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Stone v. Troy Construction, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 27, 2018

LINDA STONE, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
TROY CONSTUCTION, LLC, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          JAMES M. MUNLEY JUDGE

         Before the court for disposition are several motions in this class action lawsuit dealing with the payment of overtime wages. The first is a motion by the defendant for summary judgment on Counts I and III of plaintiffs' complaint. The second is a motion by the plaintiffs for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability. The third is a motion by the defendant to decertify this Fair Labor Standards Act collective action and Rule 23 class action. Given the substantial overlap between the filings, we will integrate the motions and address them accordingly.

         Background

         Defendant Troy Construction (hereinafter “Troy” or “defendant”) is a construction company, which builds and maintains, inter alia, oil and gas pipelines and compressor stations. (Doc. 106-1, Def.'s Statement of Uncontested Facts (hereinafter “SOF”) ¶¶ 1-2).[1] This business is itinerant in nature with employees traveling from worksite to worksite. (Id. ¶ 3). Many of Troy's employees travelled from their homes in other states to work on projects for Troy. (Id. ¶ 5). Some of defendant's employees, however, live near the worksites and work there until the project is complete and do not follow defendant to a new worksite. (Doc. 113, Pl.'s Response to Def.'s SOF ¶ 3).

         Plaintiff Linda Stone (hereinafter “plaintiff” or “named plaintiff”) worked for defendant commencing in January 2013. (Doc. 106-1, SOF ¶ 8). Plaintiff, a resident of Montrose Pennsylvania, worked at defendant's “shop” in Montrose, Pennsylvania and also as a “spotter” at defendant's Northeast Compressor Station project in Hallstead, Pennsylvania.[2] (Id. ¶¶ 10, 11). Plaintiff did not enter into a written contract with defendant and defendant did not provide her an employee handbook. (Id. ¶ 12). She served as an “at-will” employee. (Id.)

         Because some of its employees permanently resided in other states and traveled to work for defendant, defendant paid “non-exempt”[3] employees daily per diems for expenses such as travel, meals and lodging. (Id. ¶ 13). Plaintiff, and other employees who resided less than fifty (50) miles from the defendant's worksites received the per diem payments also. (Id. ¶ 14).

         In March 2013, defendant terminated plaintiff's employment. (Id. ¶ 15). Subsequently, she filed the instant class and collective action on behalf of herself and all other similarly situated employees. Plaintiff Linda Stone formerly worked for Defendant Troy for a total of eight (8) weeks on a pipeline project in Montrose, Pennsylvania. She filed the instant wage and hour lawsuit on February 19, 2014. Plaintiff asserts that the payment of the “per diem” to her was not to reimburse her for expenses but was actually part of the wages she received. When determining plaintiff's overtime rate of pay, the defendant did not take into consideration the “per diem” that she was paid. This resulted in a dilution of the overtime rate of pay; that is, the overtime rate was not as high as it should have been according to the plaintiff.

         Accordingly, plaintiff raises the following causes of action: Count I - violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq.; Count II -violation of the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, 43 Penn. Stat. § 333.101, et seq.; and Count III -violation of the Pennsylvania Wage Payment & Collection Law, 43 Penn. Stat. § 260.1 et seq. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act claim is brought as a collective action, and the two Pennsylvania Wage Law claims are brought as a class action under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         Jurisdiction

         As this case is brought pursuant to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, we have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”). We have supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

         Legal Standard

         Granting summary judgment is proper “‘if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'” See Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). “[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Int'l Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chem. Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (1986). A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.

         Discussion

         The parties have each filed motions for summary judgment. Additionally, the defendant has filed a motion to decertify this Fair Labor Standards Act collective action and Rule 23 class action. A review of the motions reveals that this case hinges on the statute of limitations that will be applied. ...


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