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Sanchez v. Plaza Azteca Sicklerville, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 20, 2017

YANITZEN SANCHEZ Plaintiff,
v.
PLAZA AZTECA SICKLERVILLE, INC., RUBEN LEON, MARIANBELI SAEZ, JOHN DOES 1-3, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          JOSEPH H. RODRIGUEZ, USDJ.

         Hon. Joseph H. Rodriguez This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment. Oral argument was held on May 2, 2017 and the record of that proceeding is incorporated in the Court's decision. For the reasons discussed on the record, and those provided below, the Defendants' motion will be denied.

         Background

         Plaintiff Yanitzen Sanchez filed the Complaint in this matter against her former employer alleging violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201, (“FLSA”), (Count I) and the New Jersey Wage & Hour Law, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 34:11-56a, (“NJWHL”), (Count II). Plaintiff also asserted a common law claim for unjust enrichment, breach of contract, and violation of good faith and fair dealing (Count III). Defendants Plaza Azteca Sicklerville, Inc., its President Ruben Leon, and Vice President of Operations Mariangeli Saez seek summary judgment on Counts I and II and a declaration that Plaintiff's termination was not a breach of contract or other duties as stated in Count III.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         “Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue of material fact and if, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Pearson v. Component Tech. Corp., 247 F.3d 471, 482 n.1 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)); accord Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (a). Thus, the Court will enter summary judgment in favor of a movant who shows that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and supports the showing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . . admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c)(1)(A).

         An issue is “genuine” if 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 determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. 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. Id.; Maidenbaum v. Bally's Park Place, Inc., 870 F.Supp. 1254, 1258 (D.N.J. 1994). 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. “A nonmoving party may not ‘rest upon mere allegations, general denials or . . . vague statements . . . .'” Trap Rock Indus., Inc. v. Local 825, Int'l Union of Operating Eng'rs, 982 F.2d 884, 890 (3d Cir. 1992) (quoting Quiroga v. Hasbro, Inc., 934 F.2d 497, 500 (3d Cir. 1991)). Indeed,

the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.

Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. That is, the movant can support the assertion that a fact cannot be genuinely disputed by showing that “an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the [alleged dispute of] fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B); accord Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2).

         In deciding the merits of a party's motion for summary judgment, the court's role is not to evaluate the evidence and decide the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Credibility determinations are the province of the factfinder. Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).

         Discussion

         Plaintiff was hired as a chef for Defendants' restaurant in January of 2015 with a promised salary of $80, 000 and her employment was terminated in January of 2016. She argues that Defendants failed to pay her the full amount of wages due and failed to pay her overtime compensation to which she was entitled. She also argues that her termination without cause was in breach of contract and the duty of good faith and fair dealing and unjustly enriched Defendants. Defendants argue that as a salaried executive whose primary duties were managerial, Plaintiff was exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA and NJWHL.

         The parties entered into an employment contract signed on February 18, 2015. (Saez Cert., Ex. A.) The contract describes Plaintiff's responsibilities as those of “the kitchen equivalent of a CEO, ” “responsible for all ...


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