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Hanks v. Briad Restaurant Group, L.L.C.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 29, 2017

ERIN HANKS, et al., Plaintiffs,


          Gloria M. Navarro, Chief Judge United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is the Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 128), filed by Defendant Briad Restaurant Group, LLC (“Defendant”). Plaintiff Jeffrey Anderson (“Anderson”) filed a Response, (ECF No. 142), and Defendant filed a Reply, (ECF No. 147). For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of alleged violations of Nevada's Minimum Wage Amendment, Nev. Const. art. XV, § 16 (the “MWA”). Plaintiffs are employees at various locations throughout Clark County, Nevada, of the fast food restaurant chain, TGI Friday's. (Am. Compl. ¶ 14-21, ECF No. 6). Plaintiffs allege that this action “is a result of [Defendant's] failure to pay Plaintiffs and other similarly-situated employees who are members of the Class the lawful minimum wage, [sic] because [Defendant] improperly claimed, eligibility to compensate employees at a reduced minimum wage rate under [the MWA].” (Id. ¶ 2).

         For example, Anderson worked as a server at TGI Friday's restaurants owned and operated by Defendant between July 2009 and March 2013 and he allegedly earned an hourly wage below the upper-tier hourly minimum wage under the MWA. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 36). Moreover, Defendant offered Anderson a health insurance plan, but Anderson declined the insurance coverage. (Id. ¶ 37). As a result, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant “does not provide, offer, ” or “maintain qualifying health insurance plan benefits for the benefit of Plaintiffs and members of the Class[, ]” and therefore “Defendant is not, and has not been, eligible to pay Plaintiffs and members of the Class at the reduced minimum wage rate.” (Id. ¶¶ 12-13).

         Plaintiffs filed the instant action on May 19, 2014. (See Compl., ECF No. 1). Shortly thereafter, on May 23, 2014, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint. (See Am. Compl.). Subsequently, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss, seeking dismissal of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. (Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 14). The Court dismissed Plaintiffs' second and third claims for relief with prejudice, and denied Defendant's Motion as to Plaintiffs' first claim for relief. (Feb. 24, 2015 Order, ECF No. 68).

         On September 15, 2015, in response to Anderson's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 114), the Court certified the following question to the Nevada Supreme Court: “Whether an employee must actually enroll in health benefits offered by an employer before the employer may pay that employee at the lower-tier wage under the [MWA].” (Order for Certification of Question of Law, ECF No. 119). The Nevada Supreme Court answered the question in MDC Restaurants, LLC v. Eighth Judicial District Court, 383 P.3d 262 (Nev. 2016), by holding that “under the MWA, health benefits need only be offered or made available for the employer to pay the lower-tier wage.” 383 P.3d at 266.

         Subsequently, the parties filed a Joint Motion to Certify an additional question to the Nevada Supreme Court. (ECF No. 130). The parties specifically sought to certify the following question: “What constitutes a qualified health insurance plan under the MWA?” (Joint Mot. to Certify 3:13). The Court denied the parties' Motion finding that the Nevada Supreme Court had answered the proposed question in Western Cab Company v. Eighth Judicial District Court, 390 P.3d 662 (Nev. 2017). See 390 P.3d at 671 (“The MWA defines ‘health benefits' as ‘making health insurance available to the employee for the employee and the employee's dependents at a total cost to the employee for premiums of not more than 10 percent of the employee's gross taxable income from the employer.'”).

         In the instant Motion, Defendant seeks summary judgment on only Anderson's remaining first cause of action because, pursuant to the Nevada Supreme Court's decisions, “Anderson was offered qualifying health insurance plans and was paid at least $7.25 per hour.” (See Renewed Mot. for Summ. J. (“MSJ”) 2:21, ECF No 128).


         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary adjudication when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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). Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Id. “Summary judgment is inappropriate if reasonable jurors, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor.” Diaz v. Eagle Produce Ltd. P'ship, 521 F.3d 1201, 1207 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing United States v. Shumway, 199 F.3d 1093, 1103-04 (9th Cir. 1999)). A principal purpose of summary judgment is “to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).

         In determining summary judgment, a court applies a burden-shifting analysis. “When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial. In such a case, the moving party has the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of fact on each issue material to its case.” C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted). In contrast, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving the claim or defense, the moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323- 24. If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1970).

         If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that “the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 631 (9th Cir. 1987). In other words, the nonmoving party cannot avoid summary judgment by relying solely on conclusory allegations that are unsupported by factual data. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Instead, the opposition must go beyond the assertions and allegations of the pleadings and set forth specific facts by producing competent evidence that shows a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324.

         At summary judgment, a court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. The evidence of the nonmovant is “to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Id. at 255. But if the evidence of the nonmoving party is ...

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