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Rosenberg v. Renal Advantage, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 24, 2014

TANYA ROSENBERG, an individual, on behalf of herself, and all persons similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
RENAL ADVANTAGE, INC., a Delaware Corporation; and DOES 1 through 50, inclusive, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [Dkt. No. 70.]

GONZALO P. CURIEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Tanya Rosenberg ("Plaintiff") brings this putative class and collective action against Defendant Renal Advantage, Inc. ("Defendant" or "RAI") for denial of overtime wages under federal and state wage and hour laws. (Dkt. No. 14 ¶ 1.) Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment on all causes of action asserted in Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. (Dkt. No. 70.) The parties have fully briefed the motion, (Dkt. Nos. 75, 78), and Plaintiff has filed an additional notice of supplemental authority. (Dkt. No. 79.) The Court finds the matter suitable for resolution without oral argument pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7.1(d)(1). Based on a review of the briefs, supporting evidence, and the applicable law, the Court GRANTS Defendant RAI's motion for summary judgment.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On August 13, 2011, Plaintiff filed the present action before the County of San Diego Superior Court. (Dkt. No. 1-1.) On September 15, 2011, Defendant removed the action to federal court. (Dkt. No. 1.) On November 15, 2011, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Class and Collective Action Complaint, the current operative complaint. (Dkt. No. 14.) On October 12, 2012, the case was transferred to the undersigned Judge. (Dkt. No. 41.) On November 2, 2012, Plaintiff filed a motion to certify the class. (Dkt. No. 42). On June 24, 2013, this Court denied Plaintiff's motion to certify a class pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23. (Dkt. No. 66.) Defendant now moves for summary judgment on all causes of action asserted against RAI in the First Amended Complaint. (Dkt. No. 70.) In addition, Defendant has filed a related request for judicial notice. (Dkt. No. 70-3.)

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Renal Advantage Inc. operates approximately 50 clinics across the state of California, "providing dialysis services to patients with end-stage renal (kidney) disease." (Dkt. No. 70-4, Palmer Decl. ¶ 4.) Specifically, RAI clinics offer the following services: (1) in-center hemodialysis; (2) training and support for home peritoneal dialysis and home hemodialysis; (3) initial and ongoing patient education regarding the management and treatment options for end-stage renal disease; and (4) social services and dietary evaluation and counseling. ( Id. ¶ 4.) It is undisputed that most RAI dialysis patients have other underlying diseases in addition to end-stage renal disease, such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and anemia; RAI clinics thus utilize "interdisciplinary teams" to meet patient needs consisting of a registered nurse, a physician, a social worker, and a registered dietitian. ( Id. ¶ 5; see also Dkt. No. 75-2 at ¶ 4.)

Plaintiff Tanya Rosenberg was employed by Defendant RAI as a Registered Dietitian from October 2005[1] to September 2010 at the El Cajon and Mission Gorge RAI clinics in California. (Dkt. No. 70-4, Palmer Decl. ¶ 20.) It is undisputed that at all times between August 2007 and September 2010, Plaintiff's salary exceeded $455 per week and was at least two times the California minimum wage for full-time employment per month. (Id.)

Plaintiff brings this action on behalf of herself and on behalf of a proposed class of employees made up of "all persons who were employed by Defendant Renal Advantage Inc. as a Registered Dietitian' in California (collectively, the Dietitians'), at any time during the CLASS PERIOD." (Dkt. No. 14, FAC ¶ 2.) Plaintiff alleges she and other RAI Registered Dietitians were misclassified as "exempt" from federal and state wage and hour laws and were thus improperly denied overtime compensation, itemized wage statements, and other benefits. ( Id. ¶¶ 15-16.)

I. RAI Dietitian Qualifications

According to an RAI job description signed by Plaintiff on October 14, 2008, [2] RAI requires all Registered Dietitians employed by the company to possess specific educational and experiential qualifications. (Dkt. No. 70-5, Stern Decl. Ex. E.) In particular, RAI's Registered Dietitians must have: (1) a Bachelors degree in Nutrition/Dietetics; (2) Registered Dietitian status with the American Dietetic Association; (3) a license in the practice of nutrition and dietetics if required by the state; and (4) a minimum of one year of experience in clinical dietetics as a Registered Dietitian. (Id.)

Plaintiff testified that she met each of these requirements: that she obtained a major in food and nutrition at San Diego State University; is a Registered Dietitian with the American Dietetic Association; and worked for the American Red Cross as providing nutrition counseling for over two years. (Dkt. No. 70-5, Stern Decl. Ex. A at 38-43.) Plaintiff further testified that, to become a Registered Dietitian, she completed an internship in dietetics after obtaining her Bachelors degree and passed one exam that took "a few hours" to administer. ( Id. at 40-41.) Plaintiff testified to completing seventy five units of continuing education classes every five years to maintain her Registered Dietitian status. ( Id. at 41.)

II. Dietitian Job Responsibilities

The RAI Registered Dietitian job description signed by Plaintiff identifies seven essential job responsibilities broken down by percentage of time spent on each task. (Dkt. No. 70-5, Stern Decl. Ex. E.) The essential responsibilities are as described: (1) Provides nutrition education and counseling based on individualized patient dietary needs, including the development of educational resources for patients (25%); (2) Monitors nutritional status, laboratory values, dialysis kinetics, adherence and response to dietary and/or nutrition therapy; evaluates outcomes and make modifications; participates in care center process; and documents appropriate information in medical record (25%); (3) Assesses nutritional status of patients and completes a comprehensive assessment, ongoing monitoring note and treatment plan (20%); (4) Develops an individual dietary plan for each patient (15%); (5) Participates in monthly interdisciplinary treatment plan meetings (5%); (6) Responsible for mineral metabolism management; review data and recommend changes to therapy as indicated (5%); (7) Orders and distributes enteral supplements, vitamins and phosphorous binders for Medicaid (where allowed by state regulations) (5%); and (8) to perform other duties as assigned. (Id.) It is undisputed that all full-time RAI Registered Dietitians were classified by RAI as exempt employees under the professional exemption of federal and state wage and hour laws.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 empowers the Court to enter summary judgment on factually unsupported claims or defenses, and thereby "secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 325, 327 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate 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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A fact is material when it affects the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issues of material fact. Celotex Corp. , 477 U.S. at 323. The moving party can satisfy this burden by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element of his or her claim on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 322-23. If the moving party fails to bear the initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co. , 398 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1970).

Once the moving party has satisfied this burden, the nonmoving party cannot rest on the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but must "go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file' designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex , 477 U.S. at 324. If the non-moving party fails to make a sufficient showing of an element of its case, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. at 325. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In making this determination, the court must "view[] the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Fontana v. Haskin , 262 ...


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