶¶ 26-28. Plaintiffs Gongora and Ayala are common-law married, and Defendant provided them with a room at the hotel.

         Plaintiffs bring claims under the FLSA, with Plaintiffs Poole and Gongora alleging they never received overtime compensation for weeks they worked over 40 hours, and Plaintiff Ayala alleging she never received any payment from Defendant, either minimum wage or overtime. Id. at 2-3. Thus, Poole and Gongora assert claims for failure to pay overtime compensation, and Ayala asserts a claim for failure to pay minimum wage as well as overtime pay. Defendant has denied liability and filed a counterclaim.

         Plaintiffs now move for summary judgment on the issue of liability and seek to dismiss Defendant's counterclaim and affirmative defense of fraud. As evidence, Plaintiffs present the Declaration of Rebecca Poole, the Declaration of Monica Ayala, the Declaration of Robert Gongora, [2] and Texas Unemployment Insurance Wage Report Worksheets and IRS Form 941 for the Motel 6. Defendant contends that fact issues remain that preclude summary judgment, and submits the Declarations of Nilesh “Andy” Patel, the President of Dhiru Hospitality d/b/a Motel 6; Kishan Patel, his son; and Bhavisha Patel, his wife.

         Analysis

         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must accept the evidence of the nonmoving party as true and draw all justifiable inferences in its favor. Credibility determinations and weighing of the evidence are left to the trier of fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

         The FLSA provides that employers must pay employees a statutory minimum wage. 29 U.S.C. § 206(a). The FLSA further provides 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).

         An employee bringing an action for unpaid overtime compensation must first demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence: (1) that there existed an employer-employee relationship during the unpaid overtime periods claimed; (2) that the employee engaged in activities within the coverage of the FLSA; (3) that the employer violated the FLSA's overtime wage requirements; and (4) the amount of overtime compensation due. Johnson v. Heckmann Water Res. (CVR), Inc., 758 F.3d 627, 630 (5th Cir. 2014). Once the employee establishes a prima facie case, the burden then shifts to the employer to “come forward with evidence of the precise amount of work performed or with evidence to negative the reasonableness of the inference to be drawn from the employee's evidence.” Id.

         FLSA coverage

         Plaintiffs allege that Defendant employed persons engaged in commerce and/or has been an enterprise engaged in commerce within the meaning of the FLSA. Docket no. 5 ¶ 11. Plaintiffs' motion asserts that individual coverage is established for Plaintiff Poole and enterprise coverage is established for all Plaintiffs.[3]

         Under 29 U.S.C. § 207(a), Plaintiffs must prove they were employees engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce (“individual coverage”) or “employed in an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce” (“enterprise coverage”). Martin v. Bedell, 955 F.2d 1029, 1032 (5th Cir. 1992) (citing 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1)). Either individual or enterprise coverage is enough to invoke FLSA protection. Martin, 955 F.2d at 1032.

         All Plaintiffs - FLSA enterprise coverage

         The FLSA defines an “enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce” to include an enterprise that:

(A)(i) has employees engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, or that has employees handling, selling, or otherwise working on goods or materials that have been moved in or produced for commerce by any person; and
(ii) is an enterprise whose annual gross volume of sales made or business done is not less than $500, 000 ....

29 U.S.C. § 203(s)(1). If an employer meets both requirements, then all its employees are subject to the FLSA, unless otherwise exempted by another provision of the act.

         Plaintiffs attempt to establish enterprise coverage through their Declarations and Defendant's Texas Unemployment Insurance Wage Report Worksheets. Plaintiffs rely on the TWC worksheets to establish that the Motel 6 employed eleven individuals, including Poole, in 2017.[4] They offer the following evidence from Poole's Affidavit:

There are 55 rooms in the hotel. Kishan[5], Andy's son, mentioned a few times they bring in $21, 000 per day in revenue. They would bring in more than that during Fiesta, Spring Break, Rodeo, etc. Andy mentioned once that the yearly tax on the property was $95, 000. He would sometimes rent rooms by the hour, for like $40.
The minimum charge per room was $55 per room. On the weekend, Andy would charge $65-$80 per room. On the weekends, the rooms were 100% booked. During Spring Break, Fiesta, Rodeo, they would be usually 100% booked.
Seema, Andy's wife, and Andy went on a cruise in August. I was in charge while they were gone. Seema told me then that if I dealt with the police, I should tell them I am the assistant manager. While they were gone, we took in some $55, 000 in cash during the nine days I was in charge. I had over $50, 000 in cash in my room until Andy and Seema got back.[6]

         Defendant contests Poole's assertion that she took in over $50, 000 in cash during the nine days the Patels were on vacation, noting that if 70% of transactions were by credit card, as Plaintiffs have asserted, it is not possible that she would take in over $50, 000 in cash during that period. Docket no. 41 at 2; Docket no. 42 at 2. Defendant asserts that Poole never mentioned this cash before and would have been violating policy by keeping it in her room rather than depositing it daily in a secure office box.

         Kishan Patel, Andy Patel's son, states that Poole was required to place receipts in the drop box, and he would have known if she brought in that much money because he “was keeping track of all deposits while [his] parents were away.” He states that Poole would have violated policy if she kept the cash in her room. Nilesh Patel similarly states that Poole's testimony is not credible, given her statement that 70% of customers paid with credit cards, and ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.