Lejeaun et al v. Waste Connections of Louisiana, Inc. et al
ORDER AND REASONS: IT IS ORDERED that the Defendant Progressive Waste Solutions of LA, Inc.'s 14 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment to Enforce Compromise is GRANTED. Signed by Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle on 10/10/2017. (jls)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
CELESTINE LEJEAUN, ET AL.
WASTE CONNECTIONS OF
LOUISIANA, INC., ET AL
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court is Defendant Progressive Waste Solutions of
Compromise” (Rec. Doc. 14), Plaintiff’s “Opposition to Defendant’s
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment to Enforce Compromise” (Rec.
Doc. 21), and Defendant’s “Reply Memorandum in Support of Motion
for Summary Judgment to Enforce Compromise” (Rec. Doc. 25).
the reasons discussed below,
IT IS ORDERED that the Defendant Progressive Waste Solutions
of LA, Inc.’s “Motion for Partial Summary Judgment to Enforce
Compromise” (Rec. Doc. 14) is GRANTED.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff Celestine 1 is one of three named plaintiffs bringing
forth allegations regarding an employment and wage dispute against
Defendants, Waste Connections of Louisiana Inc. (“Defendant WCL”),
Progressive Waste Solutions of LA Inc. (“Defendant PWS”), Waste
Connections US Inc. (“Defendant WCUS”), and IESI LA Landfill
Assumed typographical error has the Plaintiff Lejeaun Celestine originally named as Celestine Lejeaun. See Rec.
Docs. 14-2, 21-1.
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Corporation (“Defendant IESI”), collectively referred to herein as
themselves and a class of similarly situated individuals.
The instant motion for Partial Summary Judgment, submitted by
Defendant PWS seeks dismissal of Plaintiff Celestine’s claims
based on prior agreement entered between Plaintiff Celestine and
Defendant PWS. Rec. Docs. 14-2, 21-1. The uncontested facts of
this case provide that Plaintiff Celestine was hired by Defendant
PWS as a driver in August 2015. Id. In early 2016, Plaintiff
Celestine made a complaint about the calculation of his wages.
revealed errors in Plaintiff’s compensation rates. Id. Plaintiff
Celestine was compensated for $3,095.20 in underpaid wages. Rec.
Docs. 14-2, 23-2. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff Celestine was
terminated by Defendant PWS.
Upon termination, Plaintiff Celestine signed a “Release of
All Claims” (the “Release”) and an “Acknowledgment” of payments he
received in backpay. Rec. Docs. 14-7 and 14-4. According to the
Release, in consideration of execution Plaintiff Celestine was to
be paid $550.80, in addition to any payments/benefits he might
Defendant PWS asserts that Plaintiff Celestine should be dismissed
as a party to this lawsuit as a result of language in the abovementioned Release and the Acknowledgment that allegedly bar his
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claims and acknowledge full compensation. Rec. Doc. 14. In the
alternative, the instant motion requests Plaintiff Celestine not
be allowed to bring forth his claims on behalf of a putative class
in accordance with the terms of the Release. Id.
Defendant PWS asserts that Plaintiff Celestine knowingly and
voluntarily executed a valid and enforceable release of the claims
alleged in the Complaint. Rec. Doc. 14-1. Defendant PWS further
argues that in the alternative, Plaintiff Celestine has waived and
relinquished his right to serve in a representative capacity as to
the claims alleged in the Complaint. Id.
Plaintiff Celestine contends that he did not waive his claim
under the Fair Labor Standard Act (“FLSA”), and requests this Court
allow him to proceed individually to pursue his FLSA overtime
claim. Rec. Doc. 21. Plaintiff also seeks a delayed ruling under
Rule 56(d). Id.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Summary judgment is proper “if the pleadings, the discovery
and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court
should view all facts and evidence in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party. United Fire & Cas. Co. v. Hixson Bros. Inc.,
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453 F.3d 283, 285 (5th Cir. 2006). Mere conclusory allegations are
insufficient to defeat summary judgment. Eason v. Thaler, 73 F.3d
1322, 1325 (5th Cir. 1996).
employment claims, only where the employee’s release of claims is
“knowing” and “voluntary.” See Williams v. Phillips Petroleum Co.,
23 F.3d 930, 935 (5th Cir. 1994)(citing Alexander v. GardnerDenver Co., 415 U.S. 36, 527 (1974)). Determining what constitutes
knowing and voluntary requires analysis under the “totality of the
circumstances.” O'Hare v. Glob. Nat. Res., Inc., 898 F.2d 1015,
1017 (5th Cir. 1990). The Fifth Circuit has held the following,
non-exhaustive, list of factors are relevant in such determination
(1) the plaintiff's education and business experience,
(2) the amount of time the plaintiff had possession of
or access to the agreement before signing it, (3) the
role of plaintiff in deciding the terms of the agreement,
(4) the clarity of the agreement, (5) whether the
plaintiff was represented by or consulted with an
attorney, and (6) whether the consideration given in
exchange for the waiver exceeds employee benefits to
which the employee was already entitled by contract or
Id. Also added to the above list is whether or not an employer
encourages an employee to consult an attorney, and whether the
employee had opportunity to do so. Bormann v. AT & T Commc'ns,
Inc., 875 F.2d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 1989).
