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Anderson v. Creve Coeur Urgent Care LLC

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

September 24, 2019

TORIA ANDERSON, et al., individually, and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
CREVE COEUR URGENT CARE LLC, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment, [Doc. No. 74]. The Motion is opposed by Defendants. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs’ Motion is granted.

         Facts and Background

         On December 22, 2016, Plaintiffs Toria Anderson (“Anderson”) and Wendy Medina (“Medina”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed a three-count Complaint alleging that Defendants, their former employers, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (Count I), violated the overtime provisions of the Missouri Minimum Wage Law (“MMWL”), Mo. Rev. Stat. § 290.505 (Count II), and committed breach of contract (Count III). Since then, Plaintiffs have seemingly abandoned Count III. Plaintiffs now seek summary judgment on Counts I and II for Defendants’ failure to pay proper overtime.

         Plaintiffs have, in accordance with the Court’s Local Rules, submitted a “Statement of Undisputed Material Facts.” Defendants responded to Plaintiffs’ Statement, admitting some facts and issuing substantively identical denials to the remainder. Generally, the denials state:

This paragraph should be disregarded. Rule 7-4.01 of the Local Rules of the United States District Court of Eastern Missouri requires the indication of “whether each fact is established by the record, and, if so, the appropriate citations.” (Emphasis Supplied). The [evidence, i.e. deposition testimony and/or exhibits] cited by Plaintiffs does not stand for the proposition advanced by Plaintiffs.

         Defendants do not elaborate as to why the cited evidence does not stand for the fact asserted by Plaintiffs.

         Plaintiffs argue that Defendants’ responses are noncompliant with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because the responses do not “show[] that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B), nor “properly address [Plaintiffs’] assertion of fact, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). Plaintiffs also cite Local Rule 7-4.01(E), which states in pertinent part, “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.” The Court agrees that Defendants’ responses denying Plaintiffs’ facts do not specifically controvert Plaintiffs’ assertions; the generic denials provide no specific indication as to why Plaintiffs’ submitted facts are inaccurate or in dispute. Nevertheless, Defendants claim that they have put forth specific facts showing a genuine dispute for trial. Assumedly, Defendants are referring to their “Statement of Genuine Material Facts Remaining in Dispute.” Each of Defendants’ eight purportedly disputed facts cites to corresponding fact(s) put forth by Plaintiffs, presumably indicating which of Plaintiffs’ facts is/are genuinely disputed by Defendants’ submission.

         The Court, having carefully examined Plaintiffs’ “Statement of Undisputed Material Facts” and Defendants’ “Statement of Genuine Material Facts Remaining in Dispute, ” finds that none of the facts submitted by Defendants are in dispute with Plaintiffs’ facts. For example, Defendants’ paragraph 5 states that “Plaintiff Medina never talked to Dr. Saggar about not being compensated at the proper rate, ” but none of Plaintiffs’ facts state anything to the contrary. The same is true of the other seven facts put forth by Defendants – they simply do not controvert Plaintiffs’ facts.

         Because Defendants have failed to controvert Plaintiffs’ Undisputed Material Facts either by specific denial or by raising facts that genuinely dispute them, Plaintiffs’ facts are deemed admitted for the purposes of this motion. Fed. R.Civ.P. 56 (e); Local Rule 7-4.01(E). Accordingly, the following facts are undisputed:

         Defendants Creve Coeur Urgent Care LLC, Downtown Urgent Care LLC, Eureka Clinic LLC, North City Urgent Care LLC, UCSL LLC (collectively, the “Urgent Cares”) jointly operate urgent care facilities marketed under the name “STLHealthWorks, ” although the Eureka Clinic closed in 2016. The Urgent Cares share a common business purpose, are under common management and control, and share employees’ services. The Urgent Cares are covered employers for FLSA purposes.

         The Urgent Cares are owned by the Saggar Family Trust dated September 4, 2013, a Missouri trust. Defendant Sonny Saggar (“Saggar”) and his wife are the sole trustees of the Saggar Family Trust. Saggar is the founder and managing member of each of the Urgent Cares. He exercises operational and managerial control over each of the Urgent Cares and provides direct patient care as a physician.

         Plaintiffs were formerly employed by the Urgent Cares. Plaintiffs received an hourly rate of pay from the Urgent Cares (“Base Rate”), and a premium hourly rate for shifts worked on weekends. The premium hourly rate for weekend shifts was less than one and one-half (1.5) times the Base Rate paid to each Plaintiff, respectively. To the extent an employee’s hours worked for all of the Urgent Cares combined exceeded 40 hours in a workweek, The Urgent Cares paid overtime compensation. For some weeks, the hourly rate Plaintiffs received for these overtime hours was less than 1.5 times their “regular rate” as defined by the FLSA, as discussed in more detail below.

