United States District Court, D. Maryland
W. Grimm United States District Judge
Cesilia Vanegas, Milena Acosta, Yendy Gonzeles, and Ana
Velasquez have filed suit against Defendants to recover
unpaid minimum and overtime wages, and Defendants have not
responded to the pleadings. Plaintiffs have since filed a
Motion for Default Judgment, Pls.' Mot., ECF No. 12, to
which Defendants have not responded. Having reviewed the
filings, I find that a hearing is unnecessary in this case.
See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.). Because notice has not
been sought for class members pursuant to a collective action
brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et
seq., nor under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23, this Memorandum Opinion
will be limited to the named Plaintiffs in this case.
See Fed R. Civ. P. 23(c); 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).
Plaintiffs have demonstrated Defendants' liability and
have established some, but not all, of the damages they seek.
Accordingly, Plaintiffs' Motion for Default Judgment will
be granted in part and denied in part.
Diaz Granados, Inc. is a Maryland corporation that is in the
restaurant business. Compl. ¶¶ 5-6, ECF No. 1.
Defendant Francis J. Diaz owns and manages the restaurant.
Id. ¶ 7. As owner, he “is in charge of
the day-to-day operations of the restaurant” and
“establishes wage rates and determines the schedules of
employees.” Id. ¶¶ 7-8.
Cesilia Vanegas worked as a server at Diaz Granados from
August 2010 until August 5, 2015. See Vanegas Decl.
¶ 5, Pls.' Mot. Ex. 1, ECF No. 12-2. During that
time, Vanegas asserts that she worked “156 weeks
without overtime wages” during the three years prior to
filing the Complaint. Id. ¶ 12; Pls.' Mot.
¶ 9. In addition, she was paid “weekly salary of
$215.00, ” id. ¶ 9, for 72 hours of work
each week, see Id. ¶ 5. Milena Acosta also
worked as a server for Diaz Granados. Acosta Decl. ¶ 2,
Pls.' Mot. Ex. 2, ECF No. 12-3. She was employed from
August 2010 until August 5, 2015, working a total of 106 full
weeks during the three years prior to filing the Complaint.
See Id. ¶¶ 2, 9; Pls.' Mot. ¶ 14.
Acosta was paid a weekly salary of $215, id. ¶
6, for a total of 72 hours each week, see Id. ¶
5, and received no overtime pay, id. ¶ 7.
Likewise, Yendy Gonzalez worked as a server at Diaz Granados
from August 2013 until August 5, 2015, for a total of 106
weeks. See Gonzelez Decl. ¶¶ 2, 9,
Pls.' Mot. Ex. 3, ECF No. 12-4. Gonzales was only paid in
tips and worked 72 hours each week and received no overtime
pay. See Id. ¶¶ 5-7. Finally, Ana
Velasquez worked as a cook for Diaz Granados from August 2010
until August 5, 2015, working for a total of 156 weeks during
the three years prior to filing the Complaint. See
Pls.' Mot. ¶ 24; Velasquez Decl. ¶¶ 2, 9,
Pls.' Mot. Ex. 4, ECF No. 12-5. She was paid a weekly
salary of $600 and worked 72 hours each week and received no
overtime pay. See Id. ¶¶ 5, 6-7.
result, Plaintiffs Vanegas, Acosta, and Gonzles allege that
they were paid less than a minimum wage and were never
compensated for any overtime hours, as mandated by the FLSA,
the Maryland Wage and Hour Law (“MWHL”), Md. Code
Ann., Lab. & Empl., §§ 3-401 et seq.;
and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law
(“MWPCL”), Lab. & Empl., §§ 3-501
et seq. Plaintiff Velasquez alleges only overtime
violations. On August 5, 2015, Plaintiffs filed suit in this
Court against Defendants Diaz Granados, Inc. and Francis Diaz
for unpaid wages and enhanced damages under the FLSA, MWHL,
and MWPCL. See Compl. ¶¶ 35, 42, 48, 53. On
February 29, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Clerk's
Entry of Default. ECF No. 10. On May 18, 2016, based on
Defendants' failure to respond or otherwise defend in
this proceeding and pursuant to Rule 55(a) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, the Clerk issued an Entry of
Default as to each Defendant. ECF No. 11. Shortly thereafter,
Plaintiffs filed the pending Motion for Default Judgment.
