United States District Court, D. Maryland
NOHELIA M. CASTILLO, Plaintiff,
JOANN URQUHART, M.D., P.C., et al., Defendants.
before the Court are Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 67) and Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment. ECF No. 70. The motions are fully
briefed, and no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R.
105.6. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is
GRANTED, and Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part.
August 2012 through May 2017, Plaintiff Nohelia Castillo was
employed as a Medical Assistant (“MA”) by
Defendant Joann Urquhart, M.D., P.C., and the private
cardiology practice of Defendant Dr. Joann Urquhart. ECF No.
67-4 at 2. As one of two MAs in the office, Castillo's
duties included taking patient vitals, assisting with stress
tests, triaging patients in the office, making referrals,
communicating with insurance providers, answering the phone,
and filing patient charts. Id.; ECF No. 67-3 at
17-22 (Castillo Dep.). Castillo was also responsible for
training new MAs about Dr. Urquhart's preferences and
procedures. ECF No. 67-3 at 10-11; ECF No. 67-7 at 3, 6.
Defendants paid Castillo 20 dollars per hour when she joined
the practice in 2012 and increased her pay annually by one
dollar an hour. ECF No. 67-6 at 13 (Urquhart Dep.).
Castillo's employment, the office was generally open from
8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. ECF No. 67-3 at
6. Castillo was not required to punch in and out during the
work day, and Defendants did not keep records of the hours
that she worked. ECF No. 67-6 at 15-16. According to
Castillo, she regularly worked nine to nine-and-a-half hours
a day, totaling roughly 47 hours per week. ECF No. 67-3 at 8.
Castillo asserts she would arrive to work by 7:45 a.m. at the
latest and often leave around 5:45 p.m. ECF No. 70-6 at 5-6.
Further, Castillo did not take a lunch break. Id. at
contend, however, that while Castillo may have been in the
office before and after hours, she worked from 8:00 a.m. to
4:30 p.m. Defendants further do not seriously dispute that
Castillo skipped lunch, but maintain that she took other
breaks in the afternoon to pick up lunch and make personal
calls which equated to her half-hour lunch break. ECF No.
67-3 at 26, 30-31. Further, the staff, including Castillo,
often worked shortened days when Dr. Urquhart was out of
town, ECF No. 67-3 at 23-24, and on the occasion where staff
had to stay late to handle a medical emergency, Urquhart
would ensure they would leave early another day to make up
for that time. ECF No. 67-6 at 13; ECF No. 67-7 at 8.
of 2017, Dr. Urquhart sensed that Castillo no longer enjoyed
her job. Urquhart also concluded that Castillo “was not
performing her tasks the way she should have.” ECF No.
67-6 at 12. Ultimately, on May 8, 2017, Dr. Urquhart
terminated Castillo. Id.
Castillo was fired, she retained counsel to pursue claims
against Defendants for unpaid wages. On June 9, 2017,
Castillo, through her attorney, Michael Amster, demanded from
Defendants $114, 073 for unpaid overtime wages and seven days
of accrued vacation time, plus treble damages and
attorneys' fees. ECF No. 70-13 at 2. Dr. Urquhart, in
response called Amster on June 13, 2017. ECF No. 70-14 at 4;
ECF No. 67-6 at 14. According to Amster, Dr. Urquhart
threatened that if Castillo pursued her wage litigation,
Urquhart would sue her and Amster “for libel and
slander.” Urquhart further warned that she would
“make sure that [Castillo] never worked around here
again.” ECF No. 70-14 at 4 (Amster Dep.). Urquhart
maintains that she made no threats but rather stated,
“Oh, my God. She won't get a job if she sues
me.” ECF No. 67-6 at 14. About a week after the call,
Dr. Urquhart wrote a check to Castillo for five unpaid
vacation days. ECF No. 67-19 at 3.
30, 2017, Castillo filed this action against Defendants,
asserting overtime wage violations of the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”) and Maryland Wage and Hour
Law (“MWHL”), as well as unpaid vacation time
under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law
(“MWPCL”). ECF No. 1. In response, on September
11, 2017, Defendant Joann Urquhart, M.D., P.C. (the
“Practice”) filed two counterclaims against
Castillo, alleging breach of fiduciary duty and constructive
fraud. ECF No. 4 at 11-12. In support of constructive fraud
claim, the Practice alleges that Castillo submitted a letter
to immigration officials purportedly signed by Dr. Urquhart
without Urquhart's knowledge or consent. Id. at
10. Castillo moved to dismiss the counterclaims for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction, which the Court granted as to
Count II, the constructive fraud claim. ECF Nos. 5, 16.
Castillo amended the Complaint to add two counts of unlawful
retaliation, in violation of the FLSA and MWHL, based on the
Practice's counterclaims. ECF No. 17 at 8-10.
the Court dismissed the Practice's constructive fraud
counterclaim, Defendants refiled the claim in the Circuit
Court for Montgomery County. See ECF No. 70-15.
