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Perez v. Sol Azteca Mexican Restaurant, Inc.

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

December 6, 2013

THOMAS E. PEREZ, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Plaintiff,
v.
SOL AZTECA MEXICAN RESTAURANT, INC., and ALKET KOCI, individually, Defendants.

ORDER

JAMES E. SHADID, Chief District Judge.

This matter is now before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Summary Judgment [48] is DENIED. Defendant Sol Azteca Mexican Restaurant ("Sol Azteca") has already entered into a stipulated judgment with Plaintiff, leaving Defendant Koci to defend the present motion.

BACKGROUND

From December 11, 2007 through December 10, 2009, Wage and Hour conducted an investigation under the FLSA, which is the subject of this action. Investigator Todd Svacina ("Svacina") conducted the investigation. During the investigation period, Koci was a Manager at Sol Azteca. Koci provided Wage and Hour with time and payroll documents that had been requested during the investigation, hired employees on behalf of the corporation, and provided employees with information as to how to submit their time sheets/cards and how checks would be distributed. At times, Koci supplied payroll information to Sol Azteca's accountant, distributed checks to employees, and answered employee questions regarding pay practices.

Accountant Tonya Sanders was responsible for servicing the account in providing bookkeeping services. The payroll process involved sending Sol Azteca a blank payroll sheet which was filled out and faxed to the payroll department. The accountant then sent out the completed payroll journal and checks, along with a blank sheet for the following payroll.

At all relevant times, Sol Azteca was an Illinois corporation, an enterprise within the meaning of § 3r of the FLSA, engaged in commerce, and had an annual dollar volume of not less than $500, 000 for each year during the relevant time period. The Secretary of Labor is authorized to bring an action in Federal court to recover unpaid minimum wage and overtime compensation, as well as an equal amount of liquidated damages and injunctive relief.

The Secretary filed his Complaint in this matter on February 8, 2011, alleging that Sol Azteca willfully violated the FLSA by paying many of its employees wages at rates less than $5.85 an hour from December 11, 2007 through July 23, 2008, less than $6.55 an hour from July 23, 2008 through July 23, 2009, and less than $7.25 an hour thereafter. Sol Azteca also purportedly failed to pay employees at rates not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay during weeks in which the employees worked longer than 40 hours. Sol Azteca is also alleged to be in violation of the FLSA for failing to make, keep, and preserve adequate and accurate records as prescribed by regulations. The Secretary seeks the sum of $285, 147.99 in unpaid minimum and overtime wages to former employees plus the additional sum of $285, 147.99 in liquidated damages. Sol Azteca is no longer in business, and its corporate form has been dissolved.

Plaintiff has moved for summary judgment. The matter is fully briefed, and this Order follows.

STANDARD

Summary judgment should be granted where "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence on record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. SMS Demag Aktiengesellschaft v. Material Sciences Corp., 565 F.3d 365, 368 (7th Cir. 2009). All inferences reasonably drawn from the facts must be construed in favor of the non-movant. However, any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139, 1142 (7th Cir. 1988); Smith v. Hope School, 560 F.3d 694, 699 (7th Cir. 2009).

It is not the Court's function to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment. The moving party has the responsibility of identifying portions of the record or affidavits that demonstrate the absence of a triable issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party may meet its burden of showing an absence of disputed material facts by demonstrating "that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 325. If the evidence on record could not lead a reasonable jury to find for the non-moving party, then no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. McClendon v. Indiana Sugars, Inc., 108 F.3d 789, 796 (7th Cir. 1997). At the summary judgment stage, however, the "court may not make credibility determinations, weigh the evidence, or decide which inferences to draw from the facts." Washington v. Haupert, 481 F.3d 543, 550 (7th Cir. 2007).

DISCUSSION

The Secretary contends that Koci is an employer under the FLSA and, as such, is jointly and severally liable for the violations and back wages. Two or more employers may jointly employ the employee, and all joint employers are individually responsible for compliance. Falk v. Brennan , 414 U.S. 190, 195 (1973); 29 CFR § 791.2(a). The determination of whether a party is an "employer" is a question of law that involves a review of the underlying facts. Karr v. Strong ...


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