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Hall v. U.S. Cargo and Courier Service, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 10, 2019

DAVID HALL, DUSTIN BRYAN, AND NICHOLAS THOMPSON, Plaintiffs,
v.
U.S. CARGO AND COURIER SERVICE, LLC, Defendant.

          Elizabeth P. Deavers Chief Magistrate Judge.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          EDMUND A. SARGUS, JR. CHIEF JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on (1) Defendant's Partial Motion for Summary Judgment on Count III (ECF No. 103), (2) Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on All Claims Raised by Plaintiff Thompson (ECF No. 106), and (3) Defendant's Partial Motion for Summary Judgment on Counts V and VI (ECF No. 109). For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES U.S. Cargo's Partial Motion for Summary Judgment on Count III (ECF No. 103), GRANTS in PART and DENIES in PART the Motion for Summary Judgment on All Claims Raised by Plaintiff Thompson (ECF No. 106), and DENIES the Partial Motion for Summary Judgment on Counts V and VI (ECF No. 109).

         I.

         A. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff David Hall ("Hall"), a former delivery driver for Defendant U.S. Cargo and Courier Service, LLC ("U.S. Cargo"), filed this action on April 13, 2016, against U.S. Cargo alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, etseq. ("FLSA"), the Ohio Wage Act ("OWA"), and the Ohio Prompt Pay Act ("OPPA"), stemming from U.S. Cargo allegedly misclassifying Hall as an independent contractor rather than an employee. (ECF No, 1.) Hall also asserted claims for unjust enrichment and interference with his benefits under the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601, etseq. ("FMLA"), and sought a constructive trust.

         With the Court's permission (ECF No. 17), Hall filed the First Amended Complaint on August 22, 2016 (ECF No. 18). Hall added a disability-related claim under the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § § 12111 et seq. ("ADA") and removed his claims under the FMLA. OnNovember 1, 2017, with the Court's permission (ECF No. 31), Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint, adding as plaintiffs Nick Thompson ("Thompson") and Dustin Bryan ("Bryan") (collectively "Plaintiffs"), both former delivery drivers for U.S. Cargo, and adding class and collective action claims (ECF No. 32).

         On March 9, 2018, this Court granted Plaintiffs' request for conditional class certification under the FLSA. (ECF No. 53.) Twenty-three former delivery drivers opted into this case. After discovery, however, the parties agreed that Plaintiffs were not similarly situated, and that decertification of the class was appropriate. (ECF No. 99.) On February 22, 2019, this Court decertified the class. (ECF No. 102.)

         With the Court's permission (ECF No. 97), Plaintiffs filed the Third Amended Complaint, in which they removed the class claims (ECF No. 98). In the Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs assert seven claims for relief: (I) Violation of the FLSA; (II) Violation of the Overtime Provisions of the OWA; (III) Violation of the OPPA; (IV) Unjust Enrichment; (V) Disability Claims as to Plaintiff Hall; (VI) Retaliation Claims as to Plaintiff Hall; and (VII) Constructive Trust and other Equitable Relief.

         On February 22, 2019, U.S. Cargo filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on Count III (ECF No. 103) and Brief in Support (ECF No. 104), and Plaintiffs filed their Memorandum in Opposition to U.S. Cargo's Motion on Count III on March 15, 2019 (ECF No. 122). On March 29, 2019, U.S. Cargo filed its Reply in Support of its Motion on Count III. (ECF No. 129.)

         On February 22, 2019, U.S. Cargo also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on All Claims Raised by Thompson (ECF No. 106) and Brief in Support (ECF No. 107). On March 15, 2019, Plaintiffs filed their Memorandum in Opposition to U.S. Cargo's Motion on Thompson Claims. (ECF No. 123.) On March 29, 2019, U.S. Cargo filed a Reply in Support of its Motion on Thompson Claims. (ECF No. 128.)

         U.S. Cargo also filed a third motion on February 22, 2019, moving for Summary Judgment on Counts V and VI (ECF No. 109), and Brief in Support (ECF No. 110). Plaintiffs filed their Memorandum in Opposition to U.S. Cargo's Motion on Counts V and VI on March 15, 2019 (ECF No. 124), and, on March 29, 2019, U.S. Cargo filed its Reply in Support of its Motion on Counts V and VI (ECF No. 127).

         B. Factual Background

         1. Plaintiff David Hall

         From June 20, 2012 to July 24, 2015, Hall was a delivery driver for U.S. Cargo in Columbus, Ohio. U.S. Cargo paid Hall a daily flat rate of approximately $179.00. Additionally, U.S. Cargo paid Hall $3.00 per stop, and $0.75 per piece of freight, if he delivered more than three pieces per stop.

         According to Hall, he typically arrived at the U.S. Cargo warehouse around 7:30 a.m. and returned around 5:30 p.m. Upon arriving at the warehouse, Hall would receive a Preliminary Manifest from U.S. Cargo, load freight onto his vehicle, submit paperwork to a U.S. Cargo Shift Supervisor, and then receive his route for the day. When Hall returned to the U.S. Cargo warehouse after completing his route, a U.S. Cargo Shift Supervisor would confirm Hall's deliveries for accuracy. Hall typically worked approximately five days per week for ten to twelve hours each day, for a total of 50 to 60 hours per week. Hall estimates that he spent approximately one hour completing paperwork each day.

