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Weil v. Metal Technologies, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

May 26, 2017

Metal Technologies, INC., Defendant.


          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         Plaintiffs Brian A. Weil and Melissa D. Fulk filed a Complaint asserting claims against Defendant Metal Technologies, Inc. (“Metal Technologies”) for improper wage deductions and failure to pay wages under the Fair Labor Standard Act (“FLSA”) and the Indiana Wage Payment Act (“IWPA”). [Filing No. 1.] The Court conditionally certified one subclass under the FLSA and certified two subclasses under Rule 23 and the IWPA. [Filing No. 79.] Presently pending before the Court are Cross-Motions for Partial Summary Judgment, [Filing No. 321; Filing No. 330], and Metal Technologies' Motion to Decertify several of the subclasses, [Filing No. 332]. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, GRANTS Metal Technologies' Motion to Decertify, and DENIES AS MOOT Metal Technologies' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.



         A. Timekeeping Practices

         Metal Technologies is a manufacturing facility located in Bloomfield, Indiana that manufactures automobile parts for car manufacturers like General Motors, Chrysler, Hyundai, and Honda. [Filing No. 330-1 at 6.] Manufacturing employees work one of three shifts: first shift, from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; second shift, from 3:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.; or third shift, from 11:00 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. [Filing No. 330-1 at 9.] The shifts overlap by 30 minutes, and during that overlapping time, employees are relieved of their duties by the next shift's employees, and they use the remaining time to clean up their work areas and exchange information about the previous shift. [Filing No. 330-2 at 11.]

         Metal Technologies uses an electronic time clock to record the time that each employee clocks in and out. [Filing No. 321-11 at 7.] Employees are required to take a 30-minute unpaid lunch break, which they are instructed to clock in and out for. [Filing No. 321-11 at 7.] Metal Technologies does not calculate employees' pay based on their time-clock punches, but instead pays employees based on their scheduled shift times, minus an automatically deducted thirty-minute lunch break. [Filing No. 54-1 at 9.] So employees are typically paid for eight working hours per day. [Filing No. 54-1 at 9.] If an employee works more than eight hours per day, she is required to complete an Overtime Authorization Form in order to be paid for that additional time. [Filing No. 330-1 at 10-11.]

         Metal Technologies has an Employee Manual (the “Manual”), which is provided to and discussed with all new employees. [Filing No. 330-7 at 2; Filing No. 321-1 at 108-09.] The first page of the Manual states that “[t]he policies in this Manual are to be considered guidelines. Metal Technologies, Inc. (MTI), at its option, may change, delete, suspend or discontinue any part or parts of the policies in this Manual at any time without prior notice. … Employees may not accrue eligibility for monetary benefits that they have not earned through actual time spent at work.” [Filing No. 330-7 at 5.] The Manual also includes the following sections relevant to the instant motions:

Business Hours
Our regular office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Your particular hours of work and the scheduling of your lunch period will be determined and assigned by your Plant Manager or shift supervisor. Most employees are assigned to work a 40-hour workweek. You are required to take a 30-minute unpaid lunch period daily. Please understand that you may not "work through lunch" in order to arrive late or to leave early or to work extra time, unless approved by the Plant Manager.

         [Filing No. 330-7 at 6];

Work Schedule & Rules The normal workweek consists of five (5) days, eight (8) hours long, Monday through Friday. You will be notified promptly whenever a change is necessaiy. Should you have any questions concerning your work schedule, please ask your sliift supervisor or Plant Manager.

         [Filing No. 330-7 at 7];

Error in Pay
Every effort is made to avoid errors in your paycheck. If you believe an error has been made, tell accounting immediately. He or she wilt take the necessary steps to research the problem and to assure that any necessary corrections are made properly and promptly. We will then adjust your check the following week.

         [Filing No. 330-7 at 8];

Overtime Pay
From time to time, it may be necessaiy for you to perform overtime work in order to complete a job on time. The Plant Manager must approve all overtime in advance. When it is necessaiy to work overtime, you are expected to cooperate as a condition of your employment. There are two types of overtime work:
• Scheduled Overtime: Scheduled overtime work is announced in advance and generally will involve an entire department or operation. This type of overtime becomes pail of the required workweek of the people who are members of the department or operation. If you need to be excused from performing scheduled overtime, please speak with your group leader or Shift Supervisor. He or she will consider your situation and the requirements of the department or operation in deciding whether you may be excused from performing the scheduled overtime.
• Incidental Overtime: Incidental overtime is not scheduled; it becomes necessaiy in response to extenuating circumstances. It is extra time needed to complete work normally completed during regular hours. Incidental overtime may become necessary when an illness or emergency keeps co-workers from being at work as anticipated. It may require you to return to the workplace for emergency work. The opportunity to perform incidental overtime will be given first to the employee who normally performs the task. If that employee cannot perform the overtime, the Plant Manager will offer the overtime to a suitably qualified person who is available to perform the overtime work.

         You will be paid one and one-half (1-1/2) times your regular hourly wage for any time over forty (40) hours per week that you work. If, during that week, you were away from the job because of a paid holiday or vacation taken in single-day increments those hours will he counted as hours worked for the purpose of computing eligibility for overtime pay.

