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Acosta v. Wellfleet Communications, LLC

United States District Court, D. Nevada

December 12, 2019

R. ALEXANDER ACOSTA, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Plaintiff,
v.
WELLFLEET COMMUNICATIONS, LLC, et al.,

          ORDER

          GLORIA M. NAVARRO, DISTRICT JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff R. Alexander Acosta's (“Plaintiff's”) Motion for Entry of Judgment, (ECF No. 177). Defendants Allen Roach and Wellfleet Communications (“Defendants”) filed a Response, (ECF No. 178). Plaintiff filed a Reply, (ECF No. 180). For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's Motion for Entry of Judgment is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from Defendants' failure to compensate their call-center employees at the minimum wage or provide them with overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. (“FLSA”). On July 29, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment seeking injunctive relief, back wages, and liquidated damages on behalf of Defendants' employees. (Motion for Summary Judgment (“MSJ”), ECF No. 152). The Motion sought monetary relief for the employees dating back to August 30, 2009. (Id. 30:17-23). Plaintiff calculated Defendants' liability for back wages by assuming that each at-issue employee worked at least thirty hours per week. (Id. 30:19-20). Prior to Plaintiff filing his Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants filed competing motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment. (See ECF Nos. 64, 71, 148, 149).

         On September 29, 2018, the Court denied Defendants' dispositive motions and granted in part Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Order (“MSJ Order”), ECF No. 170). In the Order, the Court ruled in Plaintiff's favor regarding Defendants' liability for the FLSA claims. (Id. 9:1-18:22, 20:10-27:9). The Court also concluded that Plaintiff reasonably used a thirty-hour work week to calculate Defendants' liability for back wages.[1] (Id. 21:16-21). However, because the Court concluded that equitable tolling did not apply, Plaintiff could only recover back wages for employees dating back to October 7, 2013. (Id. 18:23-21:9; 21:21-24). The Court ordered Plaintiff to file supplemental briefing demonstrating the employees' lost wages between 2013 and 2016 by using the same calculation method employed in the Motion for Summary Judgment. (Id. 21:21-24, 28:12-13). With respect to injunctive relief, the Court found an injunction appropriate but ordered Plaintiff to propose a prospective injunction using specific and enforceable terms. (Id. 26:9-27:9, 28:12-15).

         Plaintiff accordingly filed supplemental briefing. (Supp. Brief, ECF No. 172). Several months thereafter, the Court granted Plaintiff's Motion to Amend or Correct the First Amended Complaint. (Order (“Amendment Order”), ECF No. 176). The Order allowed Plaintiff to amend the Complaint to add 324 additional employees to the list of individuals for whom Plaintiff seeks back wages. (Id. 1:24-25, 6:9-10). Given that the Court's Order came after the close of discovery, the Court provided Defendants an additional twenty-one days to file a limited motion to reopen discovery with respect to the newly added employees. (Id. 5:23-6:2, 6:11-12). The Court noted, “[s]hould the Defendants forego this motion, the parties will have twenty-one days thereafter to file supplemental motions for summary judgment as to the at-issue employees and damages.” (Id. 6:2-4). Defendants did not seek discovery.

         Plaintiff then filed the instant Motion for Judgment. (Mot. for Judgment (“MFJ”), ECF No. 177). In the Motion, Plaintiff argues that the Court may enter judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58 because the factual record before the Court is unchanged from when Plaintiff prevailed in part on his Motion for Summary Judgment. (Id. 2:3-10).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 58 requires the clerk to enter judgment in a separate document after the court reaches a final decision on the merits. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 58(a). Rule 58 provides two ways for the court to enter judgment. Either, the clerk may enter judgment without the court's direction if “(A) the jury returns a general verdict; (B) the court awards only costs or a sum certain; or (C) the court denies all relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 58(b)(1). Or, the clerk may enter judgment at the direction of the court, “[s]ubject to the requirements of Rule 54(b), ” if the jury returns a special verdict or a verdict with answers to written questions, or, as in this case, the court grants other relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 58(b)(2).

         Rule 54(b) allows the court to enter partial final judgment “as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines there is no just reason for delay.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). If the amount of damages to be awarded has not been resolved with respect to the claim at issue, then Rule 54(b) relief is not appropriate. See Linde v. Arab Bank, PLC, 882 F.3d 314, 323 (2d Cir. 2018) (“A grant of ‘partial summary judgment limited to the issue of liability, which reserves the issue of damages and other relief is not ‘final' within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1291,' and, therefore, ‘not certifiable pursuant to Rule 54(b).'” (quoting Acha v. Beame, 570 F.2d 57, 62 (2d Cir. 1978)).

         Rule 58(b) thus provides a mechanism for a court to decree that a claim has been finally adjudged to the extent that it may be appealed, but it does not provide a mechanism for the court to make a factual determination that disposes of the case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 58(b) (explaining that the court must approve the judgment form, “[s]ubject to Rue 54(b), ” if the court grants a form of relief other than that enumerated in Rule 58(b)); Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) (explaining the prerequisites for the district court to enter partial final judgment). Rather, if the merits of the case have not been fully resolved, and there is no genuine dispute of material fact in the record before the court, a party may seek resolution of the merits in its favor by filing a timely motion for summary judgment. See generally Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.

         III. DISCUSSION

         In the Order granting Plaintiff leave to amend, the Court noted that it still needs to reach a factual determination regarding the extent of the at-issue employees' recoverable back wages. (Amendment Order 2:2-2:4). Even if Defendants had not disputed the figure Plaintiff reached in his Supplemental Brief, [2] the Court must decide the amount of back wages to award prior to the Clerk entering judgment. Given that the Court has only determined the method Plaintiff must use to calculate back wages, as opposed to the total amount of back wages to award, the Court has not reached a final judgment on the merits of Plaintiff's FLSA claims for damages. Therefore, entry of judgment pursuant to Rule 58 is inappropriate. This procedural reality is exactly why the Court ordered Plaintiff to move for summary judgment in the event Defendants did not seek additional discovery. Unfortunately, the time for Plaintiff to file a dispositive motion has passed. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(b). Nevertheless, the Court does find Plaintiff's proposed injunction compliant with the Court's previous Order.

         IV. ...


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