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Miguel Angel Calderon Recinos v. JMZ Construction, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 7, 2016

MIGUEL ANGEL CALDERON RECINOS
v.
JMZ CONSTRUCTION, LLC, et al.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge

         Presently pending and ready for resolution in this case involving alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, Maryland Wage and Hour Law, and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law is a motion for default judgment filed by Plaintiff Miguel Angel Calderon Recinos. (ECF No. 11). The court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are set forth in the complaint. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff Miguel Angel Calderon Recinos ("Plaintiff") worked for Defendants JMZ Construction, LLC ("JMZ Construction"), Jose Margarito Gomez, and Joap Vasquez from February 22, 2013 through October 10, 2014. JMZ Construction is a Maryland corporation, and Mr. Gomez and Mr. Vasquez controlled the day-to-day operations of the corporation. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 4-14). Plaintiff avers that he worked for JMZ Construction for an average of eighty-four hours per week for the first seven months of his employment and then an average of sixty-four hours per week until July 1, 2014. (ECF No. 11-1 ¶ 2).[1] Plaintiff earned a regular hourly rate of $16.00 per hour.[2]Plaintiff alleges Defendants never paid him wages at an overtime rate for the hours he worked above forty hours each week from February 22, 2013 through July 1, 2014. Plaintiff declares in his sworn affidavit that Defendants owe him approximately $19, 008.00. (ECF No. 11-1 ¶ 3).

         Plaintiff filed his complaint on February 11, 2015. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff alleges overtime violations pursuant to the Maryland Wage and Hour Law, Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-401 et seq. ("MWHL") (Count I); the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. ("FLSA") (Count II); and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law, Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-501 et seq. ("MWPCL") (Count III).

         Service of process was properly effected on JMZ Construction and Mr. Gomez. Plaintiff failed to notify the court that service was effected on Mr. Vasquez within 120 days after the filing of the complaint, and Plaintiff subsequently submitted a notice of dismissal as to Mr. Vasquez. (ECF No. 8). The court approved the notice of dismissal of Mr. Vasquez on August 10, 2015.[3] (ECF No. 9). When Defendants failed to respond within the requisite time period, Plaintiff moved for entry of default (ECF No. 5), and the clerk entered default as to JMZ Construction and Mr. Gomez (ECF No. 6). On October 23, Plaintiff filed the pending motion for default judgment and for attorney’s fees and costs. (ECF No. 11). To date, Defendants have taken no action in this case.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a), "[w]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the party’s default." Rule 55(b)(1) provides that the clerk may enter a default judgment if the plaintiff’s claim is "for a sum certain or a sum that can be made certain by computation."

         "Upon [entry of] default, the well-pled allegations in a complaint as to liability are taken as true, but the allegations as to damages are not." S.E.C. v. Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 422 (D.Md. 2005). It remains, however, "for the court to determine whether these unchallenged factual allegations constitute a legitimate cause of action." Agora Fin., LLC v. Samler, 725 F.Supp.2d 491, 494 (D.Md. 2010). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(c) limits the type of judgment that may be entered based on a party’s default: "A default judgment must not differ in kind from, or exceed in amount, what is demanded in the pleadings." Thus, where a complaint specifies the amount of damages sought, such as here, the plaintiff is limited to entry of a default judgment in that amount. "[C]ourts have generally held that a default judgment cannot award additional damages . . . because the defendant could not reasonably have expected that his damages would exceed that amount." In re Genesys Data Technologies, Inc., 204 F.3d 124, 132 (4th Cir. 2000). While the court may hold a hearing to consider evidence as to damages, it is not required to do so; it may rely instead on "detailed affidavits or documentary evidence to determine the appropriate sum." Adkins v. Teseo, 180 F.Supp.2d 15, 17 (D.D.C. 2001) (citing United Artists Corp. v. Freeman, 605 F.2d 854, 857 (5thCir. 1979)).

         III. Analysis

         A. Liability

         Defendants were served with the complaint but have not responded. Accordingly, all of Plaintiff’s allegations as to liability are deemed admitted.

         The FLSA provides that, for any hours worked in excess of forty hours per week, an employee shall "receive[] compensation for his employment . . . at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed." 29 U.S.C. § 207. Similarly, Section 3-415 of the MWHL requires employers to pay their employees an overtime wage of at least one-and-half times their usual hourly wage for work they perform in excess of forty hours per week. Md.Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§ 3-415, 3-420. "The requirements of the MWHL ‘mirror’ those of the FLSA, and claims under both statutes therefore stand or fall together." Orellana v. Cienna Properties, LLC, JKB-11-2515, 2012 WL 203421, at *5 (D.Md. Jan. 23, 2012) (citing Turner v. Human Genome Science, Inc., 292 F.Supp.2d 738, 744 (D.Md. 2003)). Moreover, the Court of Appeals of Maryland reiterated the reach of the MWPCL claim in Peters v. Early Healthcare Giver, Inc., 439 Md. 646, 646 (2014):

Maryland has two wage enforcement laws . . . the [M]WHL and the [M]WPCL. The [M]WHL aims to protect Maryland workers by providing a minimum wage standard. The [M]WPCL requires an employer to pay its employees regularly while employed, and in full at the termination of employment. Read together, these statutes allow employees to recover unlawfully ...

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