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Goldsmid v. Lee Rain, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 6, 2014

CRAIG J. GOLDSMID, Plaintiff,
v.
LEE RAIN, INC., and LINO FIOCCHI, III Defendants.

ATTORNEYS HARTMAN, CHARTERED, Katherine D. Hartman, Esq., Michael C. Mormando, Esq., Moorestown, New Jersey, Counsel for Plaintiff.

GRUCCIO, PEPPER, DE SANTO & RUTH, P.A., John R. Dominy, Esq., Vineland, New Jersey, Counsel for Defendants.

OPINION

JOSEPH E. IRENAS, Senior District Judge.

This suit concerns alleged violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. ยงยง 201-219 ("FLSA"), and related state-law claims. Pending before this Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.[1] For the reasons set forth below, this Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I.

The events giving rise to this lawsuit stem from Plaintiff Craig Goldsmid's ("Goldsmid") employment at Defendant Lee Rain, Inc., an irrigation business in Vineland, New Jersey owned by Defendant Lino Fiocchi ("Fiocchi") and his brother, Todd Fiocchi. (Lino Fiocchi Dep., Jan. 17, 2013, at 10:1-24) Goldsmid joined Lee Rain, Inc. on January 30, 2007, and worked there in multiple roles until his termination on June 20, 2011. (Id. at 73:13, 109:4)

When he was first hired, Goldsmid began working at the front counter, where he primarily waited on customers. (Fiocchi Dep. at 73:22-24; Craig Goldsmid Dep., Jan. 15, 2013, at 24:21-25:9) At the counter, Goldsmid was paid twelve dollars per hour and generally worked forty hours per week. After thirty days, he received a raise to twelve dollars and fifty cents per hour, and sometime in 2009, his hourly wage increased to thirteen dollars. (Fiocchi Dep. at 74:14-75:4; Goldsmid Dep. at 25-26)

Goldsmid worked in other capacities while employed at Lee Rain. For a brief period he worked in the field, but sometime in 2009 Goldsmid moved into the warehouse, where he remained until his termination. (Fiocchi Dep. at 78:21-79:2; Goldsmid Dep. at 28:18-22) As an hourly warehouse employee, Goldsmid was expected to work a forty-hour week, with an overtime hourly wage equal to one and a half times his normal wage whenever his work exceeded forty hours. (Fiocchi Dep. at 80:22)

In early 2010, Fiocchi prepared a set of Standard Operating Procedures ("SOPs") for the warehouse, which were designed to help employees understand the work flow at Lee Rain, and were distributed to Goldsmid and other warehouse employees. (Id. at 35:21) The warehouse SOPs ran a total of five pages and included two job descriptions for warehouse personnel, as well as a bonus policy and a personnel accountability policy. (Lee Rain Inc. SOPs, Feb. 7, 2010; Fiocchi Dep. at 38:14-16)

In March 2010, while working in the warehouse, Goldsmid moved from an hourly wage to a fixed salary. (Fiocchi Dep. at 81:12) In deposition testimony, Fiocchi indicated that the move was intended to provide consistent pay throughout the year for employees during the slow winter months when hourly work might be scarce. (Id. at 81:13-21) Once on salary, Goldsmid worked forty-five hours per week, but was not paid any overtime for any hours in excess of forty five. (Id. at 83:25-84:9) Fiocchi constructed Goldsmid's salary by multiplying Goldsmid's thirteen dollar hourly wage by forty hours, and then adding an additional five hours multiplied by an hourly wage of nineteen dollars and fifty cents; in other words, forty hours at the standard wage, plus five hours at a standard overtime wage. (Id. at 84:1-9) Though the sum came out to a weekly wage of $617.50, Goldsmid actually received $615 per week as salary. (Goldsmid Dep. at 31:14; Fiocchi Dep. at 84:1-9)

