United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
JUSTIN CHAPLIN, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
SSA COOPER, LLC, Defendant.
C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on a motion for summary judgment
filed by defendant SSA Cooper, LLC (“SSA
Cooper”). For the reasons set forth below, the court
denies SSA Cooper's motion in full, as it relates to
summary judgment on the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”) and the South Carolina Payment of Wages
Act (“SCPWA”) claims.
Chaplin (“Chaplin”) was formerly employed as a
“stevedore” by SSA Cooper, a stevedoring company
responsible for the loading and unloading of cargo ships at
the Port of Charleston. At the Port of Charleston, the SSA
Cooper stevedores work alongside International
Longshoremen's Association (“ILA”) union
members who are organized in “gangs.” Each
stevedore is responsible for overseeing the work of a loading
gang of fifteen ILA workers, a lashing gang of seven ILA
workers, or a gang of seven ILA truck drivers. SSA Cooper is
bound by the grievance procedure for disciplining union
members set forth in the ILA's collective bargaining
March 5, 2015, Chaplin filed the present action against SSA
Cooper on behalf of himself and “all other similarly
situated individuals” (“plaintiffs”) for
overtime compensation and unpaid wages. Plaintiffs allege
that SSA Cooper violated the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. §§
201, et seq. by failing to pay overtime compensation
as required under the statute, as well as under the SCPWA, SC
Code Ann. §§ 41-10-10, et seq. by failing to pay
“non-discretionary bonuses” as required by SSA
Cooper's employment contracts and employee compensation
October 27, 2016, SSA Cooper filed a motion for summary
judgment on all of plaintiffs' claims, to which
plaintiffs filed a response on December 30, 2016. SSA Cooper
filed a reply on January 13, 2017. The court held a hearing
on February 1, 2017. The motion has been fully briefed and is
now ripe for the court's review.
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows 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). “Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure requires that the district court enter
judgment against a party who, ‘after adequate time for
discovery . . . 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.'” Stone v. Liberty
Mut. Ins. Co., 105 F.3d 188, 190 (4th Cir. 1997)
(quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986)). Any reasonable inferences are to be drawn in favor
of the nonmoving party. See Webster v. U.S. Dep't of
Agric., 685 F.3d 411, 421 (4th Cir. 2012). However, to
defeat summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify an
error of law or a genuine issue of disputed material fact.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); see also
Bouchat v. Balt. Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d
514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003).
the court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of
the nonmoving party, the nonmoving party must rely on more
than conclusory allegations, mere speculation, the building
of one inference upon another, or the mere existence of a
scintilla of evidence. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at
252; Stone, 105 F.3d at 191. Rather, “a party
opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment . .
. must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is
a genuine issue for trial.'” Bouchat, 346
F.3d at 522 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) (2002) (amended
2010)). If the adverse party fails to provide evidence
establishing that the factfinder could reasonably decide in
his favor, then summary judgment shall be entered
“regardless of ‘[a]ny proof or evidentiary
requirements imposed by the substantive law.'”
Id. (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).
Cooper moves for summary judgment on all of plaintiffs'
claims and requests that the court dismiss the entirety of
the lawsuit. Def.'s Mot. 30. SSA Cooper moves for summary
judgment on the FLSA claim, arguing that plaintiffs were
properly classified as executive employees and were therefore
exempt from the overtime pay requirements of the FLSA.
Id. at 2. It also moves for summary judgment on the
SCPWA claim, arguing that plaintiffs' deposition
testimony “confirms this claim lacks a factual basis
and has been abandoned.” Id. The court
addresses each argument in turn.
Exempt Employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act
Cooper argues that plaintiffs are properly classified as
executive employees, and therefore, are exempt from the
protections of the FLSA. The court disagrees.
FLSA is a statute that is “remedial and humanitarian in
purpose, ” and reflects Congress's intent to
protect broadly the “rights of those who toil.”
Tennessee Coal, Iron & R.R. v. Muscoda Local No.
123, 321 U.S. 590 (1944). Consistent with this remedial
purpose, the statute is to be construed liberally keeping in
mind that “broad coverage is essential” to
accomplish the statute's goals. Tony & Susan
Alamo Found. v. Sec'y of Labor, 471 U.S. 290, 296
(1985); see Purdham v. Fairfax Cty. Sch. Bd., 637
F.3d 421, 427 (4th Cir. 2011) (“[T]he Supreme Court has
cautioned that the FLSA ‘must not be interpreted or
applied in a narrow, grudging manner.'” (internal
citation omitted)). The FLSA mandates a minimum wage for
employees covered by the statute, and requires employers to
pay covered employees time-and-a-half for each hour worked in
excess of forty hours during any given workweek. 29 U.S.C.
FLSA carves out an exemption from these requirements for
“[a]ny employee employed in a bona fide executive,
administrative, or professional capacity, ” (hereafter
referred to as the “executive employee
exemption”). 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1). Due to the
remedial nature of the FLSA, this executive employee
exemption is to be narrowly construed. See Arnold v. Ben
Kanowsky, Inc., 361 U.S. 388, 392 (1960) (“We have
held that these exemptions are to be narrowly construed
against the employers seeking to assert them and their
application limited to those establishments plainly and
unmistakably within their terms and spirit.”). The
employer has the burden to establish by clear and convincing
evidence that an employee qualifies for the executive
exemption. Shockley v. City of Newport News, 997
F.2d 18, 21 (4th Cir. 1993).
have utilized a Department of Labor (“DOL”)
regulation to determine whether the executive employee
exemption is applicable to a particular employee.
See, e.g., Madden v. Lumber One Home
Ctr., Inc., 745 F.3d 899, 903 (8th Cir. 2014). The
relevant DOL regulation defines an “executive”
employee as any employee:
(1) Compensated on a salary basis at a rate of not less than
$455 per week . . . exclusive of board, lodging ...