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Hurrle v. Reconstructive Hand to Shoulder of Indiana LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

January 20, 2017

JANICE HURRLE, Plaintiff,
v.
RECONSTRUCTIVE HAND TO SHOULDER OF INDIANA LLC and MICHAEL PANNUNZIO, Defendants.

          ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          RICHARDX. YOUNG, JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Janice Hurrle, was employed as an Office Manager at Reconstructive Hand to Shoulder of Indiana LLC (“RHSI”) for many years until she was fired in April 2015. After her termination, she brought this lawsuit asserting that Defendants, RHSI and Dr. Michael Pannunzio, failed to pay her for nearly 600 hours of overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. Defendants now move for summary judgment, arguing, inter alia, that they had no knowledge of the alleged overtime until Hurrle filed her Complaint and her claim is based on guesswork. The court agrees and therefore GRANTS Defendants' motion.

         I. Background

         Hurrle worked as the Office Manager for RHSI and its previous corporate form for eleven years before ultimately being terminated in April 2015. (Filing No. 13, Amended Complaint ¶ 6). She was paid on a salary basis and classified as exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA. (Id. ¶ 7; Filing No. 37-4, Deposition of Janice Hurrle 35:25-36:3).

         As Office Manager, her duties included preparing a spreadsheet of the hours that all employees (both salary and hourly) had worked for each pay period, and then sending that information to the payroll processor, Root & Associates. (Hurrle Dep. 32:6-25, 33:12-17). Employees provided their hours to Hurrle by submitting handwritten timesheets. (Id. 33:12-17, 37:2-4). When employees reported overtime, Hurrle would make a notation in the column on her spreadsheet for overtime. (Id. 37:5-12). She included overtime hours for other employees in the payroll spreadsheets, but never reported any overtime hours for herself. (Id. 93:15-22, 132:12-17).

         In May 2014, RHSI moved its Carmel office from a building on Old Meridian Street to an adjacent building on that same street. (Id. 51:14-20; Filing No. 37-5, Deposition of Dr. Michael Pannunzio 96:11-17). Hurrle alleges that she worked overtime hours in connection with the move. (See Amended Complaint ¶ 11). After the move, she complained to Dr. Pannunzio that she was not paid for those extra hours. (Hurrle Dep. 91:1-20). She did not “raise any issue about other overtime with him at that point.” (Id. 132:18-22). Except for that one conversation, Hurrle never complained to anyone, including the physicians at RHSI or her contact at Root & Associates, about not receiving overtime compensation. (Id. 93:8-12, 94:7-15). She also never filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor or the Indiana Department of Labor about not getting paid overtime. (Id. 93:25-94:6).

         In her Amended Complaint, Hurrle includes a chart detailing the overtime hours she allegedly worked and was not compensated for. (See Amended Complaint ¶ 11). This chart shows a total of 588 unpaid overtime hours, spanning from April 2012 to April 2015. (Id.). Hurrle estimated these hours; the chart represents her “best guess.” (Hurrle Dep. 128:20-23, 129:4-5, 132:7-11). She does not have any documents, such as a calendar or journal, that reflect any of the alleged overtime. (Id. 10:6-13:12, 128:24-129:3).

         II. Legal Standard

         “Summary judgment is proper where, construing facts and drawing inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, ‘there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'” Novoselsky v. Brown, 822 F.3d 342, 348-49 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)).

         III. Discussion

         The FLSA generally provides that “no employer shall employ any of his employees . . . for a workweek longer than forty hours unless” he remits overtime pay at a rate of “not less than one and one-half times the regular rate.” 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). “The employee bears the burden of proving that she performed overtime work for which she was not properly compensated.” Kellar v. Summit Seating Inc., 664 F.3d 169, 173 (7th Cir. 2011).

         Defendants appear to advance six distinct arguments in support of their motion: (1) they did not have any knowledge of the unpaid overtime hours until this suit was filed; (2) Hurrle's chart of unpaid overtime hours is based on guess and speculation; (3) Hurrle was properly classified as exempt from overtime as an administrative employee; (4) Dr. Pannunzio was not her “employer” for purposes of the FLSA; (5) she is not entitled to a three-year statute of limitations; and (6) she is not entitled to recover double liquidated damages. The court considers the first two arguments in turn, and its resolution of those issues obviates the need to consider the remaining four.

         A. Whether Defendants Had Actual or Constructive Knowledge of the Overtime Hours

         To prevail under the FLSA, Hurrle must show that Defendants had actual or constructive knowledge of her overtime work. As the Seventh Circuit explained, “While an employer cannot slyly sit back in order to reap extra work without pay, it has no obligation to pay for work it did not know about and had no reason to know about.” Gaines v. K-Five Constr. Corp., 742 F.3d 256, 270 (7th Cir. 2014). Put another way, the FLSA “stops short” of imposing liability for unpaid overtime on an employer that did not have the opportunity through reasonable diligence to learn overtime was being used. Kellar, 664 F.3d at 177. See 29 U.S.C. § 203(g); 29 C.F.R. § 785.11. An employer does not conclusively demonstrate a lack of knowledge by simply pointing to an internal rule against overtime or proving that the employee worked the additional hours without seeking prior approval. Kellar, 664 F.3d at 177; 29 C.F.R. ...


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