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Muan v. Vitug

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

April 11, 2014

NELSON MUAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NORA and BENEDICT VITUG, individually and together dba NORBEL'S RCH, Defendants.

FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

PAUL S. GREWAL, Magistrate Judge.

From February 10-12, 2014, the undersigned presided over a bench trial in this wage and hour case. The parties presented testimony from five witnesses, all of whom painted a fairly consistent picture of life at Norbel's Residential Care Home between 2009-2011. Norbel's was home to seven mentally disabled individuals, all of whom were free to come and go throughout the day. However, because the care home provided "full-services, " an employee was required to be at the care home 24 hours a day. Because there were no other employees besides Plaintiff Nelson Muan ("Nelson")[1] and his wife, Divinia Muan ("Divinia"), one of the two of them stayed on the premises for the vast majority of the time in question.

The parties' fundamental dispute is over the legal ramification of these facts. Norbel's owners, Nora and Benedict Vitug, contend that the Muans "resided" on the property and had agreed to an arrangement under which the Vitugs were only required to pay Nelson for eight hours of work each day. Nelson, however, contends that he did not reside on premises and did not agree to any such arrangement; he simply worked there without being allowed to leave, and therefore is entitled to payment for every hour he was at Norbel's, including the time during which he was asleep.

I. FINDINGS OF FACT

The court heard testimony from Nelson, Divinia, Zenaida ("Zennie") Sanchez, Defendant Nora Vitug ("Nora"), and Defendant Benedict Vitug ("Benedict"). Each witness came across as generally credible, a perception reinforced by the fact that the witnesses' testimony was more or less consistent. As to who did what when and where, the parties were more or less in agreement. They testified to different understandings of legal obligations, but as to daily life at Norbel's, each witnesses' testimony substantiated the others'. Against this backdrop, the court makes the following specific findings of fact:

• Between January 2009 and June 2011, Nelson was generally required to be at the care home, ready and able to address residents' needs, at the following times:[2]
• Monday: 7:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m; 9:00 p.m.-11:59 p.m.
• Tuesday: 12:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.; 9:00 p.m.-11:59 p.m.
• Wednesday: 12:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.; 9:00 p.m.-11:59 p.m.
• Thursday: 12:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.; 9:00 p.m.-11:59 p.m.
• Friday: 12:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.; 9:00 p.m.-11:59 p.m.
• Saturday: 12:00 a.m.-7:00 a.m.; 5:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.
• Sunday: 7:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m.
• Between June and November 2011, Nelson was generally required to be at the care home, ready and able to address residents' needs, at the following times:[3]
• Monday: 12:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.; 7:00 p.m.-11:59 p.m.
• Tuesday: 12:00 a.m.-7:00 a.m.
• Wednesday: 7:00 p.m.-11:59 p.m.
• Thursday: 12:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.; 7:00 p.m.-11:59 p.m.
• Friday: 12:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.; 7:00 p.m.-11:59 p.m.
• Saturday: 12:00 a.m.-7:00 a.m.; 5:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.
• Sunday: 7:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m.
• The schedules above represent the "normal" routine at Norbel's; although there may have been slight variances on given days or weeks, records of these variances are not before the court.
• When on duty at Norbel's, Nelson was responsible for the care and maintenance of seven mentally disabled adults and one large communal house. His duties included:[4]
• cooking breakfast for the residents;
• serving breakfast to the residents;
• washing the dishes from breakfast;
• cleaning up the kitchen, including any additional dishes, after breakfast;
• providing morning medication as required by the residents;
• washing residents' clothes;
• washing residents' bed linens;
• washing residents' towels and bath linens;
• preparing morning snack each day for ...

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