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McKenna v. Crawford

United States District Court, D. Oregon

August 3, 2018


          Scott Talmage Cliff, The Law Office of Scott T. Cliff, Of Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          Walter Christopher Crawford and Carolyn Jennifer Crawford, Defendants, pro se.


          Michael H. Simon United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Darren McKenna sues Defendants Walter Christopher Crawford and Carolynn Jennifer Crawford (“Defendants”) to recover unpaid wages allegedly owed under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206 (“FLSA”), as well as wages and other damages under Oregon Revised Statutes (“ORS”) Chapters 652 and 653. Before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment, seeking: (1) damages for unpaid wages allegedly owed by Defendants; and (2) dismissal of Defendants' counterclaims for defamation and slander. A jury trial is currently scheduled to begin on September 24, 2018.


         A party is entitled to summary judgment if the “movant shows 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). The moving party has the burden of establishing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Clicks Billiards Inc. v. Sixshooters Inc., 251 F.3d 1252, 1257 (9th Cir. 2001). Although “[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . ruling on a motion for summary judgment, ” the “mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position [is] insufficient . . . .” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 255 (1986). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citation and quotation marks omitted).


         Defendants own and operate 5C Quick Mart (the “Store”) in Northeast Portland, Oregon. The parties appear to agree that Plaintiff worked or at least “helped out” in the Store between September 2, 2015 and October 13, 2016. See ECF 33 ¶¶ 1-2 (McKenna Decl.). The parties dispute, however, whether Plaintiff was ever Defendants' “employee” and, even if so, how many hours and on what days Plaintiff worked. Defendants state that other than the first week and a half after Defendants opened the Store, Plaintiff worked or helped out at the Store, on average, only about 35 hours per week and never on weekends. ECF 32 at 3-4 (Defendants' Response to Interrogatories). Plaintiff asserts that he worked many more hours at the Store. ECF 33 ¶¶ 1-2. Plaintiff adds that he was not ever paid for his work during a 13-month period. Id. ¶ 3. On November 4, 2016, Plaintiff, through his counsel, made a written demand for payment of all back wages allegedly owed, which Defendants have refused to pay.

         In their response to summary judgment, Defendants state that Plaintiff lived with Defendants and that they supported Plaintiff financially and treated him as a member of their family for many years. ECF 34 at 1-2 (Defendants' Response).[1] According to Defendants, when Defendants opened the Store, Plaintiff “helped out” by working there in return for Defendants' having taken care of him for so long. According to Defendants, Plaintiff helped out in the Store because he “had nothing else to do” and because Plaintiff knew that it was time for him to help “support the household.” ECF 34 at 1-2.[2] While Plaintiff worked in the Store, Defendants explain, Plaintiff continued to live in their home, and Defendants continued to pay Plaintiff's daily living expenses, including food, utilities, clothing, and cigarettes. According to Defendants, they never discussed with Plaintiff paying him any salary or hourly wage, but add that they gave Plaintiff money during the time that Plaintiff was working in the Store. ECF 32 at 3.


         Plaintiff moves for partial summary judgment, arguing that it is undisputed that Plaintiff worked at least 35 hours per week between September 2015 and October 2016 and that he is, therefore, owed back wages for at least that amount of time. Plaintiff argues that he is entitled to summary judgment awarding him minimum wage compensation for these hours, FLSA liquidated damages, penalty wages, and prejudgment interest. In response, Defendants, proceeding pro se, argue that Plaintiff was never their employee, that they gave Plaintiff room, board, clothing, and money, and that a jury should decide whether Defendants owe Plaintiff anything further. Defendants also assert counterclaims, seeking damages for alleged defamation, slander, emotional distress, and financial hardship.

         A. Plaintiff's Claims

         1. Whether Plaintiff Was an “Employee”

         Plaintiff is only entitled to recover on his FLSA or state law employment claims if he was an “employee” of Defendants. The FLSA provides the following definitions: (1) “‘Employer' includes any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee . . .”; (2) “Except as provided in paragraphs (2), (3), and (4) [which do not apply in this case], the term ‘employee' means any individual employed by an employer.” 29 U.S.C. § 203. “Employ, ” in turn, “includes to suffer or permit to work.” 29 U.S.C. § 203(g). Plaintiff summarily asserts that he was “clearly” an “employee” for purposes of ...

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