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Mendis v. Schneider National Carriers

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

May 8, 2018

BALAPUWADUGE MENDIS, et al., Plaintiffs,



         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment (Dkt. No. 144). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiffs' motion for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant is a truckload transportation company servicing customers throughout the United States and Canada. (Dkt. No. 144 at 9.) Plaintiffs are Defendant's current and former Washington-based truck drivers. (Id.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendant's piece-rate pay practices violate a variety of Washington's compensation laws. (See generally Dkt. No. 114.) The Court has previously certified the following Class in this matter: “All current and former employees of [Defendant] who, at any time from December 30, 2011 through the date of the final disposition, worked as drivers for the company while residing in the state of Washington.” (Dkt. No. 117 at 13.)

         Plaintiffs move for partial summary judgment, seeking rulings on the following: (1) the adequacy of Defendant's record of hours worked by Class members, (2) the willfulness of any failure by Defendant to pay Class members for rest breaks, and (3) the permissible method for Defendant to substantiate that it adequately compensated Class members for overtime. (Dkt. No. 144 at 7-9.)


         A. Legal Standard

         The Court shall grant summary judgment if the moving party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the [moving party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In making such a determination, the Court views the facts and justifiable inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the opposing party “must come forward with ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case, and a dispute about a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49. Although the Court must reserve for the jury genuine issues regarding credibility, the weight of the evidence, and legitimate inferences, the “mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position will be insufficient.” City of Pomona v. SQM N.A. Corp., 750 F.3d 1036, 1049 (9th Cir. 2014).

         B. Record of Hours Worked

         When an employee brings a wage-based claim and the employer fails to comply with a legally-mandated recordkeeping requirement, the employee's burden of proof is relaxed. Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680, 687-88 (1946).[1] With this relaxed burden, the employee need only provide “sufficient evidence to show the amount and extent of [the employee's allegedly unpaid work] as a matter of just and reasonable inference.” Id. at 687. Plaintiffs point out that Washington requires employers to keep a record of the hours worked for each workday and argues Defendant has failed to do so. (See Dkt. No. 144 at 9-10) (citing Wash. Rev. Code § 49.46.040(3); WAC 296-126-050(1), 269-128-010(6)). However, Defendant's Federal Department of Transportation (“DOT”) logs clearly satisfy Washington's requirements. (Dkt. No. 155 at 15-18); (see Dkt. No. 157 at 2.)

         In the alternative, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant did not provide the logs, in their entirety, when requested through discovery. (Dkt. No. 163 at 2.) As a result, Plaintiffs argue, the Court should impose the Mt. Clemens burden shifting regime as a discovery sanction. (Dkt. No. 162 at 9). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(c). The Court declines to do so. First, it would be a fruitless exercise. Defendant can rebut Plaintiffs' relaxed Mt. Clemens burden, as is required, with the DOT logs. See 328 U.S. at 687 (allowing for rebuttal with evidence of “the precise amount of work performed”); (see also Dkt. No. 157 at 2) (declaration describing the nature of the logs); (see Dkt. Nos. 158-13, 158-14, 158-15) (examples of logs provided to Plaintiffs through discovery). Second, Plaintiffs never moved to compel production of the logs in their entirety. Third, Plaintiffs do not provide a valid basis for imposing sanctions. (See generally Dkt. No. 162 at 7-9.) Fourth, Plaintiffs raised this issue for the first time in their reply brief. See Zamani v. Carnes, 491 F.3d 990, 997 (9th Cir. 2007) (the Court need not consider a new argument raised in a reply brief).

         Accordingly, Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on this issue is DENIED.

         C. Rest Break Pay

         Plaintiffs next ask the Court to find that, as a matter of law, Defendant willfully failed to compensate its drivers for rest break periods and this failure violates Washington law. (Dkt. No. 144 at 17-20.) If Defendant's failure to adequately pay for rest breaks was willful, double damages apply. Wash. Rev. Code § 49.52.050, .070; see Schilling v. Radio Holdings, Inc., 961 P.2d 371, 374 (Wash. 1998). As a threshold matter, this Court has previously determined that Defendant's compensation scheme fails to pay Class members for rest breaks, and this practice ...

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