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Morgan v. Guardian Angel Home Care, Inc.

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

March 30, 2018

CORY MORGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
GUARDIAN ANGEL HOME CARE, INC. Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOAN H. LEFKOW, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In her second amended complaint (dkt. 33), Cory Morgan alleges that Guardian Angel Home Care, Inc. failed to provide her overtime compensation in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C.§ 201 et seq. (count 1), and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law (IMWL), 820 Ill. Stat. Ann. Comp. § 105/1 et seq. (count 2); breached a January 2011 employment contract (count 3); breached a November 2012 employment contract (count 4); and, with regard to both alleged breaches, violated the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA), 820 Ill. Stat. Ann. Comp. § 115/3 et seq. (count 5). Before the court is Guardian Angel's motion for summary judgment on all counts. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.[1]

         BACKGROUND[2]

         Guardian Angel employs nurses to conduct home visits with patients. Cory Morgan is a registered nurse who worked for Guardian Angel. She had numerous duties, including, among others, rendering treatment to patients, reconciling medication with patients, documenting patient information in medical records, and coordinating with office staff, physicians, and patients' family members. Morgan began working for Guardian Angel in October 2010. At that time, she was paid a flat rate per patient visit, and the rate would vary depending on the type of patient visit (i.e., start of care visit, discharge visit, etc.). On January 5, 2011, Morgan signed an offer letter (January 2011 offer letter) to begin working as a full-time registered nurse on January 31, 2011. She would receive a salary of $71, 000 and would earn additional compensation in the form of a flat rate for each patient visit performed in excess of 31 visits per week (excess visit). Again, the flat rate varied depending on the categorization of the visit (e.g., a regular visit would pay $50, while a discharge visit would pay $55).

         Morgan recorded each patient visit in a system called Homecare Homebase. She accessed this online system using a tablet provided by Guardian Angel; there were sometimes technological problems that required pausing the program as well as Wi-Fi connectivity issues. Homecare Homebase records do not show any excess visits between January 31, 2011, and September 28, 2012. Morgan, however, also documented patient visits for 2011 and 2012 in personal planners, and she recorded excess visits the week of March 21-27, 2011, and September 12-18, 2011. She was not paid for any excess visits on the paychecks corresponding to those dates.

         In July 2012, Guardian Angel informed Morgan that she had been overpaid in the amount of $9, 775. According to Guardian Angel, it had been paying additional compensation for visits in excess of 30 per bi-weekly pay period as opposed to per week as stated in the January 2011 offer letter. Guardian Angel prepared a spreadsheet explaining the miscalculation. The spreadsheet also showed that Morgan completed 13 excess visits between March and May 2012 (in contrast to the Homecare Homebase records). Guardian Angel and Morgan signed an agreement to deduct 15% from each paycheck until the overpayment was recouped.

         Morgan returned to a flat rate pay basis on September 28, 2012. On November 8 of that year, she was presented with another offer letter (November 2012 offer letter) for a full-time position with a salary of $71, 000 plus $40 for each patient visit over 100 in two bi-weekly pay periods. During her time working under the November 2012 offer letter, Morgan never conducted more than 100 visits in two bi-weekly pay periods. On May 21, 2013, Morgan began working on a part-time per diem basis. She resigned from Guardian Angel on August 2, 2013.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment obviates the need for a trial where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). 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 v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). To determine whether a genuine fact issue exists, the court must pierce the pleadings and assess the proof as presented in depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits that are part of the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In doing so, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). The court may not weigh conflicting evidence or make credibility determinations. Omnicare, 629 F.3d at 704.

         The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of proving there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In response, the non-moving party cannot rest on bare pleadings alone but must designate specific material facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324; Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 598 (7th Cir. 2000). If a claim or defense is factually unsupported, it should be disposed of on summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Violation of the FLSA (count 1)

         Morgan alleges that Guardian Angel violated the FLSA by failing to provide her overtime pay. Guardian Angel counters that Morgan was exempt from the FLSA. “Under the FLSA, employees are entitled to overtime pay for any hours worked over forty hours per week, unless they fall within a certain exemption set forth by the FLSA.” Blanchar v. Standard Ins. Co., 736 F.3d 753, 756 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing 29 U.S.C. §§ 207, 213.). “One such exemption includes employees who are employed in a ‘bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity.'” Id. (citing 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1)). “Congress delegated to the Secretary of Labor the authority to define the scope of this section and the exemptions.”[3] Piscione v. Ernst & Young, L.L.P., 171 F.3d 527, 533 (7th Cir. 1999), overruled on other grounds by Hill v. Tangherlini, 724 F.3d 965 (7th Cir. 2013). “The burden is on the employer to establish that an employee is covered by a FLSA exemption.” Blanchar, 736 F.3d at 756. “Because the FLSA is a remedial act, exemptions from its coverage are narrowly construed against employers.” Johnson v. Hix Wrecker Serv., Inc., 651 F.3d 658, 660 (7th Cir. 2011).

         For purposes here, the professional employee exemption applies to employees

(1) Compensated on a salary or fee basis at a rate of not less than $455 per week . . . exclusive of board, lodging, ...

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