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Ekeh v. Montgomery County

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 21, 2014



JILLYN K. SCHULZE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, Obioma Ekeh, brings this action against Defendant, Montgomery County (the County), claiming a violation of the overtime pay provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. ยง 207(a)(2), and entitlement to unpaid overtime wages, liquidated damages, interest, attorneys' fees and costs. ECF No. 7-4 at 1, 4-5. Presently pending is the County's motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 27. The issues have been fully briefed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be denied.

I. Background.

The following facts are either undisputed or recited in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. During the relevant time period, Plaintiff worked as a supply technician for the County's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. ECF No. 35-6 at 1, Plaintiff's Declaration. On a typical workday, Plaintiff made two trips between Boyds, Maryland and Rockville, Maryland, transporting inmates' laundry, property, mail, medical records and other items. Id. at 2. From September 2000 to June 2010, Plaintiff's supervisor was Mr. Kurt Grant. Id. at 1. During this time, Plaintiff frequently worked more than eight hours per day to complete his job assignments and Mr. Grant routinely allowed Plaintiff to receive overtime pay. Id. In 2009, Plaintiff earned 179 hours of overtime pay. Id. at 2. In June 2010, Deputy Warden Chris Johnson replaced Mr. Grant as Plaintiff's supervisor. Id. Even though Plaintiff continued to work a similar schedule with a comparable amount of accrued overtime, Ms. Johnson did not grant him overtime pay, claiming that he should be able to complete his tasks within eight hours each day. Id.

One day in September 2010, Ms. Johnson shadowed Plaintiff on his work route to monitor whether Plaintiff could legitimately perform his jobs duties within eight hours. Id. at 2. Plaintiff was not able to do so, and Ms. Johnson assured him that she would revise his work schedule, but this never happened. Instead, Ms. Johnson continued to deny Plaintiff's requests for overtime hours, claiming that she needed to preapprove such claims and only did so if something unusual happened during the day. Id. at 3. Plaintiff stopped attempting to record his overtime hours on his official time sheet because Ms. Johnson "would become angry with [him] if [he] did, " routinely "disallow[ed] the time that [he] recorded on [his] time card, " "attempt[ed] to intimidate [him] into working for free, " and as a result, he became "concerned about [his] job security." Id. at 3, 13. Instead, Plaintiff began to independently track his overtime hours by time stamping the final departure time from Boyds and final arrival time in Rockville on certain Inmate Property Transfer Sheets. Id. at 3. Plaintiff claims that the County owes him for 132.5 hours of unpaid overtime for the period January 2012 to June 2012.

The County audited Plaintiff's payroll records from June 2010 to September 2012 and found that Plaintiff requested a total of 17 hours of overtime compensation on his official time card during this period, and that his supervisor denied him this overtime compensation. Id. at 13; ECF No. 27-1 at 3. The County concedes for purposes of this motion that Plaintiff actually worked these 17 hours and, on August 23, 2013, the County paid Plaintiff $626.03 for this time. Id.

II. Standard of Review.

Pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). "For purposes of summary judgment, a fact is material if, when applied to the substantive law, it affects the outcome of the litigation." Nero v. Baltimore Cnty., MD, 512 F.Supp.2d 407, 409 (D. Md. 2007) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). "Summary judgment is also appropriate when a party fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'" Laura Campbell Trust v. John Hancock Life Ins. Co., 411 F.Supp.2d 606, 609 (D. Md. 2006) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)).

A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment bears the burden of establishing the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49. "When a motion for summary judgment is made and supported as provided in [Rule 56], an adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but the adverse party's response, by affidavit or as otherwise provided in [Rule 56] must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Bertrand v. Children's Home, 489 F.Supp.2d 516, 518 (D. Md. 2007) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). "The facts, as well as the justifiable inferences to be drawn therefrom, must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Id. at 518-19 (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986)). "The court, however, cannot rely upon unsupported speculation and it has an affirmative obligation to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial." Id. at 519 (citing Felty v. Graves-Humphreys Co., 818 F.2d 1126, 1128 (4th Cir. 1987)).

III. Discussion.

A. The Parties' Contentions.

The County argues that it is in full compliance with the FLSA because Plaintiff concedes that, from June 29, 2010 to September 21, 2012, he only logged 17 hours of overtime on his official time sheets and the County has compensated Plaintiff for these hours. Plaintiff agrees that the County eventually paid him for the 17 hours of overtime noted on his official time card (albeit a full year after Plaintiff filed this action), but argues that Defendant still owes him for 132.5 hours that he never claimed on his official time card.[1] ECF No. 35 at 9. Plaintiff asserts that because Johnson repeatedly instructed him that he could not claim more than 8 hours per day, he stopped claiming overtime on his time card and began tracking his overtime hours independently. ECF No. 35-6 at 3-4.

Plaintiff notes that his shift ended at 7:30 pm and his independent records indicate that he regularly worked until around 9:00 pm or later. ECF No. 35-6 at 5-11; ECF No. 35-2, Attachment B. Plaintiff also submits emails between Ms. Johnson and himself, chronicling his complaints to her about working overtime without appropriate compensation. Id. at Attachment C. Plaintiff contends that this additional overtime is compensable because the County knew or should have known that he was regularly working overtime hours. ECF No. 35 at 11.

In reply, the County reasserts that it is only required to compensate Plaintiff for overtime hours recorded pursuant to its official timekeeping system, and that in any event Plaintiff failed to show that the County had knowledge of his alleged overtime hours and that ...

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