In February 2011, David Lachowitz, Goldsmid's accountant, approached Goldsmid regarding his wages. (Goldsmid Dep. at 32:12-19) After Goldsmid explained his transition to salary, Lachowitz gave Goldsmid a fact sheet from the federal Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division that explained how the Fair Labor Standards Act mandated overtime pay for workweeks in excess of forty hours. (Id. at 33:8-9)

Shortly after becoming aware of the federal overtime pay requirements, Goldsmid began sharing that information with others at Lee Rain, Inc. (Goldsmid Dep. at 33:17; Deborah Martine Dep., March 18, 2013, at 22:11-13) In particular, Goldsmid brought a copy of the paper to his direct supervisor in the warehouse, Debbie Martine. (Martine Dep. at 20:21-21:7) Though Martine did not read the fact sheet at the time, she testified that she knew the fact sheet raised issues with employee wages at Lee Rain. (Id. at 27:7-9)

Not long after handing the fact sheet to Martine, Fiocchi approached Goldsmid after he noticed that Goldsmid's attitude around the warehouse changed. (Fiocchi Dep. at 141:1-7) In a conversation in March 2011, Goldsmid told Fiocchi that he felt as though his wages had declined since the switch from an hourly wage to a fixed salary. (Fiocchi Dep. at 141:11-14; Goldsmid Dep. at 42-43) Fiocchi assured Goldsmid that was not his intention, and the two met a few days later to discuss how Fiocchi constructed Goldsmid's salary. (Fiocchi Dep. at 142:1-14; Goldsmid Dep. at 42-43) In his deposition testimony, Goldsmid conceded he did not explicitly tell Fiocchi of his overtime wage concerns, although he did explain that he was working more hours than he had previously. (Goldsmid Dep. at 41:21-42:1)

Between March and June 2011, Goldsmid continued work at Lee Rain, and was never disciplined or spoken to again regarding his wage concerns. (Goldsmid Dep. at 46:9-15) Fiocchi maintains that Goldsmid was "disruptive" and a poor performer as an employee, culminating in the weeks leading up to his firing. (Fiocchi Dep. at 115:21, 102:12-24) Just two to three weeks before Goldsmid's last day, Fiocchi explained that his brother Todd pulled Goldsmid aside early one morning regarding his performance. (Fiocchi Dep. at 103:1-12) In response to the criticism, Goldsmid threw a box across the shop, in full view of Fiocchi, Todd, and Ron Petrowsky, another supervisor. (Fiocchi Dep. at 103:1-24) In his opposition to summary judgment, Goldsmid disputes that the box incident ever occurred and highlights that no witness corroborates Fiocchi's account, but nonetheless Goldsmid was terminated upon his arrival at work on June 20, 2011, just two to three weeks after the incident in the shop. (Fiocchi Dep. at 111:11) As a result of a newspaper advertisement placed a month earlier, two individuals began work in the warehouse on June 21, 2011 to replace Goldsmid, one day after his firing.[2] (Fiocchi Dep. at 110:2-10)

Not long after his termination, Goldsmid contacted the State of New Jersey and the federal government to file a complaint regarding his wages. (Goldsmid Dep. at 41:22-23) The state initiated an investigation, and after obtaining records and speaking with Fiocchi, the New Jersey Department of Labor ("NJDOL") determined that Lee Rain, Inc. failed to pay Goldsmid overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act. (NJDOL Settlement, May 3, 2012) Based on an agreement between Lee Rain and the NJDOL, Goldsmid accepted the overdue wages. (Goldsmid Dep. at 49:16-50:12)

On June 18, 2012, Goldsmid filed his Complaint in this Court, alleging violations of FLSA and New Jersey state-law claims. Count One alleges that the Defendants' pay practices violated FLSA, and Count Two alleges that Goldsmid's termination violated FLSA's retaliation provision. Count Three alleges a violation of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act ("CEPA"), N.J.S.A. 34:19-1-14, for retaliation. Count Four ...


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