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Weil v. Metal Technologies, Inc.

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

March 30, 2018

BRIAN A. WEIL, MELISSA D. FULK, Plaintiffs,
v.
METAL TECHNOLOGIES, INC., Defendant.

          FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

          Jane Magntts-Stinson, Chief Judge United States District Court Southern District of Indiana

         The Court conducted a bench trial in this action on January 30, 2018. Plaintiffs Brian Weil and Melissa Fulk (collectively “Plaintiffs”) were present in person and by counsel Robert Kondras. Defendant Metal Technologies, Inc. (“Metal Technologies”) was present by counsel Michael Padgett and Melissa Taft.

         In their initial Complaint, [Filing No. 1], Plaintiffs alleged putative class and collective action claims for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), the Indiana Wage Collections Act (“IWCA”), and the Indiana Wage Payment Statute (“IWPS”). Plaintiffs later filed a Motion to Certify a Combined Class Action and FLSA Collective Action, [Filing No. 53], and the operative First Amended Complaint, [Filing No. 66]. Under the FLSA, the Court conditionally certified the following sub-class:

Present and former hourly paid Metal Technologies employees who worked at any time from January 20, 2012 to the present and who, as shown by Metal Technologies' time and pay roll records, were not timely paid regular wages or overtime compensation on one or more occasion for time worked.

[Filing No. 79 at 34]. Under Rule 23 and the IWPS, the Court certified the following two subclasses:

Hourly paid employees from Metal Technologies who presently work there or voluntarily terminated their employment, who worked at any time from January 20, 2013 to the present and who, as shown by Metal Technologies' time and pay roll records, were not timely paid regular wages on one or more occasion for time worked.
Hourly paid employees from Metal Technologies who presently work there or voluntarily terminated their employment, who worked at any time from January 20, 2013 to the present and who, as shown by Metal Technologies' pay roll records, were not timely paid regular wages on one or more occasions based upon wage deductions taken by Metal Technologies to cover costs for work uniforms.

[Filing No. 79 at 34.]

         The parties then filed cross-motions for partial summary judgment, [Filing No. 321, Filing No. 330], which the Court denied on all but one claim, [Filing No. 363]. The Court granted summary judgment to the Plaintiff class on a portion of the class wage deduction claims involving deductions taken for clothing rental. [Filing No. 363 at 11.] The Court granted summary judgment on the issue of liability regarding those wage deductions, but only as to the period from January 20, 2013 through April 10, 2016. [Filing No. 363 at 11.] The Court also granted Metal Technologies' Motion to Decertify two of the certified subclasses-those involving unpaid wages based on time-rounding under the FLSA and IWPS. [Filing No. 363.]

         Following decertification, Mr. Weil and Ms. Fulk proceeded with their claims individually. Remaining for resolution at trial, therefore, were the following claims:

• The class damages under Ind. Code § 22-2-6-2 resulting from the unlawful wage deductions taken for clothing rental from January 20, 2013 through April 10, 2016;
• The class claim under Ind. Code § 22-2-6-2 for deductions taken for clothing rental from April 11, 2016 onward, and the amount of any resulting damages;
• Mr. Weil's individual claim under Ind. Code § 22-2-6-2 for wage deductions taken for clothing rental, and any resulting damages;
• Mr. Weil's individual claim for a one-time deduction of $63.00, notated as “OF, ” and any resulting damages;
• Ms. Fulk's individual claims for violation of the FLSA and the IWPS for unpaid wages, and any resulting damages; and
• Mr. Weil's individual claims for violation of the FLSA and IWCA for unpaid wages, and any resulting damages.

         I.

         Findings of Fact[1]

         Metal Technologies is an automobile parts manufacturer located in Bloomfield, Indiana. 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. The shifts overlap by 30 minutes, and during that overlapping time, employees are relieved of their duties by the next shift's employees.[2] They use the remaining time to clean up their work areas and exchange information about the previous shift. At the time that Plaintiffs were employed by Metal Technologies, each shift's production supervisor held a meeting for all shift employees during the overlapping shift time.

         Ms. Fulk worked for Metal Technologies from August 4, 2014 through December 31, 2014, when she voluntarily resigned her employment. Mr. Weil worked for Metal Technologies from November 5, 2014 through December 8, 2014, when his employment was involuntarily terminated.

         A. Deductions for Work Clothing

         Pursuant to a wage deduction form that it distributed to its employees, from January 20, 2013 through April 10, 2016, Metal Technologies deducted wages from employees who chose to rent work clothing. Metal Technologies has conceded, and the Court has already determined as a matter of law, that the wage deduction form did not meet the requirements of Ind. Code § 22-2-6-2, and that Metal Technologies is liable for having improperly deducted wages pursuant to that form. Under the IWPS, the Plaintiff class is due those unpaid wages.[3] Mr. Weil signed the form on November 5, 2014, and Metal Technologies deducted a total of $43.10 from his wages in increments of $8.62.

         Beginning on April 11, 2016, Metal Technologies distributed a new version of the wage deduction form, still applying to voluntary deductions taken from employees' wages for the purpose of renting work clothing. That form included language stating that the wage assignment could be revoked at any time by the employee upon written notice to Metal Technologies, and it included a line for the employee's signature. Clothing rental is not required for Metal Technologies' employees, and employees are free to wear their own personal clothing on the job. Metal Technologies does not own the clothing rented by employees-rather, it contracts with an external vendor. Metal Technologies pays half of the rental cost, and deductions taken from employees cover the other half paid to the vendor. At the end of their employment, employees are required to return the rented clothing, or its full purchase price is deducted from their wages.

