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Carter v. Golden Gate Freightliner Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 8, 2019

STEPHEN CARTER, Plaintiff,
v.
GOLDEN GATE FREIGHTLINER INC, Defendant.

          ORDER RE: DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT RE: DKT. NO. 24

          JACQUELINE SCOTT CORLEY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Stephen Carter sued his former employer Golden Gate Freightliner, Inc. in California state court, alleging wage and hour violations under California state law and violation of the Fair Labor and Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. (Dkt. No. 1, Ex. A at 9.)[1] Defendant timely removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1446(b). (Dkt. No. 1 at 2.) Now before the Court is Defendant's motion for partial summary judgment.[2] (Dkt. No. 24.) After careful consideration of the parties' briefing and having had the benefit of oral argument on November 7, 2019, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendant's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Factual Background

         The following facts are not in dispute. Plaintiff worked for Defendant as a service writer from February 1997 until his termination on September 18, 2017. (Dkt. No. 24-3 at ¶ 2; see also Dkt. No. 25-2 at ¶ 2.) Plaintiff's “primary duties were to provide customer service, tracking vehicle repairs, data entry, and other clerical work.” (Dkt. No. 1, Ex. A at 11 ¶ 8.) Prior to his termination, Plaintiff was paid every two weeks as a nonexempt hourly employee. (Dkt. No. 24-7 at ¶¶ 5-6; see also Dkt. No. 25-1, Ex. C at 27 (letter to California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (“LWDA”) asserting that Defendant converted Plaintiff's employment status to nonexempt “[i]n approximately 2015 or 2016”).) “Plaintiff and other aggrieved employees frequently worked in excess of eight hours in a workday and forty hours in a workweek.” (Dkt. No. 1, Ex. A at 11 ¶ 9.)

         Plaintiff received his final paychecks on September 18, 2017 for wages earned through that date and unused vacation for 2016 and 2017. (Dkt. No. 24-7 at ¶ 2; see also Dkt. No. 24-6, Ex. 4 at 1.) At the time of his termination, “the normal pay date for the last pay period in which [Plaintiff] worked” was September 27, 2017. (Dkt. No. 24-7 at ¶ 6.) Plaintiff endorsed and cashed his final paychecks and the funds cleared Defendant's bank account on September 19, 2017. (Dkt. Nos. 27-7 at ¶ 7 & 24-8, Ex. 6 at 3, 5.) Plaintiff received no other payments from Defendant after September 18, 2017. (Dkt. No. 24-7 at ¶ 8; see also Dkt. No. 25-2 at ¶ 3.) Plaintiff's counsel requested and received Plaintiff's itemized wage statements for his final paychecks in the summer of 2018, in connection with this litigation. (Dkt. No. 25-1 at ¶¶ 5-6; see also Dkt. No. 25-2, Ex. A.)

         II. Procedural History

         On November 30, 2018, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant in the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda, asserting the following claims: (1) failure to pay overtime in violation of California Labor Code (“Labor Code”) § 510; (2) failure to pay overtime in violation of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 207; (3) failure to timely pay wages in violation of Labor Code § 204; (4) failure to furnish complete and accurate itemized wage statements in violation of Labor Code §§ 226(a), 226.3; (5) failure to pay all wages upon termination in violation of Labor Code §§ 201, 202; (6) violation of California's unfair competition law (“UCL”), Business & Professions Code §§ 17200 et seq. (Dkt. No. 1, Ex. A.) Counts I, III, and IV are brought pursuant to California's Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”), Labor Code §§ 2698 et seq.[3]

         Defendant removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1446(b). (Dkt. No. 1 at 2.) Defendant filed the instant motion for partial summary judgment on September 25, 2019. (Dkt. No. 24.) The motion is fully briefed, (see Dkt. Nos. 25 & 26), and the Court heard oral argument on November 7, 2019.

         DISCUSSION

         On summary judgment, the movant must demonstrate “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). If the movant meets its initial responsibility of demonstrating through evidence the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact, the burden shifts to the opposing party to produce evidence in rebuttal that such a dispute actually exists. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). “In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, [t]he evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Tolan v. Cotton, 572 U.S. 650, 651 (2014) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Defendant moves for summary judgment on Plaintiff's PAGA claims for failure to pay overtime (Count I), failure to pay timely wages (Count III), and failure to provide accurate wage statements (Count IV). Defendant also moves for summary judgment on Plaintiff's UCL claim (Count VI) to the extent it seeks to recover penalties. The Court addresses each claim in turn.

         I. PAGA Claims

         The PAGA “empowers employees to sue on behalf of themselves and other aggrieved employees to recover civil penalties previously recoverable only by the [California] Labor Commissioner.” ZB, N.A. v. Super. Ct., 8 Cal. 5th 175, 184-85 (2019). As the California Supreme Court has explained:

All PAGA claims are “representative” actions in the sense that they are brought on the state's behalf. The employee acts as “the proxy or agent of the state's labor law enforcement agencies” and “represents the same legal right and interest as” those agencies - “namely, recovery of civil penalties that otherwise would have been assessed and collected by the Labor Workforce Development Agency.” The employee may therefore seek any civil penalties the state can, including penalties for violations involving employees other than the PAGA litigant [him]self.

Id. at 185. The civil penalties recoverable under the PAGA are for a fixed amount do not include the amount of unpaid wages. Id. at 193 (holding that “unpaid wages are not recoverable as civil penalties under the PAGA”).

         A. Count I

         Plaintiff's claim under Count I alleges a failure to pay overtime wages in violation of Labor Code § 510 and seeks relief under Labor Code § 558 pursuant to the PAGA. (Dkt. No. 1, Ex. A at 15 ¶¶ 23-27.) Defendant moves for summary judgment on Count I because: (1) the claim seeks a form of relief unavailable under the PAGA; and (2) the claim is barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

         1. Plaintiff Cannot Recover ...


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