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Diaz v. TTT Foods, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

October 17, 2017

MICHAEL DIAZ, Plaintiff,
TTT FOODS LLC, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Michael Diaz brings this action under Section 15(a)(3) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3), claiming that defendant TTT Foods LLC unlawfully terminated his employment in retaliation for his complaint that he was not being paid overtime as required under the FLSA and for seeking to recover his back wages. TTT Foods seeks summary judgment on Diaz's claim. Because TTT Foods has articulated legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons for Diaz's discharge and Diaz has failed to show these reasons were pretext for retaliation, I will grant the motion for summary judgment. TTT Foods' motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute will be denied as moot.


         In his amended complaint, Diaz claims that during his employment with TTT Foods, he often worked in excess of forty hours per week but was paid the equivalent of an hourly wage for only forty hours. Diaz claims that he complained about TTT Foods' failure to pay overtime wages - including to the Department of Labor for recovery of back wages - and was terminated because of his complaints.

         In its motion for summary judgment, TTT Foods contends that Diaz never complained to it about unpaid overtime, and any informal oral complaints that Diaz may have made do not amount to protected activity under the FLSA. To the extent Diaz complained to the Department of Labor, TTT Foods contends that it did not become aware of the complaint until after Diaz was terminated, thereby negating any causal connection between the complaint and Diaz's termination. Regardless, TTT Foods claims that Diaz released his claim of retaliatory discharge when he settled his dispute over overtime pay with TTT Foods. Finally, TTT Foods avers that it terminated Diaz for legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons and that Diaz cannot show these reasons to be pretext for retaliation.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment must be granted when the pleadings and proffer of evidence demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). I must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and accord him the benefit of all reasonable inferences. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 379 (2007).

         Initially, the moving party must demonstrate the absence of an issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once a motion is properly made and supported, the nonmoving party may not rest upon the allegations in his pleadings or in general denials of the movant's assertions, but must instead come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324; Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042. “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         If the nonmoving party fails to properly address an assertion of fact made by the movant, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permit me to consider the fact undisputed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2). The Local Rules of this Court, however, require it. Under Local Rule 4.01 (E), moving parties must include a statement of uncontroverted material facts with their memorandum, with citations to the record if the fact(s) are established by the record.

Every memorandum in opposition shall include a statement of material facts as to which the party contends a genuine issue exists. Those matters in dispute shall be set forth with specific references to portions of the record, where available, upon which the opposing party relies. The opposing party also shall note for all disputed facts the paragraph number from movant's listing of facts. All matters set forth in the statement of the movant shall be deemed admitted for purposes of summary judgment unless specifically controverted by the opposing party.

E.D. Mo. L.R 4.01(E) (emphasis added).

         Evidence Before the Court on the Motion

         The following recitation of facts set out in TTT Foods' Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts (ECF #27-1) are deemed admitted because Diaz did not specifically controvert them in response to the motion for summary judgment.

         TTT Foods owns and operates the Copia Restaurant & Wine Garden (Restaurant) and the Copia Wine Shop and Bodega (Bodega). TTT Foods hired Diaz on or about July 22, 2014, initially to bus tables for the Restaurant. Diaz then began working as a cashier in the Bodega. ...

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