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Chen v. Royal Garden Adult Medical Daycare Center, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 6, 2018

YIN WEN CHEN, Plaintiff
v.
ROYAL GARDEN ADULT MEDICAL DAYCARE CENTER, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Stephanie A. Gallagher, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Yin Wen Chen (“Mr. Chen”) filed this case against his former employer, Defendant Royal Garden Adult Medical Daycare Center, Inc. (“Royal Garden”), and the owner of Royal Garden, Shihong Yang (“Mr. Yang”) (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, codified, as amended, at 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. (“FLSA”) (Count I) and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law (“MWPCL”), Md. Code Ann., §§ 3-501 et seq. of the Labor and Employment Article (Count II).[1] Am. Compl., [ECF 3]. Specifically, Mr. Chen alleges that he was not paid overtime compensation for the months of March, 2015 through June, 2016. Id. ¶¶ 20-23.

         On October 1, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF 28, along with a memorandum of law, ECF 28-1, (collectively, the “Motion”). Mr. Chen opposed the Motion, ECF 31 (“Opp.”), and Defendants have replied, ECF 32 (“Reply”). I find that no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, I will deny the Motion.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The facts below are taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the non-moving party. Defendant Royal Garden is a Maryland corporation providing medical and supervisory care services to the elderly in Columbia, Maryland. Am. Compl., ECF 3 ¶ 2. Royal Garden employs about eighteen (18) workers and serves roughly eighty (80) customers every day. Id. ¶ 5. Defendant Mr. Yang is a Maryland resident who owns and operates Royal Garden. Id. ¶ 6. Mr. Chen is a male of Asian descent who testified at his deposition, through an interpreter, that he cannot read English. Id. ¶ 4; Pl.'s Dep., p. 90, ECF 31-2 at 15. In or about March of 2015, Mr. Chen was hired by Mr. Yang to work primarily as a driver for Royal Garden. Am. Compl., ECF 3 ¶ 8. Mr. Chen avers, however, that his duties extended beyond that of a driver, and also included conducting “supply runs” by shopping for food, cleaning, and hardware supplies as needed, “preparing and serving food to customers, meeting customers with special needs, ” installing electronics, cabinetry, and locks, and serving as “a general handyman for Royal Garden.” Id. ¶¶ 8-9; Pl.'s Opp., ECF 31 at 1.

         Mr. Chen's standard hours of work were approximately 7:20 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Pl.'s Opp., Exh. D, ECF 31-4 at 11. Royal Garden uses a Facial Recognition System (“FRS”) to track the hours of its employees. Pl.'s Dep., pp. 26-27, ECF 31-2 at 5. The system takes a photo of the employee upon arrival and departure. Id. Mr. Chen's starting wage was seventeen dollars ($17.00) per hour, and his wage increased to twenty dollars ($20.00) per hour in or about June of 2015. Am. Compl., ECF 3 ¶¶ 10-11; Pl.'s Opp., ECF 31 at 2. In or about July of 2015, Mr. Chen's wage decreased to eighteen dollars ($18.00) per hour. Am. Compl., ECF 3 ¶ 12; Pl.'s Opp., ECF 31 at 2. In the fall of 2015, Mr. Chen was notified that he would be paid a weekly salary instead of an hourly wage. Am. Compl., ECF 3 ¶ 13; Pl.'s Opp., ECF 31 at 2. Mr. Chen's annual salary after this change was approximately $37, 440.00. Am. Compl., ECF 3 ¶ 14; Pl.'s Opp., ECF 31 at 2. During the course of his employment with Royal Garden, Mr. Chen took just two personal days. Am. Compl., ECF 3 ¶ 25. He was not an overtime exempt employee at any time during his employment. Id. ¶ 16.

         Mr. Chen admits that his “timesheets do not show that he worked overtime, ” but that “he testified that he did.” Pl.'s Opp., ECF 31 at 6; Defs.' Mot., Exh. 7, ECF 28-8. Indeed, Mr. Chen's timesheets do not reflect any overtime worked by Mr. Chen, but roughly reflect his standard hours of work, from approximately 7:20 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Defs.' Mot., Exh. 7, ECF 28-8. However, Mr. Chen attests that, throughout the course of his employment, he worked well over forty (40) hours each week. Am. Compl., ECF 3 ¶ 19; Pl.'s Opp., ECF 31 at 2; Pl.'s Dep., pp. 62-66, ECF 31-2 at 11. Specifically, Mr. Chen reports working a total of: approximately forty-four (44) hours of overtime from approximately March 17, 2015 until April 18, 2015; approximately twenty-two (22) hours of overtime from approximately April 19, 2015 until May 31, 2015; and approximately twenty-two (22) hours of overtime each week from approximately June 1, 2015 until June 29, 2016. Am. Compl., ECF 3 ¶¶ 20-22; Pl.'s Opp., ECF 31 at 2. Mr. Chen alleges that he received no overtime pay for hours worked in excess of forty (40) hours per week, that he did not receive any pay for nationally recognized holidays during which he was required to work, and that Royal Garden deducted ten hours of pay from his wages for each of the two personal days he took. Am. Compl., ECF 3 ¶¶ 23-25; Pl.'s Opp., ECF 31 at 2.

