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Jose Guzman, Jamie Mercardo, Bernardo Mercado, Crisanto Pichardo v. Laredo Systems

October 19, 2012

JOSE GUZMAN, JAMIE MERCARDO, BERNARDO MERCADO, CRISANTO PICHARDO, AND CELESTINO MERCADO, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
LAREDO SYSTEMS, INC., LAREDO SYSTEMS, LLC, AND ENRIQUE JAMIE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Blanche M. Manning

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

At daybreak, sometimes six times a week, plaintiffs Jose Guzman, Jamie Mercado, Bernardo Mercado, Crisanto Pichardo, and Celestino Mercado arrived at work to begin a long day of landscaping. Although their days lasted 11 or even 12 hours, they contend that their employer paid them a flat daily rate that failed to take into account for their overtime and fell short of the minimum wage. They filed suit against their employer as well as its president to recover the wages they were allegedly shorted.

Before the court is the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed except where noted. Defendant Laredo Systems, Inc. (now Laredo Systems, LLC) is a landscaping business operated by defendant Enrique Jamie, Sr., in Garden Prairie, Illinois. Jamie Sr. has always served as Laredo Systems' president and been in charge of the company.*fn1 About ninety-percent of Laredo Systems' landscaping work was done as a subcontractor on public works projects along Chicago area expressways and tollways.

Beginning in the spring of 2005 and continuing through the fall of 2009, Laredo Systems employed the plaintiffs at various times as both landscapers and as laborers on Jamie Sr.'s farm-the parties dispute how much of each type of work the plaintiffs performed. However, they agree that the plaintiffs were required to report to work at 6:30 a.m. (though the defendants contend the plaintiffs often did not show up until 7:00 a.m.) to receive their assignment for the day from Jamie Sr. After receiving their assignment, they would gather the tools or equipment they needed for that assignment, and Jamie Mercado (the only plaintiff with a valid driver's license) would drive a company truck to take the others from Laredo Systems' facility in Garden Prairie to that day's worksite. Worksites were as far as 70 or 80 miles away, and would take up to one-and-a-half hours to reach. The plaintiffs usually returned to Laredo Systems' Garden Prairie facility around 5:30 p.m.

Jamie Sr. does not remember all of the jobs Laredo Systems performed or the contracts it entered into. Laredo Systems did not have a time clock for employees, and Jamie Sr. did not keep a written record of when employees reported to work or left. He did not maintain records of the number of hours employees worked each day, or how many hours in excess of 40 hours per week employees worked. Jamie Sr. kept track only of the number of days the plaintiffs worked, and paid a daily rate of $80 to all of the plaintiffs except for J. Mercado, who earned $130 because he drove the truck. He did not withhold any payroll taxes, and Laredo did not issue W-2s to the plaintiffs.

For work performed on public works projects, Jamie Sr. was required to complete certified payroll forms and submit them on a monthly basis to the general contractor. Jamie Sr. did not complete the payroll forms regularly, and sometimes did not submit them on time. On the payroll forms he certified that his employees had worked six hour days and been paid the prevailing wage at the time, which varied from $33.15 to $34.00 an hour. However, he now admits that he actually paid them a flat daily rate of $80, or $130 for J. Mercado. Jamie Sr. admits he has no explanation for why he paid a daily rate of $80 or $130 rather than the rate he purported to pay on the certified payroll forms.

The plaintiffs filed suit against the defendants alleging three claims. First, they allege that the defendants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay time-and-a-half for hours worked in excess of 40 hours a week (Count I). See 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. Second, they (except for J. Mercado) allege that the defendants violated the Illinois Minimum Wage Law by failing to pay the minimum hourly wage (Count II). See 820 Ill. Comp. Stat. 105/1, et seq. Third, they allege that the defendants violated the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act by failing to pay the minimum hourly wage required for public works projects (Count III). See 820 Ill. Comp. Stat. 130/0.01 et seq.

In the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment, they seek judgment on the issue of liability only, and leave the issue of computation of damages for later proceedings. The defendants oppose the entry of summary judgment on the basis of disputed questions of material fact regarding the number of hours the plaintiffs worked. However, the actual dispute appears to be a legal one involving whether federal law requires an employer to pay employees for time spent in transit.

ANALYSIS

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed R. Civ. P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Valenti v. Qualex, Inc., 970 F.2d 363, 365 (7th Cir. 1992), citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Moreover, a court should grant a motion for summary judgment only when the record shows that a reasonable jury could not find for the nonmoving party. See Valenti, 970 F.2d at 365; see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

Thus, in order to withstand a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must show that a dispute about a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The nonmoving party may not merely rest upon the allegations or details in his pleading, but instead, must set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

II. FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT (COUNT I)

The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay employees time-and-a-half for all hours ...


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