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Whyte v. PP&G, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 26, 2015

RAQIYA WHYTE
v.
PP&G, INC. et al. TANAE TAYLOR
v.
PP&G, INC. et al.

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM M. NICKERSON, Senior District Judge.

Before the Court are multiple cross motions for Summary Judgment in two related cases: Whyte v. PP&G, Inc., Civ. No. WMN-13-2806 (Whyte) and Taylor v. PP&G, Inc., Civ. No. WMN 13-3706 (Taylor). Defendant PP&G, Inc. filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and Defendant Lisa Ireland filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in each case. See Whyte ECF No. 65 and Taylor ECF No. 39. Plaintiffs Raqiya Whyte and Tanae Taylor, in their Oppositions, also cross moved for partial summary judgment. See Whyte ECF No. 70 and Taylor ECF No. 44. The motions are fully briefed and ripe for review. Upon a review of the papers, facts, and applicable law, the Court determines that no hearing is necessary, Local Rule 105.6, and that Defendants' motions will be granted and Plaintiffs' motions will be denied.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Defendant Lisa Ireland owns Defendant PP&G, a corporation which owns and operates Norma Jean's Nite Club (Norma Jean's), a night club located in Baltimore that features semi-nude female dancers. Plaintiff Raqiya Whyte worked at Norma Jean's from September 2010 to September 2013 while Plaintiff Tanae Taylor worked at the club from December 9, 2010, to December 13, 2013. In their lawsuits, Plaintiffs bring a cause of action under the Federal Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. (FLSA) for Defendants' alleged failure to pay a minimum wage to its workers in violation of Section 206 of the FLSA (Count I of both Taylor and Whyte), failure to pay overtime in violation of Section 207 (Count II of Taylor), and retaliation in violation of Section 215(a)(3) (Count IV of Whyte).[1]

Ms. Ireland supervises the finances of Norma Jean's, signs checks, and maintains pertinent licenses for the club's operation. She appeared at the club on a regular basis to attend to those tasks. The day to day operation of Norma Jean's is delegated to one manager, who hires and fires dancers, sets fees, manages scheduling, orders supplies, pays bills, and manages disruptions and disputes that arise at Norma Jean's. The manager - currently Jeanean Lawson - is provided wide latitude and discretion in conducting the club's business. If an incident occurs or a staffing decision is made, a note is sent from the manager to Ms. Ireland, without further action. When a management transition occurs, the old manager trains the new hire. PP&G also employs a bookkeeper to handle tax issues.

Plaintiffs earned money from patrons for a variety of entertainment forms, the prices of which were set by the club but regularly altered on a case-by-case basis. Plaintiffs were then charged fees by Norma Jean's that came from the money they received from guests of the club. During the time Plaintiffs performed at the night club, Norma Jean's did not keep timesheets or maintain W-2s for its dancers.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if the record before the court "shows 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); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 377 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A fact is material if it might "affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the Court "views all facts, and all reasonable inferences to be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Housley v. Holquist, 879 F.Supp.2d 472, 479 (D. Md. 2011) (citing Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Prop., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987)).

When both parties file motions for summary judgment, the court applies the same standards of review. ITCO Corp. v. Michelin Tire Corp., 722 F.2d 42, 45 n. 3 (4th Cir. 1983) ("The court is not permitted to resolve genuine issues of material facts on a motion for summary judgment - even where... both parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment."). The role of the court is to "rule on each party's motion on an individual and separate basis, determining, in each case, whether a judgment may be entered in accordance with the Rule 56 standard." Towne Mgmt. Corp. v. Hartford Accident and Indem. Co., 627 F.Supp. 170, 172 (D. Md. 1985).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Defendants' Motions for Partial Summary Judgment

Plaintiffs have brought this action under the FLSA alleging that they were employees of Defendants, who failed to pay them a minimum wage in violation of the act. Employers who are found to have violated the FLSA for failure to pay a minimum wage are liable for unpaid compensation and liquidated damages. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Ms. Ireland has moved for summary judgment on the entirety of Plaintiffs' claims, while both Defendants have moved for summary judgment on the issues of the statute of limitations, punitive damages, and Ms. Whyte's claim of retaliation.

a. Ms. Ireland is not an "employer" under the FLSA

Ms. Ireland has moved for summary judgment in her favor as to both Plaintiffs on the grounds that she is not an "employer" under the FLSA. Plaintiffs retort that "[t]he fact that Lisa Ireland has no roles in hiring and firing of any exotic dancers is unbelievable." Whyte ECF No. 70 at 5. The evidence, though, presents a clear and consistent picture that Ms. Ireland was disengaged from the ...


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