         At his deposition on August 8, 2018, Mr. Chen stated that, on several occasions, he had to stay at Royal Garden overnight to make fritters for the following day, and that, although “[n]obody asked [him] to stay overnight, ” he stayed “because [he] was given this task” and “want[ed] to do it well.” Pl.'s Dep., p. 63, ECF 31-2 at 11. Mr. Chen noted that on one occasion, he was asked to work overtime to transport residents to the Cherry Blossom Festival, and that he was paid for that overtime. Pl.'s Dep., p. 38, ECF 31-2 at 7. Defendants confirmed this overtime occasion in their Motion, and Mr. Chen's timesheets show overtime hours logged on June 25, 2015. Defs.' Mot., ECF 28-1 at 3; Defs.' Mot., Exh. 7, ECF 28-8 at 4. Beyond this single instance, Mr. Chen never asked for overtime pay, nor did Mr. Yang or his supervisor, Brian Hong (“Mr. Hong”), ever ask Mr. Chen to work overtime. Pl.'s Dep., pp. 62-67, ECF 31-2 at 11-12. Mr. Chen also testified that he “did not want to try” to ask for overtime pay because “one person was dismissed after taking one day sick leave.” Id., p. 64, ECF 31-2 at 11. Mr. Chen noted, however, that neither Mr. Hong nor Mr. Yang ever told him that he would be terminated if he requested overtime pay. Id.

         Mr. Chen also testified that Mr. Yang saw him working one night beyond 9:00 p.m., and that Mr. Yang instructed Mr. Chen to “make sure the facility [was] locked up after [Mr. Chen left] and close the windows and doors.” Pl.'s Dep., p. 68, ECF 31-2 at 12; Pl.'s Opp., ECF 31 at 2-3. Mr. Chen's supervisor, Mr. Hong, also testified that he knew Mr. Chen had taken on additional duties at Royal Garden, and that he could not be sure that Mr. Chen never worked past 2:30 p.m. on any occasion, because he was not wearing a watch. Pl.'s Opp., Exh. C, ECF 31-3 at 4-7; Pl.'s Opp., ECF 31 at 3. Mr. Chen also submitted sworn declarations from three of his former co-workers at Royal Garden, Jinfang Chen, Kangmei Xu, and Xiaofeng Dong. Pl.'s Opp., Exh. E, ECF 31-5. All three former co-workers attest that they saw Mr. Chen working beyond 4:00 p.m. on several occasions. Id.

         Mr. Chen's employment with Royal Garden ended in or about July of 2016. Am. Compl., ECF 3 ¶ 17; Pl.'s Opp., ECF 31 at 2. Subsequently, Mr. Chen filed a Wage Claim with the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, alleging a total of $49, 256.51 in unpaid overtime wages from Royal Garden. Pl.'s Opp., Exh. F, ECF 31-6. This suit followed on July 25, 2017. Compl., ECF 1. Mr. Chen amended his Complaint on August 17, 2018. Am. Compl., ECF 3. Discovery in this matter ended on August 31, 2018. See Joint Status Report, ECF 27.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate only “if the movant 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). Defendants, as the moving party, bear the burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute of material facts. See Casey v. Geek Squad, 823 F.Supp.2d 334, 348 (D. Md. 2011). If Defendants establish that there is no evidence to support Plaintiff's case, the burden then shifts to Plaintiff to proffer specific facts to show a genuine issue exists for trial. Id. Plaintiff must provide enough admissible evidence to “carry the burden of proof at trial.” Id. at 349 (quoting Mitchell v. Data Gen. Corp., 12 F.3d 1310, 1315-16 (4th Cir. 1993)). The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of Plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for Plaintiff. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). Moreover, a genuine issue of material fact cannot rest on “mere speculation, or building one inference upon another.” Casey, 823 F.Supp.2d at 349. Additionally, summary judgment shall be warranted if the non-moving party fails to provide evidence that establishes an essential element of the case. Plaintiff “must produce competent evidence on each element of his or her claim.” Miskin v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 107 F.Supp.2d 669, 671 (D. Md. 1999). If Plaintiff fails to do so, “there can be no genuine issue as to any material fact, ” because the failure to prove an essential element of the case “necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); see also Casey, 823 F.Supp.2d at 348-49. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a court must view all of the facts, including reasonable inferences to be drawn from them, “in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. FLSA ...


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