United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Ubaldo Cruz Diaz alleges violations of the Fair Labor
Standards Act, (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et
seq., the Maryland Wage and Hour Laws, (MWHL), Md. Code
Ann., Lab & Empl. §§ 3-401 et seq.,
and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law, (MWPCL),
Md. Code Ann., Lab & Empl. §§ 3-501 et
seq., against Defendants Mi Mariachi Latin Restaurant,
Inc. and the restaurant's owner Raul Lopez. ECF No. 1.
Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for
Default Judgment. ECF No. 10. No hearing is necessary.
See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following
reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment will be
granted in part and denied in part.
worked as a cleaner at Defendant Mi Mariachi from
approximately September 19, 2016 until September 17, 2017.
ECF No. 1 ¶ 9. Throughout Plaintiff's employment at
the restaurant, Defendant Lopez owned and operated Mi
Mariachi. Id. ¶ 20. In this role, Defendant
Lopez had the power to hire, first, suspend, and otherwise
discipline Plaintiff; he controlled Plaintiff's work
duties, schedule, and rate and method of pay; and he oversaw
the restaurant's day-to-day operations. Id.
worked an average of forty-three hours per week, but
Defendants paid Plaintiff only $100 per week. Id.
¶¶ 10-11. As a result, Plaintiff's hourly rate
of pay was approximately $2.33 throughout his employment.
Id. 12. Defendants did not pay Plaintiff
one-and-one-half times his regular rate for hours worked more
than forty during a single workweek. Id. ¶ 17.
the beginning of Plaintiff's employment until June 30,
2017, the Maryland minimum wage was $8.75 per hour. Md. Code
Ann., Labor & Employ., § 3-413(c). From July 1, 2017
until the end of Plaintiff's employment, the Maryland
minimum wage was $9.25 per hour. Id.
March 2, 2018, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants to
recover damages under the FLSA, the MWHL, and the MWPCL. ECF
No. 1. On March 9, 2018, Plaintiff served both Defendants
with process. ECF Nos. 3, 4. However, Defendants failed to
file an answer or responsive pleading to Plaintiff's
Complaint. On April 24, 2018, pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 55(a), Plaintiff filed a Motion for an Order
of Default against both Defendants. ECF No. 5. The Court
entered default as to both Defendants on June 1, 2018. ECF
No. 6. Plaintiff then filed a Motion for Default Judgment on
August 10, 2018. ECF No. 10.
the Complaint alleges that throughout Plaintiff's
employment, Defendants paid Plaintiff $100 per week, ECF No.
1 ¶ 11, Plaintiff asserts in his Motion for Default
Judgment and supporting declaration that he was not paid at
all during the final three months of his employment, ECF No.
10 ¶ 9 & ECF No. 10-2 ¶ 5. Plaintiff also
asserts in his Motion for Default Judgment and supporting
declaration that he had to borrow money for basic living
expenses because of Defendants' underpayments. ECF No. 10
¶ 15; ECF No. 10-2 ¶ 6.
defendant's default does not automatically entitle the
plaintiff to entry of a default judgment: rather, that
decision is left to the discretion of the court.”
Choice Hotels Intern., Inc. v. Savannah Shakti
Carp., No. DKC-11-0438, 2011 WL 5118328 at * 2 (D. Md.
Oct. 25, 2011) (citing Dow v. Jones, 232 F.Supp.2d
491, 494 (D. Md. 2002)). Although “[t]he Fourth Circuit
has a ‘strong policy' that ‘cases be decided
on their merits, '” id. (citing United
States v. Shaffer Equip. Co., 11 F.3d 450, 453 (4th
Cir.1993)), “default judgment may be appropriate when
the adversary process has been halted because of an
essentially unresponsive party[.]” Id. (citing
S.E.C. v. Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 421 (D. Md.
default, the well-pled allegations in a complaint as to
liability are taken as true, although the allegations as to
damages are not.” S.E.C. v. Lawbaugh, 359
F.Supp.2d 418, 422 (D. Md. 2005). Rule 54(c) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure 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.” In entering default
judgment, a court cannot, therefore, award additional damages
“because the defendant could not reasonably have
expected that his damages would exceed” the amount pled
in the complaint. In re Genesys Data Techs., Inc.,
204 F.3d 124, 132 (4th Cir. 2000). Where a complaint does not
specify an amount, “the court is required to make an
independent determination of the sum to be awarded.”
Adkins v. Teseo, 180 F.Supp.2d 15, 17 (D.D.C. 2001)
(citing S.E.C. v. Management Dynamics, Inc., 515
F.2d 801, 814 (2d Cir. 1975); Au Bon Pain Corp. v.
Artect, Inc., 653 F.2d 61, 65 (2d Cir. 1981)).
FLSA requires that employers pay nonexempt employees at least
the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime
pay for hours worked beyond forty hours per week. 29 U.S.C.
§§ 206, 207. “The MWHL similarly requires
that employers pay the applicable minimum wage” and
“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.” McFeeley v. Jackson St.
Entm't, LLC, 47 F.Supp.3d 260, 275-76 (D. Md. 2014)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The MWHL is
“the State parallel to the FLSA, and the requirements
of that provision mirror those of the federal law, ”
meaning Plaintiff's MWHL claim “stands or falls on
the success of” his FLSA claim. Brown v.
White's Ferry, Inc., 280 F.R.D. 238, 242 (D. Md.
2012) (quoting Friolo v. Frankel, 819 A.2d 354, 361
(Md. 2003); Turner v. Human Genome Sci., Inc., 292
F.Supp.2d 738, 744 (D.Md.2003)). Separately, the MWPCL
requires an employer to pay all wages due for work that an
employee performed. Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §
3-501 et seq.
addition to unpaid wages, Plaintiff requests liquidated
damages under the FLSA. ECF No. 1 at 5. Courts have routinely
held that there is a presumption in favor of an award of
liquidated damages when it is determined that an employer
violated the FLSA and, simultaneously, the MWHL. Rogers
v. Sav. First Mortg., LLC, 362 F.Supp.2d 624, 637-38 (D.
Md. 2005) (quoting Brooklyn Sav. Bank v. O'Neil,
324 U.S. 697, 707-08 (1945)); see also Lanza v. Sugarland
Run Homeowners Assoc., Inc., 97 F.Supp. 2d. 737, 739 n.9
(E.D. Va. 2000). Specifically, unless an employer can
demonstrate that it acted in good faith and had reasonable
grounds for believing it paid its employee all wages legally
owed, an employer who fails to pay wages required by the FLSA
or the MWHL is liable to the employee for liquidated damages
in an amount equal to the unpaid wages. See id.;
see also 29 U.S.C. §§ 216(b) & 260;
Md. Code Ann., Labor & Employ., § 3-427(d). The
employer bears the “plain and substantial burden of
persuading the court by proof that his failure to obey the
statute was both in good faith and predicated upon reasonable
grounds that it would be unfair to impose upon him more than
a compensatory verdict.” Wright v. Carrigg,
275 F.2d 448, 449 (4th Cir. 1960).
employee's statement under oath ‘as to his
recollection of the hours he worked and the pay he received,
if considered credible by the trier of fact, is sufficient to
establish a prima facie case of wages owed,' and if the
employer does not successfully rebut the employee's
statement, ‘[t]he Court may award damages based on
Plaintiffs' testimony even though the amounts claimed are
only approximated and not perfectly accurate.'”