         B. “OF” Deduction

         Mr. Weil received a paycheck dated December 12, 2014, for the pay period covering December 1 through December 7, 2014. A $63.00 deduction notated as “OF” was taken from that paycheck. That deduction was taken for what Metal Technologies identified at trial as an “Obama Fee.” Kirbie Conrad, Metal Technologies' Human Resources Manager, directed the deduction, based on vague direction from an insurer that it was for a fee pursuant to the Affordable Care Act. The Court credits Ms. Conrad's testimony that she believed the deduction to have been properly taken pursuant to the ACA.

         C. Hours Worked and Payment of Wages

         Metal Technologies uses an electronic time clock to record the time that each employee clocks in and out. Ms. Conrad orally informs employees at the beginning of their employment that if they work beyond their scheduled shift time, they should complete an “overtime authorization form” in order to be paid for that time. Ms. Conrad is also responsible for administering Metal Technologies' payroll, and she reviews both employee time cards and overtime authorization forms for payroll purposes. Metal Technologies does not calculate employees' pay based on their time-clock punches, and instead pays employees based on their scheduled shift times, plus time indicated by submitted overtime authorization forms. On weekdays, a 30-minute unpaid meal break is automatically deducted from employees' time, and on weekends, employees are paid for a 20-minute meal break. Employees are paid time-and-a-half for time worked beyond a 40-hour work week, and they are paid double-time for any hours worked on a Sunday that exceed 48 hours worked that week. For third-shift employees, the seven-day pay period begins at 11:00 on Sunday evening.

         1. Ms. Fulk's Time Records and Work Performed

         Ms. Fulk was employed by Metal Technologies from August 4, 2014 through December 31, 2014, working on the third shift. Ms. Fulk's time records reflect that she often clocked in a short time before her shift's 11:00 p.m. start time, with her clock-ins ranging from 10:10 p.m. to 10:56 p.m. Those records also reflect that Ms. Fulk occasionally clocked out shortly after her shift's 7:30 a.m. weekday end time. On weekdays, when employees were required to take a 30- minute unpaid meal break, Ms. Fulk sometimes clocked out for meal breaks that lasted fewer than 30 minutes, or she did not clock out at all. Ms. Fulk submitted overtime authorization forms for extra minutes or hours worked on August 4, 2014; October 4, 2014; October 15, 2014; October 17, 2014; and December 20, 2014.

         While this issue was vigorously disputed by the parties at trial, the Court concludes that, as to Ms. Fulk's pre- and post-shift clocked-in time, as well as missed or shortened meal breaks, Ms. Fulk did not establish by a preponderance of the evidence that she was performing work during those periods, or that if she was, Metal Technologies should have known it.

         As to the pre-shift time, the evidence presented at trial does not establish that Ms. Fulk was performing work while clocked in. The Court credits the testimony of Ms. Conrad and supervisors Travis Clagg and Kyle Pollock that because shifts overlapped, there was no reason for production employees to report prior to the start of their shifts. Ms. Conrad, Mr. Clagg, Mr. Pollock, Mr. Weil, and Ms. Fulk all testified that each shift commenced with a short meeting in the breakroom for all shift employees, and the Court credits that testimony. The majority of Ms. Fulk's time-clock records indicate an initial clock-in from the breakroom, notated as “Indirect” and “Mtg” (for meeting) on the Shop-Trak time and attendance records, followed by a subsequent clock-in from the “Work Center, ” usually between 11:05 and 11:10 p.m. This is consistent with Ms. Fulk clocking in from the breakroom, attending the pre-shift meeting, and moving to her work station after the meeting concluded. It is not consistent with Ms. Fulk heading straight to her work station to begin work early.

         The Court does not credit Ms. Fulk's testimony that during the last month (or so) of her employment (from either the end of November or the beginning of December 2014) she became an “assistant cell lead” and was required to attend pre-shift meetings once or twice per week. Ms. Conrad, Mr. Clagg, and Mr. Pollock all testified that there was no “assistant cell lead” position at Metal Technologies, and that the meetings described by Ms. Fulk never occurred. And Ms. Fulk's time records for the relevant period do not corroborate her memory of the meetings having occurred at 10:30 p.m. once or twice per week. She clocked in at precisely 11:00 p.m. from November 15 through November 30, 2014. In December, she clocked in once prior to 10:30 p.m., at 10:10 p.m.; otherwise, her early clock-ins occurred at 10:44 p.m. and 10:43 p.m.

         Regarding her post-shift time, on ten occasions during her employment, Ms. Fulk clocked out between one and eight minutes after her scheduled shift end time. As described above, the Court credits the testimony of Ms. Conrad, Mr. Clagg, and Mr. Pollock that employees were relieved of their duties by the incoming shift's employees. Therefore, absent special circumstances, the Court concludes that Ms. Fulk would have been relieved by the next shift and would not have been required to work beyond the end of her scheduled shift time. If special circumstances did require her to continue working, Ms. Fulk was aware of Metal Technologies' use of overtime authorization forms to report additional time worked. Indeed, she used this form on several occasions to report both large ...


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