United States District Court, D. Colorado
ERIN JOHNSON, JOCELYN KLEIN, SARAH FLANSBURG, SUSAN TATE, LINDY GUNN, LAURA SCIARCON, ERICA BERINGER Plaintiffs,
COLORADO SEMINARY, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN
PART MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
S. Krieger Senior United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court pursuant to the
Plaintiffs' Partial Motion for Summary Judgment (# 67),
the Defendant's (“FELC”) response (# 77), and
the Plaintiffs' reply (# 79); and FELC's Motion for
Summary Judgment (# 68), the Plaintiffs' response (# 78),
and FELC's reply (# 82).
Court briefly summarizes the pertinent facts here and
elaborates as necessary in its analysis.
the parties disagree as to many facts, at least the basic
contours of this dispute are mostly undisputed. The
Defendant, through the University of Denver, operates the
Fisher Early Learning Center (“FELC”). According
to the Defendant, FELC is “a nationally-accredited
early learning center, ” although the Plaintiffs
describe it as simply “a large child-care
center.” The Plaintiffs are among the employees of
FELC, responsible for the care and instruction of the
children, ranging in age from 6 months to 3 years old.
FELC considered its employees to be “teachers, ”
exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act's
(“FLSA”) overtime requirements. Thus, FELC
employees were only paid their regular salary, regardless of
how many hours they worked per week. However, in mid-2016, in
anticipation of a change in regulations, FELC revisited that
issue and decided to instead treat the employees as covered
by the FLSA and entitled to time-and-a-half wages for hours
worked over 40 in a week. FELC also decided to compensate the
employees for any overtime they had worked since June 1,
2014. Lacking comprehensive documentation on employees'
hours over that two-year period, on or about November 17,
2016, Rebecca Tankersly, FELC's Director, wrote to
FELC's employees asking them to “document your
overtime from June 1, 2014 [to] November 30, 2016.”
Each of the employees, including the Plaintiffs, did so. FELC
officials made adjustments to the hours claimed by certain
employees (including the Plaintiffs), then paid the employees
one-and-one-half times their average hourly rate for any
overtime hours that had been identified.
Plaintiffs believe that FELC owes them additional sums for
unpaid overtime, and on August 29, 2017, they commenced the
instant action asserting: (i) a claim for unpaid overtime
pursuant to the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 207; (ii) a claim for
unpaid overtime pursuant to Colorado's Wage Claim Act,
C.R.S. § 8-4-101 et eq.; (iii) a claim for
failure to provide paid rest breaks as required by Colorado
law, 7 C.C.R. § 1103-1:8; (iv) a claim for breach of
contract, in that FELC promised to pay the Plaintiffs unpaid
overtime but then failed to fully compensate them; and (v) a
claim for promissory estoppel premised on the same facts. The
Court sua sponte bifurcated and stayed (# 8) the
state-law claims, such that only the Plaintiffs' FLSA
claims are at issue at this time.
sides now move for summary judgment on their claims. The
Plaintiffs' motion (#67) contends that: (i) the
Plaintiffs are entitled to an additional payment of
liquidated damages pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b); and
(ii) because FELC recklessly disregarded its obligations
under the FLSA, the Plaintiffs' claims are subject to a
three-year statute of limitation instead of a two-year one,
29 U.S.C. § 255(a). The Defendants' motion (# 68)
contends that it is entitled to summary judgment on the
Plaintiffs' FLSA claims because: (i) the Plaintiffs still
fall within the “professional” exemption and
thus, are not entitled to overtime compensation under the
FLSA at all; and (ii) even if the Plaintiffs are covered by
the FLSA, FELC has already paid them the full amount of any
overtime compensation to which they are entitled.
Standard of review
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure facilitates the entry
of a judgment only if no trial is necessary. See White v.
York Intern. Corp., 45 F.3d 357, 360 (10th Cir. 1995).
Summary adjudication is authorized when there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and a party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Substantive
law governs what facts are material and what issues must be
determined. It also specifies the elements that must be
proved for a given claim or defense, sets the standard of
proof and identifies the party with the burden of proof.
See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Kaiser-Francis Oil Co. v.
Producer's Gas Co., 870 F.2d 563, 565 (10th Cir.
1989). A factual dispute is “genuine” and summary
judgment is precluded if the evidence presented in support of
and opposition to the motion is so contradictory that, if
presented at trial, a judgment could enter for either party.
See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. When considering a
summary judgment motion, a court views all evidence in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party, thereby
favoring the right to a trial. See Garrett v. Hewlett
Packard Co., 305 F.3d 1210, 1213 (10th Cir. 2002).
movant has the burden of proof on a claim or defense, the
movant must establish every element of its claim or defense
by sufficient, competent evidence. See Fed. R. Civ.
P. 56(c)(1)(A). Once the moving party has met its burden, to
avoid summary judgment the responding party must present
sufficient, competent, contradictory evidence to establish a
genuine factual dispute. See Bacchus Indus., Inc. v.
Arvin Indus., Inc., 939 F.2d 887, 891 (10th Cir. 1991);
Perry v. Woodward, 199 F.3d 1126, 1131 (10th Cir.
1999). If there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact, a
trial is required. If there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact, no trial is required. The court then applies
the law to the undisputed facts and enters judgment.
moving party does not have the burden of proof at trial, it
must point to an absence of sufficient evidence to establish
the claim or defense that the non-movant is obligated to
prove. If the respondent comes forward with sufficient
competent evidence to establish a prima facie claim
or defense, a trial is required. If the respondent fails to
produce sufficient competent evidence to establish its claim
or defense, then the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).
case involves cross-motions for summary judgment.
"Because the determination of whether there is a genuine
dispute as to a material factual issue turns upon who has the
burden of proof, the standard of proof and whether adequate
evidence has been submitted to support a prima facie
case or to establish a genuine dispute as to material fact,
cross motions must be evaluated independently." In
re Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Securities Litig.,
209 F.Supp.2d 1106, 1112 (D. Colo. 2002); see also
Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Farm Credit Bank of Wichita,
226 F.3d 1138, 1148 (10th Cir. 2000); Buell Cabinet Co.
v. Sudduth, 608 F.2d 431, 433 (10th Cir. 1979)
("Cross-motions for summary judgment are to be treated
separately; the denial of one does not require the grant of
Court begins with FELC's motion because, if FELC is
correct and the Plaintiffs are FLSA-exempt, ...