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Lopez v. Edwards

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 15, 2018

STEPHANIE LOPEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CARL EDWARDS, individually, and CASPER TRAILER SALES, INC., a Colorado corporation, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Carl Edwards and Casper Trailer Sales, Inc.'s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (Doc. # 65.) Defendants argue that (1) Plaintiff Stephanie Lopez's claims for unpaid wages prior to May 24, 2015, are not covered under the Fair Labor Standard Act (“FLSA”), and (2) Plaintiff's claim for unpaid wages under the Colorado Wage Act (“CWA”) must be limited to recovery of final wages. (Id.) Defendants request that the Court therefore enter summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims for unpaid wages prior to May 24, 2015, and limit her recovery under the CWA. (Id.) For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Defendants' Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. UNDERLYING FACTS

         Casper Trailer Sales, Inc. (“Casper”) is a Colorado corporation, doing business as JDL Trailer Sales. (Doc. # 60 at ¶ 6.) Defendant Carl Edwards (“Edwards”) is the owner and manager of Casper Trailer Sales, Inc. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Defendants and Plaintiff agree that at all times relevant to the Complaint, Edwards acted directly and indirectly in the interests of the employer in relation to Plaintiff by setting her rate of pay, the method of compensation, and determining her hours of work. (Id. at ¶ 9.)

         Plaintiff alleges that she began working for Casper in 2009 by cleaning the shop. (Id. at ¶ 13.) She asserts that she learned the trade of an RV technician by watching others and that she worked as an RV technician for most of her employment with Casper. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Plaintiff claims that she worked without cash wages from 2009 until 2015 in reliance upon Edwards' promise to transfer title to a home to her in exchange for her work. (Id. at ¶ 16.) She also states that she received room and board in exchange for her work during part of this time period. (Id.) She contends that throughout most of her employment, she worked no fewer than ten hours a day and as many as seventy hours a week. (Id. at ¶ 20.)

         Plaintiff received her first paycheck from Casper in May 2015. (Doc. # 68 at 5.) Plaintiff alleges that she was not paid minimum wage for the hours she worked in 2013 and 2014, nor was she paid one and one-half times minimum wage for hours worked over forty hours in a single work week during this time. (Doc. # 60 at ¶ 22.) She also alleges she was paid for some, but not all, of her hours worked in 2015 and 2016. (Id. at ¶¶ 23, 24.) Plaintiff terminated her employment on April 20, 2016, because she was allegedly harassed at work and because Edwards refused to pay her. (Id. at ¶¶ 48, 49.) On November 11, 2016, Plaintiff demanded from Defendants payment of wages owed. (Id. at ¶ 59.)

         Defendants contest the majority of Plaintiff's allegations. (Doc. # 62.) Defendants refute Plaintiff's statement that she began work for Casper in 2009. (Id. at ¶ 13.) Defendants also assert that Plaintiff worked only as part of the pit crew during her employment, and deny that Edwards ever promised to transfer title to a house to Plaintiff in exchange for her work. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-16.) Most relevant here, Defendants deny all allegations regarding any hours Plaintiff worked that were not compensated. (Id. at ¶¶ 13-61.)

         B. PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         Plaintiff commenced this suit on January 4, 2017. (Doc. # 1.) She filed an Amended Complaint on September 18, 2017 (Doc. # 36) and a Second Amended Complaint on November 30, 2017 (Doc. # 60). Plaintiff asserts three claims against Defendants: (1) pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 206, Defendants' failure to pay Plaintiff minimum wages for all weeks worked in 2014, and some weeks in 2015 and 2016, is in violation of the FLSA; (2) pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 207, Defendants' failure to pay Plaintiff overtime wages constitutes an additional violation of the FLSA; and (3) pursuant to Colo. Rev. Stat. § 8-4-109, Defendants' failure to pay Plaintiff's earned, vested, and determinable wages is in violation of the CWA. (Id. at 1.)

         On January 17, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (Doc. # 65.) Defendants' Motion seeks to separate Plaintiff's claims into two separate time periods: prior to May 24, 2015, when Plaintiff was not a payroll employee of Casper, and after May 24, 2015, when Plaintiff was a payroll employee of the company. (Id. at 2.) Defendants argue that because Plaintiff cannot produce records of her employment with Casper prior to May 24, 2015, her claim for employment can only extend to Edwards individually, not his company. (Id.) Thus, Defendants allege Plaintiff's claims during this time period are not covered under the FLSA because the FLSA only covers employees engaged in interstate commerce. (Id. at 2-3.) Because Edwards, as an individual, is not an employer as defined by the FLSA, Plaintiff's employee-employer relationship with Edwards does not implicate interstate commerce. (Id. at 3.)

         In addition, Defendants seek partial summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim for wages owed under the CWA. (Id.) Defendants assert that under Section 109 of the CWA, Plaintiff's claim is limited to only unpaid final wages and penalties related to final wages. (Id. at 20.) Defendants' interpretation of Section 109 of the CWA relies upon Judge Martinez's recent opinion and certified question to the Colorado Supreme Court, which asks:

Does Colo. Rev. Stat. § 8-4-109(1)(a) permit a terminated employee to sue for wages or compensation that went unpaid at any time during the employee's employment, even when the statute of limitations (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 8-4-122[1]) has run on the cause of action the employee could have brought for those unpaid wages under Colo. Rev. Stat. § 8-4-103(1)(a)?

Hernandez v. Ray Domenico Farms, Inc., 250 F.Supp.3d 789, 801-02 (D. Colo. 2017). In Hernandez, Judge Martinez considered the defendant's argument that Section 109 “pertains only to the sorts of payments that tend to be due upon termination (e.g., hours worked since the close of the last pay period, accrued vacation, unreimbursed travel expenses, etc.).” Id. at 798. Defendants in the case now before the Court similarly request that the Court limit Plaintiff's ...


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