         Hall is a type-1 diabetic. Hall contends that he informed U.S. Cargo about his condition when he was hired on June 20, 2012. Hall's condition required regular visits to his doctor. When working for U.S. Cargo, Hall requested shorter route assignments on certain days or a day off altogether so that he could visit his doctor. U.S. Cargo denied his request. Unable to change his route, Hall missed several scheduled doctor visits on different occasions.

         On July 7, 2015, Hall claims he requested an adjusted route so that he could visit his doctor. U.S. Cargo denied his request. Gina Gould ("Gould"), a U.S. Cargo Safety Manager, reminded Hall that his contract required him to find a back-up driver to cover his route when he was absent. Gould provided Hall with the name of one back-up driver. Gould Dep. Tr. at 65:17-20, Ex. 12. Hall explained to Gould that the back-up driver was too busy to cover Hall's shift. Gould Dep., Ex.12. Hall missed his scheduled appointment. Id.

         According to Hall, the next morning he again complained to Gould that U.S. Cargo had denied his request for an adjusted schedule so that he could attend his appointment. Id. Hall argued that an adjusted route was a matter of safety. He further explained that he had notified U.S. Cargo about his doctor's appointments, but that he was still unable to schedule his appointments around his assigned routes. Id.

         According to Gould, Hall then mentioned that he had considered calling other U.S. Cargo employees to "let them know that he is not what U.S. Cargo needs to run this route [and] that he cannot fulfill the responsibilities of this route in the way that U.S. Cargo thinks it should be covered." Id. Hall then decided not to contact those U.S. Cargo employees because he didn't "want to add [to] what [they] already [had] on [their] plate." Id. Hall then left and completed his route.

         That day, Gould emailed several U.S. Cargo employees about her discussions with Hall. Gould asked: "Can we take this conversation as an act of wanting to terminate his contract or do we have to wait until ... Hall speaks to Matt or David Hammel [(U.S. Cargo's Director of Operations)]?" Id., The next day, on July 9, 2015, Dave Goss ("Goss"), another U.S. Cargo Safety Manager, informed Hall that U.S. Cargo had terminated him due to concerns about Hall's ability to perform his route. That day, Hall received a written notification of termination, effective July 24, 2015.

         2. Plaintiff Nick Thompson

         Thompson worked as a delivery driver for U.S. Cargo from July 2013 to September 2014. U.S. Cargo paid Thompson a flat daily rate, plus $3.00 per stop, regardless of how many hours he worked. Thompson typically arrived at the U.S. Cargo warehouse around 7:00 a.m. and returned to the warehouse around 7:45 p.m. He usually worked five days per week, for approximately 60 hours per week, and oftentimes Hall worked up to 67.5 hours per week.

         3. Plaintiff Dustin Bryan

         Bryan worked as a delivery driver for U.S. Cargo from August 14, 2012 to December 31, 2014, and again from August 17, 2015 to approximately September 17, 2015. U.S. Cargo paid Bryan a flat daily rate, plus $3.00 per stop, regardless of how many hours he worked. Bryan typically worked five days per week, for at least 50 hours per week. Often, Bryan worked up to 70 hours per week.

         II.

         Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court may therefore grant a motion for summary judgment if the nonmoving party, who has the burden of proof at trial, fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element that is essential to that party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         The "party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions" of the record which demonstrate "the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party who "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). "The evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255 (citing Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970)). A genuine issue of material fact exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (the requirement that a dispute be "genuine" means that there must be more than "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts"). Consequently, the central issue is '"whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'" Hamad v. Woodcrest Condo. Assn., 328 F.3d 224, 234-35 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52).

         III.

         As a preliminary matter, U.S. Cargo classified Plaintiffs in this case as independent contractors, maintaining that no employee-employer relationship existed between it and Plaintiffs. Neither party has moved for summary judgment on this issue, which will therefore be decided by a jury. See Lilley v. BTM Corp., 958 F.2d 746, 750 n.l (6th Cir. 1992) ("The determination of employment status is a mixed question of law and fact. Normally, a judge will be able to make this determination as a matter of law. However, where there is a genuine issue of fact or conflicting inferences can be drawn from the undisputed facts, as here, the question is to be resolved by the finder of fact in accordance with the appropriate rules of law.") Although Plaintiffs' statutory claims only apply to employers, the Court will nevertheless address those claims.

         A. U.S. Cargo's Motion for Summary Judgment on Count III (OPPA).

         U.S. Cargo moves for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims filed under the OPPA, Ohio Rev. Code § 4113.15, which provides for liquidated damages on unpaid wages. The OPPA provides in relevant part:

Where wages remain unpaid for thirty days beyond the regularly scheduled payday or, in the case where no regularly scheduled payday is applicable, for sixty days beyond the filing by the employee of a claim or for sixty days beyond the date of the agreement, award, or other act making wages payable and no contest court order or dispute of any wage claim including the assertion of a counterclaim exists accounting for nonpayment, the employer, in addition, as liquidated damages, is liable to the employee in an amount equal ...

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