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establishes that FLSA claims cannot be waived; however, excepted
from this are unsupervised settlements that are reached due to a
bona fide FLSA dispute over hours worked or compensation owed.
Bodle v. TXL Mortg. Corp., 788 F.3d 159, 165 (5th Cir. 2015). The
undermine the purpose of the FLSA because employees do not waive
their claims through some sort of bargain but instead receive
compensation for the disputed hours. See generally Martin v. Spring
Break '83 Prods., L.L.C., 688 F.3d 247, 256 (5th Cir. 2012). For
acceptance of a check for $1,000 for settlement of all overtime
claims at issue was a valid release of the plaintiff's FLSA rights
and was enforceable in the litigation that followed the settlement.
Martinez v. Bohls Bearing Equip. Co., 361 F. Supp. 2d 608, 611
(W.D. Tex. 2005).
Here, it is uncontested that Plaintiff Celestine signed two
(2) agreements, the Release and the Acknowledgment, releasing all
claims between himself and Defendant PWS. Rec. Doc. 21-2. To the
extent permitted by law, Plaintiff Celestine’s Release explicitly
capacity.” Rec. Doc. 14-7, 21-1. Plaintiff Celestine also admits
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$3,095.20 in back pay and overtime from Defendant PWS. Rec. Doc.
14-4, 21-1. Further, the Release signed by Plaintiff Celestine
provided for a “period of seven (7) calendar days to consider,
execute and return the Agreement.” Rec. Doc. 14-7. Paragraph 15 of
the Release also advised Plaintiff Celestine to consult with an
prerequisite to this Court’s finding that the Release signed by
Plaintiff Celestine and the payments made in return by Defendant
PWS are the types of private settlements of FLSA disputes for which
federal precedent allows.
While Plaintiff Celestine disputes his understanding that the
Release and payments were based on wages calculated at an incorrect
hourly rate and that there was no mention of overtime during
negotiations, the record evidences otherwise. Attached to the
Acknowledgement signed by Plaintiff Celestine (Rec. Doc. 14-4) is
Exhibit A-1 that provides the relevant portions of Defendant PWS’
investigations. Exhibit A-1 clearly provides for the dates, time
worked—including a column for overtime hours, total paid, and what
should have been paid. Rec. Doc. 14-4. Plaintiff Celestine was
paid the difference for all variances, including overtime that he
was owed. See Id. Additionally, Plaintiff Celestine signed the
Acknowledgment attached to said payroll investigation report that
explicitly states, inter alia:
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I worked approximately 35 weeks during the Relevant
Period for which I was not paid at my agreed-upon hourly
rate. As a result, the pay rate I received for any
overtime worked in those weeks was also affected. I
further acknowledge and agree that $3,095.20 (the “Back
Pay and Overtime”) is a fair and appropriate back pay
calculation and is an accurate reimbursement of all
straight time and overtime hours for which I was not
fully paid during the Relevant Period.
Rec. Doc. 14-4. As such, Plaintiff Celestine’s contention that
overtime was not mentioned during discussions with Defendant PWS
Finally, Rule 56(d) governs discovery afforded to a party
opposing a summary judgment motion:
When Facts Are Unavailable to the Nonmovant. If a
nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for
specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to
justify its opposition, the court may:
(1) defer considering the motion or deny it;
(2) allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations or
to take discovery; or
(3) issue any other appropriate order.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. In Cevasco, a project manager failed to show
that a need for discovery precluded grant of partial summary
discovery was sought were not relevant to resolution of railroad's
motion. Cevasco v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., 606 F. Supp. 2d 401
(S.D.N.Y. 2009). Similarly, the issue for which discovery is sought
by Plaintiff Celestine is not relevant to resolution of the instant
motion as the issue presented is whether or not the Release itself
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is a valid, knowing and voluntary settlement of his FLSA claim,
and not whether the amount of payment he agreed upon under the
generally claim the amount was insufficient while simultaneously
claimant was compensated for owed straight and overtime pay.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 10th day of October, 2017.
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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