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Reddish v. Epoca Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida, Miami Division

October 25, 2019




         THIS CAUSE comes before the Court upon Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (the "Motion") (DE 83), filed September 6, 2019. Defendants Epoca Corp. ("Epoca"), David Bradley, Matthew Bradley and Scott Bradley (the "Defendants") ask this Court to grant summary judgment because (1) Plaintiff Robert Reddish is an independent contractor and is not entitled to any relief under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLS A"); (2) Reddish cannot prove the elements of overtime or retaliation claims as a matter of law; and (3) Scott Bradley is not an "employer" under the FLS A. Id. at 21. The Defendants filed a Statement of Undisputed Facts in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment on August 30, 2019 (DE 82). Reddish responded to the Motion (DE 92) with a corresponding statement of material facts (DE 93) On October 4, 2019.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed:

         Epoca is a Florida corporation that engages in plumbing and construction services for new construction and renovation projects. See DE 82 ¶ 1. David Bradley is the Chief Executive Officer and President of Epoca (DE 82 ¶ 2), and Matthew Bradley is the Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Epoca. Id. ¶ 3. Scott Bradley (the father of David and Matthew) works for Epoca (id. ¶ 4), but the parties dispute whether Scott is a manager of Epoca (thereby subjecting him to individual liability) or a mere employee. Plaintiff Robert Reddish worked for Epoca from June 2015 through February 2017 before filing the instant lawsuit. DE 1 Ex. A, DE 1-3. Reddish performed demolition services, removed debris from construction sites, and operated machinery during his alleged employment. See DE 82 ¶¶ 6-9. Reddish sued the Defendants for unpaid overtime wages and retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act on April 2, 2017 (DE 1).


         Summary judgment is appropriate where there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact and [] the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). An issue is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Mize v. Jefferson City Bd. of Educ, 93 F.3d 739, 742. (11th Cir. 1996). A fact is material if it may affect the outcome of the case under the applicable substantive law. Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997).

         If a reasonable fact finder could draw more than one inference from the facts, creating a genuine issue of material fact, summary judgment should not be granted. Samples ex rel. Samples v. City of Atlanta, 846 F.2d 1328, 1330 (11th Cir. 1988). The moving party has the burden of establishing both the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). On a motion for summary judgment, the court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Davis v. Williams, 451 F.3d 759, 763(11th Cir. 2006).


         Defendants argue they are entitled to summary judgment because (1) Reddish is not an "employee" under the Fair Labor Standards Act and (2) Reddish has failed to establish the elements of his overtime or retaliation claims as a matter of law. Defendants also move to establish as a matter of law that Scott Bradley is not individually liable with Epoca for any FLSA violations.

         A. Independent Contractor vs. Employee

         The FLSA does not apply to independent contractors. See Murray v. Playmaker Servs. LLC, 512 F.Supp.2d 1273, 1276 (S.D. Fla. 2007). Rather, the FLSA only applies to "employees," which are "individual[s] employed by an employer." 29 U.S.C. § 203(e)(1). Whether an individual qualifies as an employee or independent contractor is a question of law for the Court. Anterior v. D & S Farms, 88 F.3d 925, 929 (11th Cir. 1996). Accordingly, courts look to the "economic reality" of the relationship between the parties and whether the relationship demonstrates dependence. See Scantland v. Jeffry Knight, Inc., 721 F.3d 1308, 1311 (11th Cir. 2013); see also Bartels v. Birmingham, 332 U.S. 126, 130 (1947) ("[E]mployees are those who as a matter of economic reality are dependent upon the business to which they render service."). The "economic realities test" includes six factors, discussed in detail below. No single factor is dispositive, and courts may consider any combination of factors that accurately reflects the economic reality of the relationship. Murray, 512 F.Supp.2d at 1277.

         1. Control

         The first factor considers the degree of the alleged employer's control over the manner in which work is to be performed. Construing the facts in the light most favorable to Reddish as the nonmoving party, the Court concludes that genuine issues of material fact remain as to the extent of Defendants' control over Reddish's work. "Control is only significant when it shows an individual exerts such a control over a meaningful part of the business that she stands as a separate economic entity." Scantland, 721 F.3d at 1313 (emphasis added) (quoting Usery v. Pilgrim Equip. Co., Inc., 527 F.2d 1308, 1312-13 (5th Cir. 1976)).

         In the instant case, the "normal [daily] practice was to show up for work" (DE 93 ¶ 11) at "the warehouse," wherefrom Defendants would send Reddish to the various job sites. Reddish Depo. at 215, ¶¶ 8-11 (DE 82-5 at 55). Reddish would advise when work was completed by sending pictures of completed projects to David and Matthew Bradley. (DE 82 ¶ 22). David and Matthew Bradley would periodically review completed work at the job sites where Reddish was working. David Bradley Aff. ¶ 3 (DE 94-1). Defendants told Reddish what job sites to attend and what tasks to complete, although the parties dispute the amount of supervision that Reddish received. Compare David Bradley Aff. ¶ 3 (DE 94-1) with (DE 93 ¶ 36). After Reddish would send photographs to David and Matthew and inform them that he had completed a project, they would sometimes respond: "Good job. I need you to go to another site." Reddish Depo. at 94, ¶¶ 19-20 (DE 82-5 at 24). Then, Reddish would either "[g]et in their vehicle and go to another site" or "go back to the warehouse" if there was not another project at that time. Id. at 21-25.

         The parties also dispute whether Reddish maintained other jobs or solicited work from other companies during the period of his alleged employment with Epoca. According to Defendants, Reddish "actually drew income from others while working with Epoca." DE 83 at 4. But Reddish states that he only worked for Defendants (and no one else) during the period of his alleged employment. DE 93 ¶ 8. Albert Sierra, the owner of Atlantic Coast Construction ("ACC"), stated in his affidavit that Reddish solicited work from ACC (and that Reddish even worked for ACC at one point) (Sierra Aff. ¶¶ 4-5 DE 82-7), but Reddish disputes ...

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