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6th Cir.: Where Plaintiff Presented No Other Evidence, Plaintiff’s Testimony Alone Sufficient to Defeat Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment
This case was before the Sixth Circuit on the plaintiff’s appeal of the trial court’s order awarding defendants summary judgment on liability. As explained in more detail in the court’s decision, the defendants relied on their own time and pay records, and testimony from plaintiff’s former supervisor, in which they denied that plaintiff ever worked more than 40 hours in a workweek. Although the plaintiff testified that the records were not accurate and that he typically worked approximately 58 hours per week, the court below adopted the testimony of the defendants that plaintiff never worked in excess of 30 hours per week, and thus was properly paid $10 per hour (or $300 per week). The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded, and applied well-settled law regarding the parties’ respective burdens at the summary judgment stage.
The court framed the issue before it as follows:
This appeal raises one simple question: Where Plaintiff has presented no other evidence, is Plaintiff’s testimony sufficient to defeat Defendant’s motion for summary judgment?
The Sixth Circuit held that an FLSA plaintiff’s testimony alone is sufficient to defeat a defendant’s motion for summary judgment:
We hold that it is. Plaintiff’s testimony coherently describes his weekly work schedule, including typical daily start and end times which he used to estimate a standard work week of sixty-five to sixty-eight hours. The district court characterized this testimony as “somewhat vague .” (R. 26, Opinion and Order, Page ID # 475.) However, while Plaintiff’s testimony may lack precision, we do not require employees to recall their schedules with perfect accuracy in order to survive a motion for summary judgment. It is unsurprising, and in fact expected, that an employee would have difficulty recalling the exact hour he left work on a specific day months or years ago. It is, after all, “the employer who has the duty under § 11(c) of the [FLSA] to keep proper records of wages [and] hours,” and “[e]mployees seldom keep such records themselves.”Anderson, 328 U.S. at 687. Defendants emphasize the fact that Plaintiff’s testimony is inconsistent with the allegedly contemporaneous timesheets Defendants provided to the court. But these timesheets do not amount to objective incontrovertible evidence of Plaintiff’s hours worked. Plaintiff denies the validity of these timesheets, which were handwritten by Defendants, and contends that Defendants sanctioned his overtime work. Whether his testimony is credible is a separate consideration that is inappropriate to resolve at the summary judgment stage.
Putting this case in perspective, the Sixth Circuit discussed its prior jurisprudence regarding the same issue:
We have previously found that a Plaintiff’s testimony can create a genuine issue of material fact foreclosing summary judgment in a lawsuit brought under the FLSA. In O’Brien v. Ed Donnelly Enters., Inc., 575 F.3d 567 (6th Cir.2009), we considered a collective action brought against an employer for underpayment of wages in violation of the FLSA. Although we affirmed the district court’s decertification of the collective action in O’Brien, we considered the district court’s grant of summary judgment as to the lead plaintiffs. Plaintiff O’Brien alleged both that the defendants altered her time records and that she was required to work off-the-clock. With respect to O’Brien’s “off-the-clock” claim, the defendants argued that they were “not liable under the FLSA because there is no evidence that defendants knew that O’Brien was working without compensation.”Id. at 595–96. Nonetheless, despite the lack of corroborating evidence, we held that the district court “erred when it granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to O’Brien’s ‘off the clock’ claim,'” since the plaintiff’s own “deposition testimony clearly creates a genuine factual issue, because she asserts that [the defendants] knew that she was working off the clock.”Id. at 596. The O’Brien court reached this conclusion despite the plaintiff’s at times contradictory testimony. Id. at 595.
This holding is consistent with our decision in Harris v. J.B. Robinson Jewelers, where we explicitly found that a plaintiff’s testimony is itself sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact. 627 F.3d 235 (6th Cir.2010). In Harris, we considered the appropriateness of summary judgment where a plaintiff testified that her jeweler had replaced a diamond in her ring with a smaller, less-valuable diamond. In that case, we reviewed the district court’s decision to exclude the plaintiff’s testimony as well as its decision to exclude the affidavits of three corroborating witnesses. Notably, we determined that “[the plaintiff’s] testimony alone is sufficient to create a jury question regarding the alleged replacement [of her diamond].”Id. at 239 (emphasis added). The district court in this case disregarded the applicability of that determination to the case at hand, focusing instead on the fact that the Harris court also deemed admissible the sworn affidavits of the three corroborating witnesses. Such disregard was mistaken. Our opinion in Harris clearly states that, regardless of the three additional affidavits, the plaintiff’s testimony was itself sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact.
