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White v. U.S. Corrections, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Texas

October 11, 2019

DANA WHITE, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, Plaintiff
v.
U.S. CORRECTIONS, LLC, U.S. CORRECTIONS, LLC, AND SOUTH EAST EMPLOYEE LEASING, INC., Defendants

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          SUSAN HIGHTOWER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         TO: THE HONORABLE LEE YEAKEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before this Court are Defendant U.S. Corrections, LLC's Motion to Dismiss, filed on June 13, 2019 (Dkt. No. 8); Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Motor Carrier Exemption, filed on August 30, 2019 (Dkt. No. 21); and the related response and reply briefs. The District Court referred the above motions to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72, and Rule 1 of Appendix C of the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

         I. BACKGROUND

         US Corrections, LLC (“USC”) is a North Carolina corporation that provides prisoner transportation services in Texas and across the United States. USC employs drivers to transport prisoners between various correctional facilities. USC employed Dana White (“Plaintiff”) as an extradition officer who was responsible for “transporting inmates between prisons and other facilities in passenger vans weighing less than 10, 001 pounds.” Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 16. Plaintiff worked for USC from June 2018 to January 2019. Plaintiff alleges that she regularly worked more than 40 hours per week and that USC failed to compensate her at the required overtime rate for such work in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). Plaintiff further alleges that similarly situated extradition agents also were not paid overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week.

         On April 5, 2019, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit, on behalf of herself and all similarly situated employees, alleging that USC, U.S. Corrections, LLC, [1] and East Employee Leasing, Inc.[2] violated the FLSA by failing to (1) pay overtime compensation to her and similarly situated employees, and (2) maintain accurate time and pay records. Plaintiff seeks unpaid overtime compensation, liquidated damages, attorneys' fees and costs, pre and post-judgment interest, and an order allowing this action to proceed as a collective action under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).

         On June 13, 2019, USC filed the instant Motion to Dismiss, arguing that Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed because (1) Plaintiff is exempt from the overtime pay requirements of the FLSA under the Motor Carrier Act exemption, 29 U.S.C. § 213(b); (2) there is no private cause of action for alleged violations of the FLSA's recordkeeping requirements; and (3) the Complaint fails to state a claim for relief for the putative group of individuals Plaintiff seeks to represent.

         Plaintiff opposes the Motion to Dismiss. She also has filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment arguing that the Motor Carrier Act exemption does not apply in this case and, therefore, the Court should dismiss Defendant's affirmative defense with prejudice under Rule 56.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Rule 12(b)(6)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a party to move to dismiss an action for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court “accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the [nonmovant].” In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Supreme Court has explained that a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the [nonmovant] pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the [movant] is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotations and citations omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. The court's review is limited to the complaint, any documents attached to the complaint, and any documents attached to the motion to dismiss that are central to the claim and referenced by the complaint. Lone Star Fund V (U.S.), L.P. v. Barclays Bank PLC, 594 F.3d 383, 387 (5th Cir. 2010).

         B. Rule 56

         Summary judgment shall be rendered when the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials, and any affidavits on file show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986); Washburn v. Harvey, 504 F.3d 505, 508 (5th Cir. 2007). A dispute regarding a material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court is required to view all inferences drawn from the factual record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Washburn, 504 F.3d at 508. A court “may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence” in ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254-55.

         Once the moving party has made an initial showing that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the party opposing the motion must come forward with competent summary judgment evidence of the existence of a genuine fact issue. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. Mere conclusory allegations are not competent summary judgment evidence, and thus are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007). Furthermore, unsubstantiated assertions, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation are not competent summary judgment evidence. Id. The party opposing summary judgment is required to identify specific evidence in the record and to articulate the precise manner in which that evidence supports its claim. See Adams v. Travelers Indem. Co. of Conn., 465 F.3d 156, 164 (5th Cir. 2006). If the nonmoving party fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to its case and on which it will bear the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment must be granted. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23.

         When summary judgment is sought on an affirmative defense, as here, the movant “must establish beyond peradventure all of the essential elements of the claim or defense to warrant judgment in his favor.” Fontenot v. Upjohn Co., 780 F.2d 1190, 1194 (5th Cir. 1986). “Once the movant does so, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to establish an issue of ...


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