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Brunozzi v. Cable Communications, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 21, 2017

Matteo Brunozzi, an individual, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Cable Communications, Inc., a foreign corporation, Defendant-Appellee. Casey McCormick, an individual, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Cable Communications, Inc., a foreign corporation, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued and Submitted November 10, 2016 Portland, Oregon

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, D.C. Nos. 3:14-cv-01128-MO 3:14-cv-01131-MO Michael W. Mosman, Chief Judge, Presiding

          Phil Goldsmith (argued), Law Office of Phil Goldsmith, Portland, Oregon; D. Michael Dale, Law Office of D. Michael Dale, Cornelius, Oregon; David A. Schuck, Schuck Law LLC, Vancouver, Washington; Corinna Spencer-Scheurich, Northwest Workers' Justice Project, Portland, Oregon; for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

          Mitchell C. Baker (argued) and Alexander A. Wheatley, Fisher & Phillips, LLP, Portland, Oregon, for Defendant-Appellee.

          Shenoa Payne, Shenoa Payne Attorney At Law PC, Portland, Oregon, for Amicus Curiae Oregon Trial Lawyers Association.

          Before: M. Margaret McKeown and William A. Fletcher, Circuit Judges, and Jennifer A. Dorsey, District Judge. [*]

         SUMMARY[**]

         Labor Law

         The panel reversed the district court's summary judgment in favor of the defendant in an action brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Oregon state law by plaintiffs who worked as technicians, installing cable television and internet services.

         The panel held that the defendant's piece-work-based pay plan, which included a bonus designed to decrease in proportion to an increase in the number of overtime hours worked, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime provisions.

         The panel reversed the district court's summary judgment on the technicians' claims under Or. Rev. Stat. § 652.140(1), which requires employers to pay all wages earned and unpaid by the end of the first business day after a discharge or termination.

         The panel also reversed the district court's summary judgment on one technician's retaliation claims under Or. Rev. Stat. § 659A.199, which prohibits a private employer from retaliating against an employee who has in good faith reported information that the employee believes is a violation of law, and Or. Rev. State. § 652.355, which prohibits an employer from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee who has discussed, made, or consulted an attorney about a wage claim. The technician verbally complained to his immediate supervisors that he was not being property compensated for overtime, and he refused to work any additional overtime hours unless he was paid an overtime rate. The panel held that the term "reported" in § 659A.199 means a report of information to either an external or internal authority. The panel held that the act of complaining about inadequate wages is a protected activity under § 652.355.

         The panel remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.

          OPINION

          DORSEY, District Judge:

         Matteo Brunozzi and Casey McCormick worked as technicians for Cable Communications, Inc. (CCI) installing cable television and internet services. They filed separate lawsuits against CCI alleging that the company's compensation plan violates the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 207, and Oregon's statutory requirement that an employer pay all wages earned and unpaid after terminating an employee, ORS 652.140. Brunozzi additionally alleges that CCI violated Oregon's laws prohibiting discrimination against a private employee who engages in whistleblowing (ORS 659A.199) and wage-claim discussions (ORS 652.355). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of CCI on those claims. The technicians appealed. We reverse.

         I. Background

         A. Technician work and pay

         CCI employs technicians to install cable television and internet services for Comcast customers. McCormick worked for CCI as a technician for almost one year. Brunozzi was similarly employed by CCI for approximately five months. The unchallenged evidence shows that the technicians' work tasks are assigned by CCI on a daily basis. The company schedules the appointments with the customers; the technicians do not have authority to change appointment times or complete a task on a different day. These technicians' workweeks ordinarily exceeded 40 hours, and they were routinely scheduled to work six-day weeks.

         CCI guarantees that its technicians will earn at least the statutory minimum wage and pays them on a piece-work basis. This means that the technician is paid a fixed rate for each piece of work (i.e., task) that he completes.[1] CCI's technicians sign a document entitled "Technician Pay Rate Program." The agreement states that the technician's gross earnings are the "[t]otal amount billed to the company by the employee for Piece Rate jobs completed in the pay period plus any bonus received . . . ."[2] It does not explain CCI's method for calculating the technicians' pay, but the parties mostly agree about how that is accomplished.

         CCI begins by calculating the technician's "Piece Rate Total" for the week, which is the total value of the piece-work tasks performed by him that week minus any adjustments made for incomplete work or similar reasons. If the technician worked over 40 hours, CCI divides the Piece Rate Total by the total number of hours worked to calculate his "average hourly" rate of pay for that week.[3] This hourly rate is then divided by two, and the resulting quotient is multiplied by the number of overtime hours the technician worked that week to arrive at the technician's base overtime pay-his "Piece Rate OT Premium."

         CCI next calculates whether the technician has earned a "Production Bonus" by dividing the Piece Rate Total by 60, multiplying the quotient by 70, and subtracting from that product his Piece Rate Total and any Piece Rate OT Premium. Finally, if the technician earned a Production Bonus and worked overtime, CCI calculates the overtime due on the bonus-the Production Bonus OT Premium-by dividing the Production Bonus by the total number of hours worked in the week, dividing the resulting quotient by two, and multiplying that quotient by the number of overtime hours worked in the week. A technician's pay each week is his Piece Rate Total plus-to the extent that they are earned-Piece Rate OT Premium, Production Bonus, and Production Bonus OT Premium.

         B. Procedural history of the technicians' lawsuits

         Brunozzi filed his complaint in state court alleging that CCI violated: (1) Oregon's overtime regulations[4]; (2) the FLSA's overtime regulations; (3) Oregon's wage-claim- and whistleblowing-discrimination regulations; and (4) Oregon's wage-payment-on-termination regulations. After CCI removed the case to federal court, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment: the company moved on all of Brunozzi's claims while he moved on his FLSA overtime-violation and Oregon wage-payment-on-termination claims. The district court entered judgment in favor of CCI on Brunozzi's claims; Brunozzi timely appealed.

         McCormick filed his complaint in state court alleging that CCI violated: (1) Oregon's overtime regulations; (2) the FLSA's overtime regulations; (3) Oregon's wage-payment-on-termination regulations; (4) the Oregon Family Medical Leave Act; (5) Oregon's disability-discrimination regulations; and (6) wrongful termination under Oregon common law. After CCI removed the case to federal court, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment: the company sought judgment on all of McCormick's claims, and he sought judgment on his FLSA overtime-violation and Oregon wage-payment-on-termination claims. The district court entered judgment in favor of the ...


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