The same principles at work in Harris and O’Brien apply here. Despite the lack of corroborating evidence, Plaintiff’s testimony is sufficient to create a genuine dispute of material fact that forecloses summary judgment at this juncture. Defendants cite to no Sixth Circuit precedent for the opposite conclusion; rather, they rely on three district court opinions and a handful of opinions from other circuits. None of these cases counsel in favor of ignoring clearly applicable Sixth Circuit caselaw. The district court cases cited by Defendants are neither precedential nor instructive in the present case, and we note that this Court did not have an opportunity to review their reasonableness on appeal. Nor do the out-of-circuit cases cited by Defendants belie the applicability of our own Circuit’s on-point precedent and the basic tenets of summary judgment law to the case at hand.
As such the court concluded:
On summary judgment, all reasonable inferences must be made in favor of the non-moving party and, as we have held in the past, a plaintiff’s testimony alone may be sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact thereby defeating a defendant’s motion for summary judgment. This is such a case. Here, Plaintiff put forward testimony that contradicted that of Defendants, describing his typical work schedule with some specificity and estimating that he worked sixty-five to sixty-eight hours a week on average. This contradictory testimony creates a genuine issue of material fact.
We therefore REVERSE the ruling of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and REMAND the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Click Moran v. Al Basit LLC to read the entire Sixth Circuit decision.
S.D.Fla.: “Offensive” Collateral Estoppel Appropriate Where Defendant’s Exemption Argument Previously Rejected By 11th Circuit
Schulman v. Southern Shuttle Services Inc.
Defendant, a company which provides bus shuttle transportation to and from airports for a fee filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that Plaintiffs were exempt under the so-called taxicab exemption to the FLSA of § 213(b)(17). Plaintiffs, drivers for Defendant, opposed the motion, primarily by pointing to a recent decision by the 11th Circuit, which held such drivers not to be taxi cab exempt.
In denying Defendant summary judgment the Court stated:
“[We] find that offensive collateral estoppel is appropriate. Defendant, Southern Shuttle, has previously litigated unsuccessfully the issue of whether it qualifies for the taxicab exemption. See Abel v. Southern Shuttle Services, Inc., 2008 WL 5047626 (11th Cir. Nov.28, 2008. The Eleventh Circuit held that, while Defendant’s airport shuttle vans share some characteristics with taxicabs, they are not “taxicabs” under the narrow interpretation required of an FLSA exemption. Id. Since Defendant received a “full and fair” opportunity to litigate its taxicab exemption claim in the Abel action, the law of collateral estoppel leads inescapably to the conclusion that Defendant is collaterally estopped from relitib Exemption, Collateral Estoppel, Summary Judgmentgating the question of whether it qualifies for the taxicab exemption under the FLSA. See Blonder-Tongue Laboratories, 402 U.S. at 328. The Court is unconvinced that the factual distinctions alleged between this case and Abel v. Southern Shuttle Services, Inc. (07-80584-KLR) are sufficient to prevent the exercise of collateral estoppel here.”
E.D.La.: Defendant Permitted To Move For Summary Judgment Against One Plaintiff Rather Than Entire Class
Lindsley v. Bellsouth Telecommunications, Inc.
Plaintiff sued Defendants, claiming that he and the putative class were misclassified as independent contractors, when they were, in fact employees under the FLSA. The Court had previously granted Plaintiff’s Motion to Permit Notice pursuant to 216(b). Following the deposition of the named Plaintiff, but before any other members of the putative class had been deposed, the Defendants moved for Summary Judgment, as to the named Plaintiff. Denying the Plaintiff’s Motion to Strike Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment as premature, the Court rejected Plaintiff’s argument that Defendants had to move for summary judgment on a classwide basis, until such time as the class had been decertified.
The Court reasoned, “[b]ecause of the allegation that they were employees, the completion of discovery as to Lindsley, and the filing of the motion for summary judgment, the court finds that it is appropriate to choose Lindsley as a test plaintiff to resolve the issue of employee versus independent-contractor status. Resolution of the issue regarding Lindsley, which may be common to the other plaintiffs, does not hinder the purpose of the collective action to aid the “unprotected” in an efficient and effective manner.”