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Kuehn v. Reed

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

January 9, 2020

JOAN C. KUEHN, Plaintiff,
v.
KRISTINA REED, P.A., doing business as REED GRIFFITH AND MORAN, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          ROBIN L. ROSENBERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 60]. The Court has carefully considered the Motion, Plaintiff's Response thereto [DE 64], Defendants' Reply [DE 68], and the record, and is otherwise fully advised in the premises. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is denied.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Defendants are Reed Griffith and Moran, a law firm, and Attorneys James J. Moran and Kristina Reed, partners at the law firm. Plaintiff Joan C. Kuehn worked for Defendants from January 2012 until October 2018 and performed work associated with real estate closings. Her job duties included requesting and collecting information and documents, preparing documents, examining chains of title, producing title commitments, attending closings, and wiring funds. It is undisputed that Kuehn examined chains of title and produced title commitments only until mid-2016, after which time a third party performed those duties. DE 65 at 7 ¶¶ 61, 62; DE 69 at 7 ¶¶ 61, 62.

         Kuehn's Complaint raises one count of failure to pay overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 201et seq. (“FLSA”). DE 1. Kuehn seeks overtime pay in the amount of $82, 555.97 for hours that she allegedly worked between 2016 and 2018, as well as liquidated damages, fees, and costs. DE 21. Defendants maintain that Kuehn is exempt from the FLSA's overtime pay provision and that she received all monies due to her. DE 23; DE 26.

         In their Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants contend that the undisputed material facts establish that Kuehn is exempt from the FLSA's overtime pay provision because she was employed in a bona fide administrative capacity. Defendants alternatively contend that Kuehn has not established that the overtime pay provision applies to her.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate where “the movant shows 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 factual dispute is ‘material' if it would affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, and ‘genuine' if a reasonable trier of fact could return judgment for the non-moving party.” Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Fla. v. United States, 516 F.3d 1235, 1243 (11th Cir. 2008). When deciding a summary judgment motion, a court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Furcron v. Mail Ctrs. Plus, LLC, 843 F.3d 1295, 1304 (11th Cir. 2016). The court does not weigh conflicting evidence or make credibility determinations. Id. Upon the discovery of a genuine dispute of material fact, the court must deny summary judgment and proceed to trial. Jones v. UPS Ground Freight, 683 F.3d 1283, 1292 (11th Cir. 2012).

         If the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to a material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Shaw v. City of Selma, 884 F.3d 1093, 1098 (11th Cir. 2018). The non-moving party does not satisfy this burden “if the rebuttal evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative of a disputed fact.” Jones, 683 F.3d at 1292 (quotation marks omitted). The non-moving party must “make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Id. (quotation marks omitted). A non-conclusory affidavit based on personal knowledge, even if uncorroborated and self-serving, can create a genuine dispute of material fact that defeats summary judgment. United States v. Stein, 881 F.3d 853, 857-59 (11th Cir. 2018).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. The Administrative Employee Exemption

         The FLSA's minimum wage and overtime provisions do not apply to an employee employed in a bona fide administrative capacity. 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1); see generally Id. §§ 206, 207. The phrase “employee employed in a bona fide administrative capacity” means an employee (1) compensated at a particular minimum salary, (2) “[w]hose primary duty is the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer's customers, ” and (3) “[w]hose primary duty includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.” 29 C.F.R. § 541.200(a). Kuehn does not dispute that she met the first two elements of this administrative employee exemption, and, thus, the Court turns to consideration of the exemption's third element. See DE 64 at 12 n.64.

         The exercise of discretion and independent judgment generally involves “the comparison and the evaluation of possible courses of conduct, and acting or making a decision after the various possibilities have been considered.” 29 C.F.R. § 541.202(a). Determination of whether a duty includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment is based on all of the facts of a particular employment situation. Id. § 541.202(b). Factors to consider when making such a determination include, but are not limited to,

whether the employee has authority to formulate, affect, interpret, or implement management policies or operating practices; whether the employee carries out major assignments in conducting the operations of the business; whether the employee performs work that affects business operations to a substantial degree, even if the employee's assignments are related to operation of a particular segment of the business; whether the employee has authority to commit the employer in matters that have significant financial impact; whether the employee has authority to waive or deviate from established policies and procedures without prior approval; whether the employee has authority to negotiate and bind the company on significant matters; whether the employee provides consultation or expert advice to management; whether the employee is involved in planning long- or short-term business ...

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