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Kumar v. Tech Mahindra (Americas) Inc.

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

March 25, 2019

PANKAJ KUMAR, and IVAN CRADDOCK, individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated individuals, Plaintiffs,
v.
TECH MAHINDRA (AMERICAS) INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on Defendant Tech Mahindra (Americas) Inc.'s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (Doc. 119.) Tech Mahindra seeks summary judgment on the issues of willfulness, statute of limitations, unjust enrichment, and as to the claims of a number of individual plaintiffs. (Doc. 120.) Plaintiffs largely oppose the motion. (Doc. 126.) Tech Mahindra has replied (Doc. 136), and the motion is ripe for ruling.

         Background

         Tech Mahindra is a national information technology (“IT”) concern that provides consulting, business process outsourcing, and network technology services. (Doc. 105 at 2.) Its “core business” is IT services for banks, investment firms, telecommunications companies, and railroads, but it serves more than 300 clients throughout the country. (Doc. 95-1 at 3.) Tech Mahindra has roughly 6, 000 employees throughout the United States, grouped into ten “families” based on their job duties and corporate role. (Id. at 3-4.) Plaintiffs are all members of the “IT Delivery” job family, responsible for providing on-site technical services at the client's location. (Id. at 5.) Each job family is subdivided into three “job bands”: E (for executives and directors); P (for managers); and U (for individual team members). (Id.) Each job band is further subdivided based on relative seniority; for instance, an entry-level member of the IT Delivery family would be assigned to the U1 band while someone with several years of experience might be a U4. (See id.) Plaintiffs “all worked in an ‘engineer' role under several different job titles in the IT Delivery job family in the U1-U3 band level.” (Id.)

         Tech Mahindra classifies IT Delivery Engineers as salaried employees who are exempt from overtime protection under the “Computer Professional Exemption, ” asserting that their primary duties are a combination of activities such as consulting with IT users, designing, developing, testing, and modifying computer systems or programs. 29 C.F.R. § 541.400(b). Plaintiffs maintain that their primary duties differ from those listed in the regulations and that they are therefore are not exempt. (Doc. 105.) Plaintiffs filed suit on June 20, 2016, to recoup unpaid overtime pay and seek to proceed as a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and as a class under the wage and hour laws of Missouri and Washington. (Doc. 105.)

         As noted, Tech Mahindra seeks summary judgment on the issues of willfulness, statute of limitations, unjust enrichment, and as to the claims of a number of individual plaintiffs. (Doc. 119.)

         Legal Standards

          To show that there is a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmovant must do more than show there is some doubt as to the facts. Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the nonmoving party must set forth affirmative evidence and specific facts by affidavit or other evidence showing a genuine factual dispute that must be resolved at trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). “A dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine' only ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Herring v. Canada Life Assur. Co., 207 F.3d 1026, 1030 (8th Cir. 2000) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate only when “the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a).

         Analysis

         1. Willfulness

         Under 29 U.S.C. § 255(a), claims for unpaid overtime must be brought within two years of the alleged violation. However, if the plaintiffs can show that the alleged FLSA violation was “willful, ” the statute of limitations increases to three years. Id. A violation is willful when “the employer either knew or showed reckless disregard for the matter of whether its conduct was prohibited by the statute.” Drake v. Steak N Shake Operations, Inc., No. 4:14-CV-01535-JAR, 2018 WL 3625769, at *2 (E.D. Mo. July 30, 2018) (quoting Jarrett v. ERC Properties, Inc., 211 F.3d 1078, 1082 (8th Cir. 2000)).

         Tech Mahindra argues that its good-faith attempt to properly classify Plaintiffs is most evident in a 2015 “comprehensive, company-wide job study and reclassification project, ” initiated by Tech Mahindra's newly-hired head of human resources. (Doc. 120 at 6.) In her deposition as Tech Mahindra's corporate representative, Anitha Ramesh, a Certified HR Professional who serves as one of Tech Mahindra's Group Managers of Human Resources, explained how a committee of administrators, including the heads of human resources and compliance, approached the project:

You followed the [Department of Labor] guidelines to do a job study. You talk to managers, understand what role the incumbent does, not just one person. You know, you look at multiple projects, multiple customers to get a comprensi[ve] understanding of the role. And then you do a job duties test and then a ...

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