         Saggar was directly involved in and has ultimate authority over the hiring, firing, and pay rates of the medical assistants at the Urgent Cares. He personally supervised the other members of the Urgent Cares’ management teams and supervised the medical assistants in a clinical capacity.

         The Urgent Cares and Saggar (collectively “Defendants”) relied on third-party companies to process their employee payroll. The decision to use a third-party company was made by Saggar and an accountant. Defendants took no independent steps to ensure that Plaintiffs were being paid in accordance with state and federal wage-and-hour laws. Prior to the commencement of this action, Defendants did not seek or rely on any advice from legal counsel regarding their compliance with state and federal wage-and-hour laws.

         Legal Standard

         “Summary judgment is proper where the evidence, when viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, indicates that no genuine [dispute] of material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Davison v. City of Minneapolis, Minn., 490 F.3d 648, 654 (8th Cir. 2007); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Summary judgment is not appropriate if there are factual disputes that may affect the outcome of the case under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of material fact is genuine if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. “The basic inquiry is whether it is so onesided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Diesel Machinery, Inc. v. B.R. Lee Industries, Inc., 418 F.3d 820, 832 (8th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The moving party has the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). Once the moving party has met its burden, “[t]he nonmovant must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, and must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         To survive a motion for summary judgment, the “nonmoving party must ‘substantiate his allegations with sufficient probative evidence [that] would permit a finding in [his] favor based on more than mere speculation, conjecture, or fantasy.’” Putman v. Unity Health System, 348 F.3d 732, 733-34 (8th Cir. 2003) (quoting Wilson v. Int'l Bus. Machs. Corp., 62 F.3d 237, 241 (8th Cir. 1995)). The nonmoving party may not merely point to unsupported self-serving allegations, but must substantiate allegations with sufficient probative evidence that would permit a finding in his or her favor. Wilson, 62 F.3d 237, 241 (8th Cir. 1995). “Mere allegations, unsupported by specific facts or evidence beyond the nonmoving party's own conclusions, are insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment.” Thomas v. Corwin, 483 F.3d 516, 526-7 (8th Cir. 2007).

         Discussion

         Plaintiffs seek summary judgment on their FLSA and MMWL claims. Plaintiffs address three issues in their motion: that Defendants violated the FLSA and MMWL, that they are entitled to liquidated damages, and that Saggar is individually liable.

         Defendants violated the FLSA and MMWL[1]

         The FLSA requires covered employers to compensate non-exempt employees at overtime rates for time worked in excess of forty hours per workweek. See 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). “Overtime rate” is defined as “a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which [an employee] is employed.” Id. An employee’s “regular rate” is defined by the FLSA as including “all remuneration for employment paid to, or on behalf of, the employee . . .” 29 U.S.C. § 207(e). “Premium rate[s] paid for work by the employee on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, or regular days of rest, or on the sixth or seventh day of the workweek, ” are included in the regular rate, unless “such premium rate is not less than one and one-half times the rate established in good faith for like work performed in nonovertime hours on other days.” 29 U.S.C. § 207(e)(6).

         “The regular hourly rate of pay of an employee is determined by dividing his total remuneration for employment (except statutory exclusions) in any workweek by the total number of hours actually worked by him in that workweek for which such compensation was paid.” 29 C.F.R. § 778.109. In this case, Plaintiffs were paid a Base Rate for non-premium, non-overtime work, plus an extra “Shift Differential” on top of their Base Rate for work on Saturdays and Sundays. In each of the weeks for which evidentiary hour and pay records were introduced by Plaintiffs, this Shift Differential was $3/hour. Defendants do not dispute that the Plaintiffs’ weekend Shift Differentials are not statutorily excluded under the FLSA. The Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (“DOL WHD”) has provided specific guidance on how to calculate overtime rates for employees who are paid a shift differential. See Fact Sheet #54 – The Health Care Industry and Calculating Overtime Pay (rev. July 2009), available at https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs54.htm (accessed September 22, 2019) (“Fact Sheet #54”). The “Single Shift Differential” example provided in Fact Sheet #54 applies to Plaintiffs’ situation.[2] In essence, overtime rates are determined by summing all base pay and shift differentials to which the employee is entitled in the given week absent overtime considerations. That number is then divided by the total hours the employee worked in the given week to find the employee’s “regular rate” for that week. The regular rate is then multiplied by 1.5 to obtain the employee’s “overtime rate” for the given week.

         In their Complaint and Statement of Undisputed Facts, each Plaintiff has alleged three, two-week pay periods in which she claims she was paid less than the FLSA-required overtime rate in one or both workweeks. For each workweek, Plaintiffs have calculated their regular rate and overtime rate, and argue that their actual overtime compensation was deficient. Defendants provide no evidence or argument in support of their weak contention that Plaintiffs’ payroll ...


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