Defendants also added the claim for invasion of privacy based
on Castillo's misappropriation of Dr. Urquhart's name
in the immigration letter. ECF No. 70-16 at 8-9. On July 17,
2018, Castillo sought to amend her Complaint again to augment
her retaliation as based on the Practice's state court
suit, which this Court granted. ECF No. 35 at 9-11.
now move for summary judgment on all of Castillo's
claims. ECF No. 67 at 1-2. Castillo, in turn, cross-moves for
partial summary judgment on several of her claims as well as
the remaining counterclaim. ECF No. 70 at 1-2.
Standard of Review
judgment is appropriate when the Court, construing all
evidence and drawing all reasonable inferences in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party, finds no genuine
dispute exists as to any material fact, thereby entitling the
movant to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a);
see In re Family Dollar FLSA Litig., 637 F.3d 508,
512 (4th Cir. 2011). Summary judgment must be granted
“against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient
to establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
responding to a proper motion for summary judgment, ”
the opposing party “must present evidence of specific
facts from which the finder of fact could reasonably find for
him or her.” Venugopal v. Shire Labs., 334
F.Supp.2d 835, 840 (D. Md. 2004), aff'd sub nom.
Venugopal v. Shire Labs., Inc., 134 Fed.Appx. 627 (4th
Cir. 2005) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477
U.S. 242, 252 (1986); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23)).
Genuine disputes of material fact are not created
“through mere speculation or the building of one
inference upon another.” Othentec Ltd. v.
Phelan, 526 F.3d 135, 140 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting
Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985)).
Where a party's statement of a fact is “blatantly
contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could
believe it, ” the Court credits the record. Scott
v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).
parties cross-move for summary judgment as to Plaintiff's
claims for unpaid overtime wages and accrued vacation leave.
When faced with cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court
must consider “each motion separately on its own merits
to determine whether either of the parties deserves judgment
as a matter of law.” Rossignol v. Voorhaar,
316 F.3d 516, 523 (4th Cir. 2003) (citations and internal
quotation marks omitted). The Court must deny both motions if
it finds a genuine issue of material fact precludes
resolution, “[b]ut if there is no genuine dispute and
one or the other party is entitled to prevail as a matter of
law, the court will render judgment.” 10A Charles A.
Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice &
Procedure § 2720 (4th ed. 2019).
threshold matter, Defendants move to strike Castillo's
affidavit submitted as part of the record evidence. ECF No.
74 at 6; see also ECF No. 73-1. Defendants contend
that much of the affidavit amounts to legal conclusions or
contradicts Castillo's deposition testimony. ECF No. 74
at 7. Castillo disagrees, maintaining that the paragraphs
Defendants describe as conclusory, such as the statement that
Castillo did not exercise “supervisory authority over
other employees” (ECF No. 73-1 ¶ 4), are either
statements of fact or are supported by facts elsewhere in the
affidavit. ECF No. 77 at 15-16. Castillo further addresses
the specific paragraphs noted as contradictory, asserting her
affidavit is consistent with her prior deposition testimony.
Id. at 17-18.
plaintiff cannot contradict their deposition testimony and,
thus, create a dispute of fact in the face of a summary
judgment motion through their own self-serving
affidavit.” Godbolt v. Trinity Prot. Servs.,
Inc., No. GJH-14-3546, 2017 WL 2579020, at *1 n.2 (D.
Md. June 12, 2017); see also Jones v. Puffenbarger,
No. CCB-15-3137, 2017 WL 1020819, at *15 (D. Md. Mar. 15,
2017) (citing National Enterprises, Inc. v. Barnes,
201 F.3d 331, 335 (4th Cir. 2000)) (“A plaintiff's
self-serving affidavit is not sufficient to withstand summary
judgment.”). While parts of the affidavit are certainly
conclusory, the Court agrees with Castillo that Defendants
take some of her deposition testimony out of context.
However, to the extent Castillo's affidavit contradicts
her prior testimony or provides no more than a legal
conclusion, such evidence cannot create a genuine issue of
fact to survive summary judgment. Although the Court will not
strike the affidavit in total, it likewise will not consider
those portions which clearly contradict Castillo's
deposition testimony or otherwise espouse purely legal
Overtime Claims (Counts I and II)
Counts I and II, Castillo asserts claims for unpaid overtime
wages under the FLSA and MWHL, maintaining that she routinely
worked 47 hours per week for three years prior to her
termination on May 5, 2017. ECF No. 35 ¶¶ 30, 36.
The FLSA requires employers to pay non-exempt employees
overtime pay of at least one and one-half times the regular
wage for hours worked that exceed 40 hours per week. 29
U.S.C. § 207(a). Certain employees are exempt from the
FLSA's overtime ...