         [Filing No. 330-7 at 8-9];

Time Clock Records
By law, we are obligated to keep accurate records of the time worked by employees. This is done by either time clocks or other written documentation.
Your time punch is the only way the payroll department knows how many hours you worked and how much to pay you. Your time punch indicates when you arrived and when you departed. You are to punch in and out for lunch and for brief absences like a doctor or dentist's appointment. All employees are required to keep Human Resources, their cell leader or Shift Supervisor advised of their departures from and returns to the premises during die workday.
You are responsible for your time punch. Remember to record your time. If you forget to punch in or make an error on youxpuneh, a "missed punch form" must be filled out with the Shift Supervisor or cell leader initials next to it for approval and Human Resources must be notified. Cell leader and Shift Supervisor time tickets require the Plant Manager's approval. You are not permitted to punch in more than 15 minutes before your scheduled starting time nor more than 15 minutes after your scheduled quirting time without the group leader or Shift Supervisor's approval. This would be considered unapproved overtime.
No one may record hours worked on another's punch or time slip for any reason. Tampering with yours or another's time punch is cause for disciplinary action, including possible immediate dismissal, of both employees. Do not alter another person's record, or influence anyone else to alter your record for you. In the event of an error in recording your time, please report the matter to Human Resources, your group leader, or your Shift Supervisor immediately.

[Filing No. 321-11 at 7]. The Manual also outlines disciplinary policies through the use of a point system for attendance, tardiness, and early departures. [Filing No. 321-11 at 4-6.]

         B. Employee Declarations

         Metal Technologies has submitted affidavits and deposition testimony from more than 20 plaintiffs attesting that although they sometimes clocked in and out before their scheduled shift times, they did not perform work-related activities during those minutes. [Filing No. 332-9.] James Lynch attested, for example, that if he arrived before his scheduled start time, he would clock in and then eat breakfast in the break room. [Filing No. 332-9 at 13-14.] Alissa Murray stated that when she clocked in before her scheduled shift, she would retrieve work items from her locker and go to the break room to get a drink. [Filing No. 332-9 at 1.] Tobias Padgett attested that he spent his pre-shift clocked in time socializing and getting snacks from the vending machines. [Filing No. 332-9 at 30-31.] Jerry May stated that he clocked in immediately after arriving, and then would typically wait in the “smoke shack” or the break room “until it is time to start work.” [Filing No. 330-8 at 31.] These employees all attested that they did not perform work prior to the start of their shifts, and that there was no work-related reason for them to clock in early. [Filing No. 332-1 at 1-30.] Barbara Haithcock attested that, when she arrived, there were usually at least 20 other employees waiting in the break room for their shift to start. [Filing No. 330-8 at 13.] Kirbie Conrad, Metal Technologies' Human Resources Manager, testified that she often saw numerous employees in the break room before their scheduled shifts. [Filing No. 330-7 at 1.]

         Several plaintiffs also testified that they would clock out after the end of their scheduled shifts, but would not perform work-related activities. For example, Brandon Alcorn stated that he sometimes clocked out a few minutes after the end of his shift because he “lost track of time, ” but that he was not performing work duties. [Filing No. 332-9 at 5.] Many employees testified that if they worked beyond the end of their scheduled shift times, they submitted Overtime Authorization Forms and were compensated for that time. [Filing No. 332 at 5-28.]

         C. Work Clothing Deductions

         From January 20, 2013 (two years prior to the filing of this lawsuit-the lookback period within the applicable statute of limitations) through the present, Metal Technologies took wage deductions from employees for work clothing. [Filing No. 321-1 at 78-79.] These deductions are reflected on employees' pay stubs. [Filing No. 321-1 at 78-79.] On April 11, 2016, Metal Technologies distributed and employees signed an updated “Premiums and Deductions” form which details the clothing deduction. [Filing No. 321-5.]

         D. Procedural History

         Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in this Court on January 20, 2015. [Filing No. 1.] Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Certify a Combined Class Action and FLSA Collective Action on September 1, 2015, [Filing No. 53], which this Court granted in part and denied in part, [Filing No. 79]. Following the issuance of notice, some party plaintiffs have opted in to the collective action and some potential class members have opted out of the class action. [See, e.g., Filing No. 104; Filing No. 125.] The parties have also conducted discovery.

         Presently pending before the Court are Cross-Motions for Partial Summary Judgment, [Filing No. 321; Filing No. 330], and Metal Technologies' Motion to Decertify Plaintiffs' Combined FLSA Collective Action and Class Action with Respect to the Pre- and Post-Shift Time Claim (“Motion to Decertify”), [Filing No. 332]. The Court addresses the pending motions in the following order: Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Metal Technologies' Motion to Decertify, and Metal Technologies' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.

         II. Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

         The Plaintiffs move for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability for violations of the IWPA and the FLSA, regarding both their wage deduction and timekeeping claims. [Filing No. 321.]

         A. Legal Standard

         A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. ...

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