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Butler v. Homeservices Lending LLC

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

November 27, 2013

KELLY BUTLER, Plaintiff,

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS IN LIMINE [Docs. 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83]

M. JAMES LORENZ, District Judge.

This matter is set for trial on December 3, 2013. In preparation for trial, Plaintiff Kelly Butler has filed motions in limine that have been fully briefed. The Court finds these motions suitable for determination on the papers submitted and without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1).


Plaintiff Kelly Butler was employed as a "Home Mortgage Assistant" (HMA) by Defendants Homeservices Lending LLC ("HSL") and Doherty Employment Group, Inc. from approximately January 2008 to August 2010.[2] (JSUF ¶ 61.) As an HMA, Plaintiff was responsible for processing loans for Home Mortgage Consultants ("HMC") and assisting HMCs with the administration of their mortgage files. ( Id. ¶ 70.) Throughout her employment with Defendants, Plaintiff was in communication with HSL's branch manager and area administrator via phone, email, and text messages before and after work hours. ( Id. ¶ 65.) However, neither the branch manager nor the area administrator reviewed the actual timecards that HMAs were required to fill out. ( Id. ¶ 88, 90.)

HSL's overtime policy required that employees obtain pre-approval for overtime work and, stated that even if employees failed to obtain pre-approval, they would still be paid for all overtime hours worked and recorded. (JSUF ¶ 2-3.) The policy also states that "[f]ull time employees are generally expected to work 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. unless agreed to otherwise by management." ( Id. ¶ 91.) Various handout materials also instructed HSL's employees to accurately enter all time worked on the online time-keeping system. ( Id. ¶ 4-5.) Plaintiff learned of this overtime policy a couple weeks after she started working at HSL and she understood that it required her to report all hours she worked. ( Id. ¶ 7, 10-11.)

After inputting her "actual" work hours in the time-keeping system early on during her time with HSL, which included substantial overtime hours that she did not get pre-approval for, Plaintiff received an email explaining that she should obtain pre-approval for overtime hours in the future. (JSUF ¶ 12-13, 80-81.) Despite this email, Plaintiff never asked for permission to work overtime or for clarification of HSL's overtime policy. ( Id. ¶ 14.) Rather, Plaintiff interpreted the email to mean that recording overtime was never permitted and she did not want to jeopardize her job by requesting overtime. ( Id. ¶ 15-17.) After receiving the email, Plaintiff only reported working from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. without a lunch, even though she alleges that she was working an average of 28 hours of overtime per week. ( Id. ¶ 83, 95.) On August 13, 2010 Plaintiff voluntarily resigned from her position with HSL. ( Id. ¶ 57.)

On June 7, 2011, Plaintiff filed this action for damages, restitution, and injunctive relief against Defendants under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and California state law provisions.[3] Pursuant to an order granting the parties' joint motion to dismiss filed on November 4, 2013, the only remaining claim for relief at issue at trial is Plaintiff's claim under the FLSA against Defendant HSL. (Docs. 92, 95.)

II. Plaintiff's Motions in Limine:

A. To Exclude Argument Regarding the Application of the Seever Standard of Proof

Plaintiff requests an order prohibiting Defendant from making arguments regarding evidence of unpaid overtime hours worked based on the standard from Seever v. Carrols Corp., 528 F.Supp.2d 159 (W.D. N.Y. 2007) (setting forth a "specificity" standard of proof). (Pl.'s Mot. 1:24-26.) Plaintiff argues that the Seever standard is irrelevant because, in the Court's order denying the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment ( see Doc. 57.), this Court established that the "law of the case" is set forth in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680 (1946) (articulating a "just and reasonable inference" standard). In light of this, Plaintiff argues that Defendant must be "excluded from arguing that Plaintiff has no diaries, calendars, or other written documents memorializing unpaid overtime worked." (Pl.'s Mot. 2:17-20.) Plaintiff's argument is unpersuasive. In denying the motions for summary judgment, this Court made no rulings as to the applicable standard of proof in this case. Moreover, the Court's order neither mentions Seever nor compares the applicability of the two standards. Finally, Plaintiffs fail to explain how the Court could craft an order to prevent Defendant from arguing under a certain standard. Noticeably lacking from Plaintiff's motion is any cogent explanation as to what evidence would need to be ordered excluded.

Plaintiff's argument under Fed. R. Evid.403 fails for the same reasons. At this time, the Court has not determined which standard applies. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion to exclude arguments regarding the applicability of the Seever standard.

B. To Exclude Evidence on Defendant's Equitable Affirmative Defenses of Estoppel, Waiver, Unclean Hands, and Laches

Plaintiff seeks to exclude argument, testimony, and evidence relating to Defendant's affirmative defenses of estoppel, waiver, unclean hands, and laches.[4] Specifically, Plaintiff argues that these equitable defenses are not appropriate defenses to FLSA claims. (Pl.'s Mot. 2:16-25.)[5] This argument, however, is inappropriate for a motion in limine. As Defendant argues, motions in limine are not intended to serve as a substitute for summary judgment motions. (Opp'n 4:4-15.) Motions in limine are limited to rulings on the admissibility of evidence, not for obtaining judgment rulings. Engman v. City of Ontario, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66128, *24 ...

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