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Crookston v. Doctor's, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 6, 2017

QUINN CROOKSTON, Plaintiff,
v.
DOCTOR'S, INC. and BRUCE DOCTOR, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. Thomas Marten, United States District Court Judge

         Plaintiff Quinn Crookston filed this action against his former employer, defendant Doctor's, Inc. (“Doctor's”), and its owner, defendant Bruce Doctor. Plaintiff alleges that defendants failed to pay overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), and retaliated against him by terminating his employment after he informed defendants that he had contacted the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”). This matter is before the court on defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 32). For the reasons provided below, the court denies defendants' motion as to plaintiff's FLSA claims.[1]

         I. Uncontroverted Facts.

         The court finds the following facts to be uncontroverted for purposes of summary judgment.

         Doctor's is a lawn service company based in Stilwell, Kansas, and operates throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area. Plaintiff was employed with Doctor's as an irrigation technician. His job consisted of installing and repairing lawn sprinkler systems for Doctor's residential and commercial clients. Plaintiff's duties included driving and transporting Doctor's equipment on a truck and/or trailer to various job sites in Kansas and Missouri using public highways and roads.

         Plaintiff regularly worked more than 40 hours a week. Defendants did not pay plaintiff one and a half times his regular pay rate for all work performed in excess of 40 hours during these weeks.

         In November 2015, plaintiff contacted the DOL and complained about defendants' failure to pay overtime wages. On December 9, 2015, plaintiff informed his supervisor, Mr. Dan Knapp, about his complaint. Later that same day, Mr. Knapp called plaintiff into his office and fired him. Mr. Knapp told plaintiff that it was Bruce Doctor's decision, and that “Bruce says he's looked into it, and he thinks he's exempt [from paying overtime wages].” (Dkt. 1, at 6).

         Additional facts will be related, as necessary, in connection with the court's analysis of defendant's motion.

         II. Summary Judgment Standards.

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is “material” when it is essential to the claim, and the issues of fact are “genuine” if the proffered evidence permits a reasonable jury to decide the issue in either party's favor. Haynes v. Level 3 Communs., 456 F.3d 1215, 1219 (10th Cir. 2006). The movant bears the initial burden of proof and must show the lack of evidence on an essential element of the claim. Thom v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., 353 F.3d 848, 851 (10th Cir. 2004) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)). The nonmovant must then bring forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Garrison v. Gambro, Inc., 428 F.3d 933, 935 (10th Cir. 2005). The court views all evidence and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. LifeWise Master Funding v. Telebank, 374 F.3d 917, 927 (10th Cir. 2004).

         III. Plaintiff's FLSA claim.

         Plaintiff claims that defendants violated the FLSA when it failed to pay him time and a half for weeks he worked more than 40 hours. Subject to certain exemptions, the FLSA mandates that employers provide overtime pay to employees who work longer than forty hours in a week. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a).

         Defendants argue that they exempt from the FLSA's overtime requirements due to the Motor Carrier Act (“MCA”) exemption, under 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(1). “Once a court finds the employer is eligible to claim the exemption, the factfinder reviews the disputed facts to determine if the exemption is met[]”-a fact-bound and case-specific inquiry. Deherrera v. Decker Truck Line, Inc., 820 F.3d 1147, 1154 (10th Cir. 2016).

         A. ...


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