United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Byron Martinez Perez (“Martinez Perez”) and
Nestor Sanchez Guevarra (“Sanchez Guevarra”)
allege that Defendant Crystal Hni Cheng
(“Defendant”) violated the Fair Labor Standards
Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., 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), Md. Code Ann., Lab &
Empl. §§ 3-501 et seq., by underpaying
Plaintiffs when they worked at her restaurant, House of
Fortune. ECF No. 1. Pending before the Court is
Plaintiffs' Motion for Default Judgment. ECF No. 8. No.
hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.).
For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' motion will be
granted in part and denied in part.
are residents of Montgomery County, Maryland. ECF No. 1
¶¶ 5-6. Defendant is a resident of Maryland who
exercises exclusive control over the operations of the
Germantown, Maryland restaurant House of Fortune, which she
operates without use of a corporate form. Id.
¶¶ 7-8. Plaintiff Sanchez Guevarra worked at House
of Fortune as a “kitchen hand” from May 1, 2015
to July 31, 2016. Id. ¶¶ 10-11. Plaintiff
Martinez Perez worked in the same role from February 20, 2017
to August 16, 2018. Id. Plaintiffs' duties
consisted of preparing food, packing food orders, handling
deliveries, washing dishes, and cleaning. Id. ¶
12. Plaintiffs typically worked 6 days per week, which
entailed 67.0 hours per week for Plaintiff Sanchez Guevarra
and 66.0 hours per week for Plaintiff Martinez Perez.
Id. ¶¶ 13-15.
their employment by Defendant, Defendant paid Plaintiffs on a
semimonthly basis. Id. ¶ 15. Defendant paid
Plaintiff Sanchez Guevarra a semimonthly salary of $900.00
from October 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016 and $1, 000.00 from
April 1, 2016 to July 1, 2016. Id. ¶
18.Plaintiff Martinez Perez's semimonthly
salary was $1, 000 from February 20, 2017 to July 31, 2017;
$1, 100 from August 1, 2017 to January 31, 2018; $1, 125 from
February 1, 2018 to July 31, 2018; and $1, 150 from August 1,
2018 to August 16, 2018. Id. ¶ 17. Defendant
paid Plaintiffs exclusively in cash. Id. ¶ 19.
Defendant did not pay Plaintiffs overtime wages. Id.
role as the operator of House of Fortune, Defendant
personally hired Plaintiffs, set their schedules and rates of
compensation, and tendered their pay. Id.
¶¶ 26-29. Defendant held the power to hire and fire
Plaintiffs, to control their work schedules, to supervise and
control their work, and to set their rate and manner of pay.
Id. ¶¶ 30-33. Though Defendant was aware
that she was legally required to pay Plaintiffs one and
one-half times their regular rate for hours worked in excess
of 40 hours in any one workweek, she did not pay Plaintiffs
overtime wages. Id. ¶ 22, 34. Defendant also
was aware that she was legally required to pay Plaintiffs the
applicable minimum wage, but nonetheless failed to do so.
Id. ¶¶ 23, 35.
October 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, the Montgomery County,
Maryland minimum wage was $9.55 per hour; it increased to
$10.75 per hour on July 1, 2016, to $11.50 per hour on July
1, 2017, and $12.00 per hour on July 1, 2018. Id.
¶ 37. However, Defendant paid Plaintiff Sanchez
Guevarra effective hourly rates of $6.20 from October 1, 2015
until March 31, 2016 and $6.89 from April 1, 2016 until July
1, 2016. Id. ¶ 18. Defendant paid Plaintiff
Martinez Perez effective hourly rates of $6.99 from February
20, 2017 until July 31, 2017, $7.69 from August 1, 2017 until
January 31, 2018, $7.87 from February 1, 2018 until July 31,
2018, and $8.14 from August 1, 2016 until August 16, 2018.
