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McFeeley v. Jackson Street Entertainment, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 5, 2015



DeBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.

Presently pending and ready for resolution in this Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") collective action is Defendants' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or in the alternative, for a new trial. (ECF No. 94). The issues have been fully briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion will be denied.

I. Background[1]

After the court granted Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment, the remaining issues came on for trial before a jury on February 3-5, 2015. Plaintiffs' claims that proceeded to trial (counts I to III) were based on Defendants' alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and the Maryland Wage and Hour Law ("MWHL") for failing to pay Plaintiffs minimum wage and overtime. Under the FLSA and MWHL, it was determined at summary judgment that Plaintiffs were employees of Defendants and Defendants were employers, but there was a genuine dispute over whether Plaintiffs performed work for which they were improperly compensated, and this issue was reserved for trial.

At trial, following the close of Plaintiffs' case and following the close of all evidence, Defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Procedure 50(a). The undersigned denied this motion finding that there was evidence upon which a reasonable jury could find for Plaintiffs.

After hearing all testimony at trial, the jury was given instructions, part of which provided guidance on how to assess damages for each Plaintiff:

For each plaintiff, you will determine the number of weeks she worked during the applicable time frame, the schedule she kept, the number of hours she worked each week, and the weekly amount she had to pay to Defendants. Then you will calculate the amount due, by multiplying the weeks worked by the hours worked each week and multiplying the minimum wage of $7.25 for regular hours and $10.88 for any hours in excess of 40 per week. You well then add the weekly amount each paid to Defendants to reach a total amount due.
As to each plaintiff, you will also be asked to determine the portion of the total amount that is due for work after a certain date. The court needs you to make that determination in order to finalize any award in this case.

Defendants objected to the jury instructions on the grounds that the purpose of the FLSA was not included in the instructions and the verdict sheet was not detailed enough. Defendants requested inter alia that the verdict sheet require the jury to make more specific findings regarding: whether each Plaintiff had proven by a preponderance of the evidence that she had performed work for Defendants; the time period that each Plaintiff performed work for Defendants; and the hours per week that each Plaintiff worked for Defendants in each calendar year. Plaintiffs argued that a more detailed verdict sheet would not be helpful to the jury and the additions suggested by Defendants were superfluous. The undersigned agreed.

After deliberating for a day and a half, the jury returned verdicts as to the amount of damages to which each Plaintiff was entitled under the MWHL based on a three year statute of limitations:[2]

Laura McFeeley: $68, 360
Danielle Everett: $10, 764
Crystal Nelson: $34, 190
Dannielle Arlean McKay: $17, 541.50
Jenny Garcia: $10, 976
Patrice Howell: $55, 125

The jury also determined the amount of unpaid wages that were due to Plaintiffs for work performed within the two-year look-back period for the FLSA in order for the court to award liquidated damages. The issue of liquidated damages was tried to the court, but a jury identification of damages within a specified period of time was necessary. Based on Defendants' testimony regarding its efforts to comply with the FLSA, the court found that Defendants did not act in good faith to comply with the FLSA prior to September 2011, but following September 2011 Defendants acted in good faith because they consulted an attorney regarding their relationship with the clubs' dancers. In the February 10, 2015 memorandum opinion and judgment, Plaintiffs were awarded the following amount of liquidated damages, ...

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