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure establishes a
two-step process when a party applies for default judgment.
First, the rule provides that “when a party . . . has
failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is
shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the
party's default.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Following the
Clerk's entry of default, “the plaintiff [then may]
seek a default judgment.” Godlove v. Martinsburg
Senior Towers, LP, No. 14-CV-132, 2015 WL 746934, at *1
(N.D. W.Va. Feb. 20, 2015); see also Fed. R. Civ. P.
55(b). “The Fourth Circuit has a ‘strong
policy' that ‘cases be decided on their
merits.' ” S.E.C. v. Lawbaugh, 359
F.Supp.2d 418, 420 (D. Md. 2005) (citing Dow v.
Jones, 232 F.Supp.2d 491, 494 (D. Md. 2002)). However,
“default judgment may be appropriate when the adversary
process has been halted because of an essentially
unresponsive party.” Id. at 420-22.
determining whether to grant a motion for default judgment,
the Court takes as true the well-pleaded factual allegations
in the complaint, other than those pertaining to damages.
Ryan v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780
(4th Cir. 2001). If the Court finds that “liability is
established, [it] must then determine the appropriate amount
of damages.” Agora Fin., LLC v. Samler, 725
F.Supp.2d 491, 484 (citing Ryan, 253 F.3d at
780-81). In order to do so, “the court may conduct an
evidentiary hearing, or may dispense with a hearing if there
is an adequate evidentiary basis in the record from which to
calculate an award.” Mata v. G.O. Contractors Grp.,
Ltd., No. TDC-14-3287, 2015 WL 6674650, at *3 (D. Md.
Oct. 29, 2015); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b).
well-pleaded factual allegations, taken as true, establish
liability under the FLSA, MWHL, and MWPCL.
Pursuant to the FLSA, an employer must pay an employee an
hourly wage no less than the federal minimum wage[, ] and
overtime pay for each hour worked in excess of forty hours
per week. The MWHL similarly requires that employers pay the
applicable minimum wage to their employees and, in
[§§ 3-415 and 3-420 of the Labor and Employment
Article], that they pay an overtime wage of at least 1.5
times the usual hourly wage for each hour worked in excess of
forty hours per week.
v. Jackson St. Entm't, 47 F.Supp.3d 260, 275-76 (D.
Md. 2014), aff' d 825 F.3d 235 (4th Cir. 2016)
(alterations in original) (internal quotation marks and
citations omitted); see also 29 U.S.C. §§
206(a)(1), 207(a)(1); Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Empl. §
three-year statute of limitations applies to MWHL claims,
while a two-year statute of limitations applies to
non-willful FLSA violations. See Md. Code Ann., Cts.
& Jud. Proc. § 5- 101; 29 U.S.C. § 255(a). An
employer commits a “willful” FLSA violation where
it was “not merely negligent” but “knew or
showed reckless disregard for the matter of whether its
conduct was prohibited by the statute.” McLaughlin
v. Richland Shoe Co., 486 U.S. 128, 133 (1988).
Plaintiffs plead that Defendants committed willful FLSA
violations, Compl. ¶ 27, but they provide no facts to
support their assertion. As the MWHL provides a longer
statute of limitations, I will analyze Defendants'
liability and Plaintiffs' entitlement to damages under
the state law. As discussed infra, however,
Plaintiffs cannot recover enhanced damages under the MWHL but
can under the FLSA. Accordingly, the FLSA. 's two-year
statute of limitations will apply for my analysis of enhanced
federal weekly minimum wage was $7.25 per hour throughout the
time period at issue in this case, which translates to a $290
weekly minimum wage for full-time work. See 29
U.S.C. § 206(a)(1)(C). Employers may credit a portion of
an employee's tips towards his or her minimum wage, but
in order to do so, the employer must pay an alternative
minimum wage applicable to tipped employees and notify the
employee of the “tip-credit” provision.