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Forkwa v. Symbral Foundation for Community Services

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

September 3, 2013

PATRICK FORKWA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SYMBRAL FOUNDATION FOR COMMUNITY SERVICES, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

PAUL W. GRIMM, District Judge.

This Memorandum Opinion addresses Plaintiffs Patrick Forkwa, Sanjou K. Quanteh, and Douglas Ibong Usoroh's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, ECF No. 26, and Memorandum in Support, ECF No. 26-1; the Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, or Alternatively, for Summary Judgment that Defendant Symbral Foundation for Community Services ("Symbral") filed, ECF No. 29; and Plaintiffs' Reply to Defendant's Opposition and Opposition to Defendant's Motion, ECF No. 31. Defendant has not filed a reply to Plaintiffs' Opposition, and the time for doing so has passed. See Loc. R. 105.2.a. Having reviewed the filings, I find that a hearing is unnecessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiffs' Motion is DENIED, and Defendant's Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

Symbral "operate[s] a long-term group home for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, " where Plaintiffs worked. 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 13. Specifically, Forkwa worked from December 17, 2008 until late October 2011; Quanteh worked from mid-December 2009 until January or February 2011; and Usoroh worked from June 25, 2000 until December 27, 2011. Id. ¶¶ 5, 8 & 12; Usoroh Payroll Records 49, Def.'s Mem. Ex. 14, ECF No. 30-13 (timecard show Usoroh's hours worked from Dec. 16, 2011 through Dec. 27, 2011); Def.'s Mem. 5-6 & 12 (alleging that Usoroh's employment ended in February 2011). Each worked "as a Relief Counselor and his primary job duty was to care for intellectually handicapped patients who lived at Defendant's group homes." 2d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 8 & 12. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant did not pay them "for time that [they] spent attending mandatory training sessions, " including not paying them for their overtime work "at one and one-half times (1.5x) their regular hourly rate." Id. ¶¶ 6, 9-10, 13 & 15-16. Additionally, they claim that "Defendant deducted at least two (2) hours of unpaid break time per week from [Plaintiffs'] hourly compensation, " even though Plaintiffs were "not permitted to take any breaks from [their] job duties, " such that "Defendant failed and refused to pay [Plaintiffs] for at least two (2) hours of work per week." Id. ¶¶ 7, 11, 14 & 17. According to Plaintiffs, Symbral did not pay them "for leave (vacation) time to which [they were] entitled." Id. ¶¶ 20-22.

Plaintiffs allege violations of the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 - 219, the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law ("MWPCL"), Md. Code Ann, Lab. & Empl. §§ 3-501 - 3-509, and the Maryland Wage and Hour Law ("MWHL"), Lab. & Empl. §§ 3-401 - 3-431. Specifically, they claim that Defendant failed to pay them minimum wage because Defendant required that they attend training sessions but did not pay them, and Defendant deducted for breaks that Plaintiffs were not allowed to take, in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 206(a)(1) (Count I), Empl. Law § 3-505 (Count III), and Empl. Law § 3-413 (Count V). Plaintiffs also allege that Defendant failed to pay them at the required rate for overtime work, in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1) (Count II) and Empl. Law §§ 3-415 & 3-420 (Count IV[2]). In Count VI, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant violated Empl. Law § 3-505 of the MWPCL by "fail[ing] and refus[ing] to pay Plaintiffs for their accrued leave." Compl. ¶ 52.

In Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, they seek summary judgment as to liability only; they do not "move[] for summary judgment as to (1) the amount of damages, (2) a finding of willfulness under the FLSA, or (3) an award of additional statutory damages under the MWPCL." Pls.' Mem. 3. Defendant opposes Plaintiffs' motion and move to dismiss or for summary judgment on all counts. Def.'s Mem. 4.

II. MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

Defendant styles its motion as a "Motion to Dismiss, or Alternatively, for Summary Judgment." Defendant moves to dismiss because "Plaintiffs have failed to establish that they are covered employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act." Def.'s Mem. 4. Defendant argues that Plaintiffs "worked for Defendant only in Washington D.C., " and Defendant "is not a not-forprofit business formed under the laws of the State of Maryland, " but rather "a not for profit organization formed under the laws of Washington D.C." Id. at 5. This appears to be an argument that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction or personal jurisdiction or that venue is improper. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)-(3), (h)(3). To the extent that Defendant moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or improper venue, the Court notes that, having filed an Answer, ECF No. 14, prior to filing its motion to dismiss, Defendant has waived those grounds. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b), (h)(1).

When a defendant asserts that "a complaint simply fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction can be based, " as Defendant does here, "the facts alleged in the complaint are assumed to be true and the plaintiff, in effect, is afforded the same procedural protection as he would receive under a 12(b)(6) consideration." Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982); see Fianko v. United States, No. PWG-12-2025, 2013 WL 3873226, at *4 (D. Md. July 24, 2013). Thus, "the facts alleged in the complaint are taken as true, and the motion must be denied if the complaint alleges sufficient facts to invoke subject matter jurisdiction." Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009); see In re KBR, Inc., Burn Pit Litig., No. RWT 09md2083, ___ F.Supp.2d ___, 2013 WL 709826, at *5 (D. Md. Feb. 27, 2013) (quoting Kerns ). This Court must act "on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007) (citations omitted).

A defendant-employer must be subject to the FLSA for the Court to have subject matter jurisdiction over an FLSA claim brought by its employee. Aguilar v. LR Coin Laundromat, Inc., No. RDB-11-2352, 2012 WL 1569552, at *4 n.1 (D. Md. May 2, 2012). "[A]n employer is subject to the FLSA if one of two pre-requisites is satisfied: (1) an employee is engaged in commerce or the production of goods for commerce ("covered employee") or (2) the employer is an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods ("enterprise coverage").'" Id. at *4 (quoting Diaz v. HBT, Inc., No. RWT-11-1856, 2012 WL 294749, at *2 (D. Md. Jan. 31, 2012). One way enterprise coverage exists is if the employer "is engaged in the operation of... an institution primarily engaged in the care of the sick, the aged, or the mentally ill or defective who reside on the premises of such institution." 29 U.S.C. § 203(s)(1)(C).

Plaintiff claims, and Defendant admits, that "Defendant is in the business of operating a long-term group home for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, " and "Defendant was Plaintiffs' employer' for purposes of the FLSA, the MWPCL and the MWHL." 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 2; see Answer ¶ 2. To establish jurisdiction, Plaintiff claims that "Plaintiffs were individual employees engaged in commerce or the production of goods for commerce as required by 29 U.S.C. §§ 206-207, " and "Defendant qualified as an enterprise' within the meaning of § 3(r) of the FLSA (29 U.S.C. § 203(r))" and "was engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce within the meaning of § 3(s)(1) of the FLSA (29 U.S.C. § 203(s)(1))." 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 3. Defendant admits these allegations. Answer ¶ 3. Therefore, Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is DENIED because the Court is satisfied that Plaintiffs have pleaded subject matter jurisdiction sufficiently. See Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192; Aguilar, 2012 WL 1569552, at *4 & n.1.

III. SUMMARY JUDGMENT

A. Standard

Summary judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates, through "particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations..., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, " that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A); see Baldwin v. City of Greensboro, No. 12-1722, 714 F.3d 828, 833 (4th Cir. 2013). If the party seeking summary judgment demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify evidence that shows that a genuine dispute exists as to material facts. See Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). The existence of only a "scintilla of evidence" is not enough to defeat a motion for summary ...


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