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Schlenk v. Goodwill Industries of Kentucky, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

April 4, 2018



          Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., Chief Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on a motion by Defendant, Goodwill Industries of Kentucky, Inc., for summary judgment [DN 29]. Fully briefed, this matter is ripe for decision.


         Before the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment, it must find 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). The moving party bears the initial burden of specifying the basis for its motion and identifying that portion of the record that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party thereafter must produce specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         Although the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the non-moving party must do more than merely show that there is some “metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the non-moving party to present specific facts showing that a genuine factual issue exists by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. It is against this standard the Court reviews the following facts.


         Plaintiff, Kimiko Schlenk, was employed by Goodwill Industries of Kentucky as a store manager from 2002 through 2010. In 2010, Schlenk left Goodwill on good terms. In July of 2015, Goodwill contacted Schlenk and requested that she return to Louisville, Kentucky, to manage a new Goodwill store. Schlenk accepted the position and returned to Louisville to manage the Northfield flagship store on U.S. Highway 42. Schlenk began work on August 17, 2015, as a salaried employee making $35, 000 a year with the opportunity for additional commission based on store performance. Schlenk managed the Northfield store from the time it opened until she was suspended on December 16, 2015. Goodwill terminated Schlenk's employment on December 21, 2015 for violation of its Anti-Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation Policy and for violations of its Rules of Conduct in the Workplace Policy, specifically the provisions forbidding harassment and unprofessional conduct.

         On August 24, 2016, Schlenk filed this current action against Goodwill in the Jefferson Circuit Court alleging claims of violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), gender discrimination pursuant to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, promissory estoppel, and negligent hiring. On September 9, 2016, Goodwill removed the action from the Jefferson Circuit Court to the Western District of Kentucky. By order dated November 18, 2016, this Court dismissed the promissory estoppel and negligent hiring claims. The FLSA and gender discrimination claims proceeded to discovery. Goodwill now moves for summary judgment on the remaining claims.


         A. FLSA Claim

         The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., requires employers to pay overtime wages to non-exempt employees who work in excess of forty hours per week. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). See Burton v. Appriss, Inc., 192 F.Supp.3d 792, 795 (W.D. Ky. 2016), aff'd, 682 Fed.Appx. 423 (6th Cir. 2017). However, this provision does not apply to individuals “employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity.” 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1). To qualify for the executive exception, an employee must be someone:

(1) Compensated on a salary basis at a rate of not less than $455 per week . . .;
(2) Whose primary duty is management of the enterprise in which the employee is employed or of a customarily recognized department or subdivision thereof;
(3) Who customarily and regularly directs the work of two or more other employees; and
(4) Who has the authority to hire or fire other employees or whose suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring, firing, advancement, promotion or any other change of status of other employees are given particular weight.

29 C.F.R. § 541.100(a). Goodwill moves for summary judgment on Schlenk's FLSA claim arguing that Schlenk was exempt from overtime pay because she was an executive employee under the FLSA regulations. Accordingly, the issue for the Court to decide is whether Schlenk is properly classified an executive employee under the FLSA.

         The Court finds that the first, third, and fourth factors are undisputed. Schlenk earned more than $455 per week - her base salary was $35, 000 per year. Additionally, she customarily and regularly directed the work of two or more other employees. In fact, the record reflects that she supervised and scheduled 16 employees at her store, including assistant managers, production clerks, and cashiers, and she trained store personnel. Finally, her suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring, firing, advancement, promotion, or any other change of status of other employees were given particular weight. Schlenk's emails demonstrate that she had extensive involvement in recommending employees for hire, termination, or other status changes, including cutting hours and selecting temporary workers to be full-time employees. The record further reflects that Schlenk handled personnel matters including providing discipline, interviewing candidates, making recommendations on the candidates' placement, evaluating employees, and recommending raises.

         Schlenk challenges the second factor - whether Goodwill had management as Schlenk's primary duty while she was employed as an individual store manager. Specifically, Schlenk maintains that because her store was constantly understaffed and employees could not complete their own jobs, the second part of the test for classification as an executive employee fails as Schlenk was performing the job duties of multiple individuals “while also being micromanaged about the store.” (Schlenk I Dep. (March 10, 2017) at 94-96, 99.) Schlenk testified that due to the ...

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