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Molina v. ACE Homecare LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

December 5, 2017

TONI MOLINA, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
ACE HOMECARE LLC, BRL INVESTMENTS, LLC, ARTHUR BARLAAN and JOCELYN BARLAAN, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JAMES D. WHITTEMORE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT are Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment Against Individual Defendants Arthur Barlaan and Jocelyn Barlaan (Dkt. 55), and Defendants' response (Dkt. 71). Upon consideration, the motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant Ace Homecare was a home health agency that had several locations in the State of Florida and employed hundreds of employees. The seven named plaintiffs were employed by Ace Homecare at its Sebring, Florida location (also referred to as the Avon Park facility) until their termination when all of Ace Homecare's facilities were shut down. Six were employed as nurses and one as a home health aid. (See Plaintiffs' Declarations, Dkts. 25-29). During the last two weeks of Plaintiffs' employment, from February 29, 2016 to March 13, 2016, Plaintiffs and the purported similarly situated employees received no compensation and were terminated without at least 60 days' advance notice. Plaintiffs allege violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2101 et seq. ("WARN Act").[1]

         II. STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate where "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 genuine factual dispute exists only if a reasonable fact-finder 'could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the [non-movant] is entitled to a verdict.' " Kernel Records Oy v. Mosley, 694 F.3d 1294, 1300 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)). A fact is material if it may affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997). All facts are viewed and all reasonable inferences are drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of showing that there are no genuine disputes of material fact. Hickson Corp. v. Northern Crossarm Co., Inc., 357 F.3d 1256, 1260 (11th Cir. 2004) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). Once the moving party demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings through the use of affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file to designate facts showing a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324. The Court will not weigh the evidence or make findings of fact. Morrison v. Amway Corp., 323 F.3d 920, 924 (11th Cir. 2003). Rather, the Court's role is limited to deciding whether there is sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable juror could find for the non-moving party. See id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiffs contend they are entitled to summary judgment as to liability, liquidated damages, and attorneys' fees and costs against individual defendants Arthur and Jocelyn Barlaan.

         A. The Barlaans' Individual Liability

         Plaintiffs contend that it is undisputed that Arthur and Jocelyn Barlaan exercised operational control over Ace Homecare and its employees making them jointly and severally liable as employers under the FLSA.

         The FLSA broadly defines an employer as "any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee." 29 U.S.C. § 203(d). "Whether an individual falls within this definition does not depend on technical or isolated factors but rather on the circumstances of the whole activity." Alvarez Perez v. Sanford-Orlando Kennel Club, Inc., 515 F.3d 1150, 1160 (11th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted). And, the Eleventh Circuit has recognized that "'the overwhelming weight of authority is that a corporate officer with operational control of a corporation's covered enterprise is an employer along with the corporation, jointly and severally liable under the FLSA for unpaid wages.'" Id. (quoting Patel v. Wargo, 803 F.2d 632, 637-38 (11th Cir. 1986)). To qualify as an "employer" subject to liability, the officer "must either be involved in the day-to-day operation or have some direct responsibility for the supervision of the employee." Id. The focus is on the role the officer actually played in the company, rather than on the role he or she could have played. Id. at 1161.

         Defendants contend that they did not supervise or deal directly with Plaintiffs, had no involvement with Plaintiffs' day-to-day tasks or schedules, and worked in the corporate office in Tampa. However, the undisputed facts demonstrate otherwise.

         It is undisputed that the Barlaans were co-owners and corporate officers of Ace Homecare. Arthur Barlaan was the Chief Information Officer and Treasurer. The IT director and billing/payoll director reported to him. He was responsible for the billing and claims processing, provided management with daily, weekly, and monthly reports "to provide their day-to-day operations, " was in charge of supporting the scheduling software, was the signatory on the bank account, and was in charge of monitoring and disbursing payroll. (Arthur Barlaan Dep., Dkt. 57 at 11:12-13:9, 63:1-64:11, 65:5-20). Arthur Barlaan admitted that he had the authority to hire and fire employees under his supervision and ...


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