Id. ¶ 17.
filed this action against Defendant on October 30, 2018 to
recover damages under the FLSA, the MWHL, and the MWPCL. ECF
No. 1. On October 31, 2018, Plaintiff served Defendant with
process. ECF No. 3. Defendant failed to file an answer or
responsive pleading to Plaintiffs' Complaint. On November
27, 2018, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a),
Plaintiffs filed a motion for entry of default by the Clerk
of the Court. ECF No. 4. The Clerk entered an Order of
Default on January 2, 2019. ECF No. 5. Plaintiff then filed
the pending Motion for Default Judgment on May 3, 2019. ECF
considering a motion for default judgment, the Court accepts
as true the well-pleaded factual allegations in the Complaint
as to liability, but nevertheless “must determine
‘whether [those] allegations . . . support the relief
sought in th[e] action.'” Int'l Painters
& Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. Capital
Restoration & Painting Co., 919 F.Supp.2d 680, 685
(D. Md. 2013) (quoting Ryan v. Homecomings Fin.
Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780 (4th Cir. 2001)). “A
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.”
Educ. Credit Mgmt. Corp. v. Optimum
Welding, 285 F.R.D. 371, 373 (D. Md. 2012). Although
“[t]he Fourth Circuit has a ‘strong policy'
that ‘cases be decided on their merits, '”
Choice Hotels Int'l, Inc. v. Savannah Shakti
Corp., No. DKC-11-0438, 2011 WL 5118328, at *2 (D. Md.
Oct. 25, 2011) (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. 2005)).
default, the well-pled allegations in a complaint as to
liability are taken as true, although the allegations as to
damages are not.” Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d at
422; see also Ryan, 253 F.3d at 780 (noting that
“[t]he defendant, by [its] default, admits the
plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations of fact, ”
which provide the basis for judgment). Upon a finding of
liability, “[t]he court must make an independent
determination regarding damages . . . .” Int'l
Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund, 919
F.Supp.2d at 684. 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.” While the Court may hold a hearing to
prove damages, it is not required to do so; it may rely
instead on “affidavits or documentary evidence in the
record to determine the appropriate sum.” Int'l
Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund, 919
F.Supp.2d at 684 (citing Monge v. Portofino
Ristorante, 751 F.Supp.2d 789, 794-95 (D. Md. 2010)).
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)
(quoting Roman v. Guapos III, Inc., 970 F.Supp.2d
407, 412 (D. Md. 2013)).
MWHL is “‘the State parallel' to the
FLSA.” 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)). “The
requirements under the MWHL mirror those of the federal law;
as such, Plaintiffs' claim under the MWHL stands or falls
on the success of their claim under the FLSA.”
Turner v. Human Genome Sci., Inc., 292 F.Supp.2d
738, 744 (D. Md. 2003). Finally, the MWPCL “requires an
employer to pay its employees regularly while employed, and
in full at the termination of employment.” Peters
v. Early Healthcare Giver, Inc., 97 A.3d 621, 625 (Md.
2014) (citing Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§
3-502, 3-505). Both the MWHL and the MWPCL “are
vehicles for recovering overtime wages.” Id.
addition to unpaid wages, Plaintiffs here request liquidated
damages under the FLSA and MWHL. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 49,
57. There is a presumption in favor of awarding liquidated
damages when it is determined that an employer violated the
FLSA and MWHL. Rogers v. Sav. First Mortg., LLC, 362
F.Supp.2d 624, 637-38 (D. Md. 2005) (citing Brooklyn Sav.
Bank v. O'Neil, 324 U.S. 697, 707-08 (1945));
Lanza v. Sugarland Run Homeowners Ass'n, Inc.,
97 F.Supp.2d 737, 739 n.9 (E.D. Va. 2000); Md. Code Ann.,
Lab. & Empl., § 3-427(d). Specifically, unless an
employer who fails to pay wages required by the two statutes
can demonstrate that it acted in good faith and had
reasonable grounds for believing it paid its employee all
wages legally owed, the employer is liable to the employee
for liquidated damages in an amount equal to the unpaid
wages. See Rogers, 362 F.Supp.2d at 638; see
also 29 U.S.C. §§ 216(b), 260; Md. Code Ann.,
Lab. & Empl., § 3-427(d). The employer bears the
“plain and substantial burden of persuading the court
by proof ...