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Askew v. True Hearts of Care, LLC

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

January 7, 2020

CHANTAL ASKEW, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, PLAINTIFF,



         Before the Court is the motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by defendant True Hearts of Care, LLC (“THC” or “defendant”). (Doc. No. 14 [“Mot.”].) Plaintiff Chantel Askew (“Askew” or “plaintiff”) filed an opposition brief (Doc. No. 15 [“Opp'n”]) and THC filed a reply (Doc. No. 16 [“Reply”]). For the reasons set forth herein, the motion is denied.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 16, 2019, Askew filed her complaint against THC under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219.[2] “[THC] provides direct care services and transportation to individuals with developmental disabilities.” (Doc. No. 1, Complaint [“Compl.”] ¶ 13; Doc. No. 5, Answer [“Answer”] ¶ 13.) Askew was employed by THC[3] “in a direct care position, providing care and in-home support for developmentally disabled individuals in their homes.” (Compl. ¶ 15; Answer ¶ 15.) She was paid on an hourly wage basis. (Compl. ¶ 18; Answer ¶ 18.)

         Although Askew acknowledges she was paid overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week (Compl. ¶ 19; Answer ¶ 19), she alleges she was not paid for hours worked between client appointments, including time spent driving to and from client homes, which is allegedly compensable time under the “continuous workday rule.” (Compl. ¶¶ 21-23.)

         The gravamen of Askew's complaint is the allegation that she “had approximately two to three appointments per day during her employment with [THC], and was not paid for an average of 30 to 45 minutes of driving between client appointments per day.” (Id. ¶ 24; see also ¶ 31.)

         THC denies that plaintiff traveled between client homes at all, indicating instead that she worked full shifts at each individual client's home, and that she was paid for all time worked, as reflected in time sheets attached to THC's answer. (Answer ¶¶ 21-22; Doc. No. 5-2, Time Sheets [“Ex. B”].) Defendant denies Askew's allegation that she had two to three appointments per day and was not paid for 30 to 45 minutes of driving between appointments per day. (Answer ¶¶ 24, 31.)

         In its counterclaim, defendant alleges that Askew was generally scheduled to work 8- to 10-hour shifts (which Askew admits), the entirety of which was performed at one location for the duration of each shift, without clocking out (which Askew denies). (Doc. No. 5, Counterclaim [“Countercl.”] ¶ 57; Doc. No. 13, Answer to Counterclaim [“Answer to Countercl.”] ¶ 5.) THC also alleges that Askew was not permitted to provide any form of transportation or do any driving during her shifts, a condition of her employment that Askew acknowledged in writing. (Countercl. ¶ 58; Doc. No. 5-1, Non-Driver Affidavit [“Ex A”].) Askew denies this allegation. (Answer to Countercl. ¶ 6.) THC alleges that Askew falsified her time sheets, both charging for time she did not work and claiming time for training she did not attend. (Countercl. ¶ 60 and Ex. B.) Askew denies these allegations. (Answer to Countercl. ¶ 8.) On February 13, 2019, as Askew admits, she was suspended due to multiple write-ups for failing to appear for scheduled shifts. (Countercl. ¶ 68; Answer to Countercl. ¶ 16.) Finally, as Askew also admits, she was eventually placed on unpaid administrative leave due to an assault charge and, ultimately, was terminated. (Countercl. ¶ 71; Answer to Countercl. ¶ 19.)


         Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) provides that “[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” The standard of review for a motion for judgment on the pleadings is the same as for a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for relief under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). E.E.O.C. v. J.H. Routh Packing Co., 246 F.3d 850, 851 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Grindstaff v. Green, 133 F.3d 416, 421 (6th Cir. 1998)).

         “For purposes of a motion for judgment on the pleadings, all well-pleaded material allegations of the pleadings of the opposing party must be taken as true, and the motion may be granted only if the moving party is nevertheless clearly entitled to judgment.” JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget, 510 F.3d 577, 581 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting S. Ohio Bank v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., 479 F.2d 478, 480 (6th Cir. 1973)). While detailed factual allegations are not required, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) calls for sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). “The plausibility standard . . . asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully[, ]” id., and the district court “need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.” Mixon v. Ohio, 193 F.3d 389, 400 (6th Cir. 1999) (citing Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir. 1987)). “The motion is granted when no material issue of fact exists and the party making the motion is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Paskvan v. City of Cleveland Civil Serv. Comm'n, 946 F.2d 1233, 1235 (6th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted).

         THC argues that, because Askew was paid for all the time she worked, THC is entitled to judgment. (Mot. at 118.) THC points to the Portal Act under which employers are not required to pay for time spent “‘traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities [which an] employee is employed to perform[]'” or for “preliminary or postliminary activities which occur either before or after the workday begins or ends.” (Mot. at 120 (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 254(a)).)

         THC also notes that Askew's complaint does not allege she did not receive compensation for hours submitted, [4] but rather only that she was not paid for time traveling between client appointments. (Mot. at 123 (citing Compl. ¶¶ 24, 31, 37).) THC argues that Askew's time sheets, which she herself completed and submitted, show that she was fully paid and that there were no write-offs for travel. (Id. at 121.) THC argues that Askew's time sheets “show that [she] worked almost exclusively with one client at a time for the entire duration of each shift.” (Id. at 121-22.) Moreover, even on the few occasions where Askew worked with more than one client, “there are no 30 to 45 minute gaps between ‘appointments' as [p]laintiff falsely alleges.” (Id. at 122.) THC points to several illustrative examples in Askew's time sheets. For instance, on July 13, July 14, and July 15, 2018, and January 23, 2019, although Askew worked with two clients on each of those days, she remained clocked in for her entire shift, with no gaps for travel, and was paid for the full time each day. (Ex. B at 48-49, 74.)

         Askew, in opposition, asserts that the FLSA requires compensation for travel time under the “continuous workday rule” if the travel itself is an indispensable part of performing one's job. (Opp'n at 134-35.) She argues she is not seeking compensation for driving clients but for travel time between clients, which is permissible, in her view. (Id. at 135.) She points to different time sheet entries where there are gaps of between 15 minutes[5] to 60 minutes, for which she was not paid. (Id. at 130 (citing Ex. B at 48 (7/10/18); 50 (7/22/18); 56 (8/30/18); 74 ...

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