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Smith v. Haynes & Haynes Pc

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

July 10, 2015

HAYNES & HAYNES PC, et al., Defendants.


R. DAVID PROCTOR, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment[1] (Doc. # 20). The motion has been fully briefed. (Docs. # 21, 28, 35, and 36). For the following reasons, the court concludes Defendants' motion is due to be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Relevant Undisputed Facts

Plaintiff Jenny Connell Smith, a legal assistant/paralegal, worked for[2] Defendants from approximately December 2000 through April 2009, and again from July 2011 through December 2012. (Doc. # 14, ¶¶ 22, 27, and 28). Plaintiff alleges that she was misclassified as a contract employee and was improperly paid during the second occasion she worked for Defendants. (Doc. # 14, ¶¶ 56, 71-73). Plaintiff further alleges, among other things, that during the "second occasion" she worked for Defendants, she worked in excess of forty (40) hours in various weeks and was not paid overtime in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). (Doc. # 14, ¶ 65).

On April 14, 2011, prior to her second period working with Defendants, Plaintiff filed a Voluntary Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Petition with the United States Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division. (Docs. # 13, 29-3). The Petition was signed under penalty of perjury. (Doc. # 13 at 3). At the time she filed the Petition, Plaintiff worked for the law firm of Cochran & Associates, earning $3, 750.00 per month. (Doc. # 13).

Shortly after filing the Petition, Plaintiff returned to work with Defendants. She planned to perform paralegal work not only for Defendants, but also for other attorneys in the Birmingham area. (Doc. # 13). Her bankruptcy case remained open throughout the entirety of her second stint of work with Defendants. Nevertheless, at no time did Plaintiff amend her Bankruptcy Petition or schedules. (Doc. # 29-3). Item 21 on Schedule B to Plaintiff's Bankruptcy Petition required Plaintiff to disclose "Other contingent and unliquidated claims of every nature...." Plaintiff did not identify any contingent or unliquidated claims in her bankruptcy schedules. (Doc. # 13 at 26).

Plaintiff's bankruptcy plan was confirmed on August 24, 2011. (Docs. # 13 at 61-62, 29-3). During the pendency of Plaintiff's Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, she was not obligated to make any payments on over $63, 000.00 in student loans which were guaranteed by the United States Department of Education. (Doc. 13 at 64-66). On January 30, 2013, Plaintiff's bankruptcy case was dismissed due to her non-compliance. (Doc. 13 at 67-69).

On July 11, 2014, Plaintiff filed the current action. (Doc. # 1). In her original Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that she complained, both during the second stint in which she worked with Defendants and after, that she was misclassified and not being paid the overtime to which she was entitled. (Doc. # 1, ¶21).

On August 6, 2014, Plaintiff's original counsel withdrew and new counsel appeared. (Docs. # 6, 8, and 11). On August 11, 2014, the court conducted a status conference. At that status conference, Defendants' counsel informed the court that they planned to filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue of judicial estoppel based on Plaintiff's failure to disclose her potential overtime claim in her bankruptcy proceeding.

On August 27, 2014, Defendants filed their motion raising the judicial estoppel argument. (Doc. # 12). Approximately ten (10) hours after Defendants filed their motion, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint which omitted the allegation made in Plaintiff's original Complaint that Plaintiff had complained to Defendants, both during and after the second occasion she worked with Defendants, about their failure to pay her overtime. (Doc. # 14).

On October 17, 2014, in opposition to Defendants' motion, Plaintiff submitted an affidavit stating, "During the entire time I worked for Haynes & Haynes, I was not aware I was entitled to overtime pay for hours worked over 40 per week." (Doc. # 29-3).

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party asking for summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings or filings which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once the moving party has met its burden, the Rule requires the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings and - by pointing to affidavits, or depositions, answers to interrogatories, and/or admissions on file - designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See id. at 324.

The substantive law will identify which facts are material and which are irrelevant. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). All reasonable doubts about the facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved in favor of the non-movant. See Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993). A dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at ...

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