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Antiskay v. Contemporary Graphics and Bindery Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 26, 2013

STANLEY J. ANTISKAY, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CONTEMPORARY GRAPHICS AND BINDERY INC., d/b/a CONTEMPORARY GRAPHICS, Defendant.

Thaddeus P. Mikulski, Jr., Esquire Law Offices of Thaddeus P. Mikulski, Jr., Hamilton, New Jersey, Attorney for Plaintiff Stanley J. Antiskay, Jr.

Peter L. Frattarelli, Esquire Archer & Greiner. P.C., Haddonfield, New Jersey, Attorney for Defendant Contemporary Graphics and Bindery, Inc.

OPINION

NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court by way of Defendant Contemporary Graphics and Bindery Inc.'s motion [Doc. No. 17] for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions and decides this matter pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78.

For the reasons expressed below, Defendant's motion will be granted.

I. JURISDICTION

Plaintiff brings this action against Defendant Contemporary Graphics and Bindery Inc. ("Defendant" or "Contemporary Graphics") asserting claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act ("CEPA"), N.J. STAT. ANN. § 34:19-1, et seq. The Court exercises original jurisdiction over Plaintiff's federal claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and supplemental jurisdiction over his state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a former employee of Contemporary Graphics where he began working in November of 2007. (Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Doc. No. 17-6] (hereinafter, "Def.'s SOF"), ¶ 6; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s SOF [Doc. No. 20-4] (hereinafter, "Pl.'s Resp. SOF"), ¶ 6.) Contemporary Graphics is "in the printing and fulfillment industry" and serves as "a one-stop, total in-house facility capable of providing: design, printing, finishing, die-cutting, warehousing, fulfilment and mailing needs to its clients." (Def.'s SOF ¶ 1; Pl.'s Resp. SOF ¶ 1.) Plaintiff was employed in the position of "Production Planner/Customer Service" (hereinafter, "Production Planner") at Contemporary Graphics until approximately July 13, 2011. (Def.'s SOF ¶¶ 7, 13; Pl.'s Resp. SOF ¶ 7, 13.)

Approximately five months after his employment at Contemporary Graphics ended, [1] Plaintiff filed the complaint in this action alleging that Contemporary Graphics owed Plaintiff back wages for violations of the FLSA. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant's failed to pay Plaintiff overtime compensation at the rate of one and one half his hourly rate for time worked over forty (40) hours per week. (Compl. [Doc. No. 1] ¶¶ 1, 4, 8, 10.) Plaintiff asserts in the complaint that he is a "non-exempt hourly employee" within the meaning of the FLSA and was entitled to such overtime compensation, and that Defendant violated the FLSA by failing to pay him accordingly during the three and a half years he was employed at Contemporary Graphics. ( Id. ¶¶ 9-14.) Thus, Count One of Plaintiff's complaint asserts a claim for violations of the FLSA. ( Id. ¶¶ 15-23.)

Plaintiff's complaint also alleges that he was constructively discharged in violation of New Jersey's Conscientious Employee Protection Act as a result of his repeated complaints to management about Defendant's failure to pay overtime compensation. ( Id. ¶ 25-30.) Plaintiff contends that after such complaints Defendant retaliated against Plaintiff by requiring him to work even more overtime hours, at an increasing rate from 2008 to 2011, without the required compensation. ( Id. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff asserts that this increased overtime workload began having adverse effects on his health, and by July 13, 2011, "his working conditions became so intolerable and so detrimental to his health that [Plaintiff] was forced to resign rather than continue to endure the adverse working conditions[.]" ( Id. ¶ 29.) Thus, Plaintiff asserts he was constructively discharged in violation of CEPA because his complaints to management lead to adverse working conditions and his forced resignation. ( Id. ¶¶ 27, 30.)

III. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

In the present motion, Contemporary Graphics seeks the entry of summary judgment in its favor on all of Plaintiff's claims. Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that "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 a judgment as a matter of law.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56).

An issue is "genuine" if it is supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id . "In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the nonmoving party's evidence is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.'" Marino v. Indus. Crating Co. , 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing Anderson , 477 U.S. at 255).

Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex , 477 U.S. at 323 ("[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." (citation omitted); see also Singletary v. Pa. Dept. of Corr. , 266 F.3d 186, 192 n.2 (3d Cir. 2001) ("Although the initial burden is on the summary judgment movant to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the burden on the moving party may be discharged by "showing" - that is, pointing out to the district court - that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case' when the nonmoving party bears the ultimate burden of proof.") (citing Celotex , 477 U.S. at 325).

Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex , 477 U.S. at 324. A "party opposing summary judgment may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the... pleading[s.]" Saldana v. Kmart Corp. , 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001) (internal quotations omitted). For "the non-moving party[] to prevail, [that party] must make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every] element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'" Cooper v. Sniezek , 418 F.Appx. 56, 58 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Celotex , 477 U.S. at 322). Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 256-57.

B. The Fair Labor Standards Act & Exemptions from the Act

As the Third Circuit has explained, "[t]he FLSA establishes the general rule that no employer shall employ any of his employees... for a workweek of longer than forty hours unless such employee receives compensation... at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed.'" Sander v. Light Action, Inc., 525 F.Appx. 147, 150 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1)). Despite this general rule, "certain employees are exempted from [the FLSA's overtime] requirement, including individuals who are employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity.'" Sander, 525 F.Appx. at 150 (citing 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1)).

The FLSA grants authority to the Secretary of Labor to define these exemptions by way of regulation, including the exemption for administrative employees. 29 U.S.C. § 213(a). At issue in this case is the regulation defining an "employee employed in a bona fide administrative capacity" - the so-called administrative exemption. See 29 C.F.R. § 541.200(a). Section 541.200(a) provides that

[t]he term employee employed in a bona fide administrative capacity'... shall mean any employee:
(1) Compensated on a salary or fee basis at a rate of not less than $455 per week..., exclusive of board, lodging or other facilities;
(2) Whose primary duty is the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer's customers; d and
(3) Whose primary duty includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.

The "burden of proving that a purportedly exempt employee satisfies [these] requirements" lies with the employer. Sander, 525 F.Appx. at 150. Accordingly, "[w]hen the moving party has the burden of proof at trial [such as an employer proving an FLSA exemption], that party must show affirmatively the absence of a genuine issue of material fact: it must show that, on all the essential elements of its case on which it bears the burden of proof at trial, no reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party." In re ...


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