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BOBADILLA v. MDRC

August 23, 2005.

ROLANDO BOBADILLA, Plaintiff,
v.
MDRC, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN KOELTL, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

The plaintiff, Rolando Bobadilla ("Bobadilla"), alleges that his former employer, the defendant, Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation ("MDRC"), violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-19, by failing to pay Bobadilla time-and-a-half for hours worked in a given week in excess of forty hours. The defendant, MDRC, moves for summary judgment. MDRC argues that the plaintiff qualifies as a computer services employee pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(17) as well as a bona fide administrative or professional employee pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1) and is therefore exempt from the FLSA's overtime requirements.

I.

  The standard for granting summary judgment is well established. Summary judgment may not be granted unless "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986); Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs. Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994). "The trial court's task at the summary judgment motion stage of the litigation is carefully limited to discerning whether there are genuine issues of material fact to be tried, not to deciding them. Its duty, in short, is confined at this point to issue-finding; it does not extend to issue-resolution." Gallo, 22 F.3d at 1224. The moving party bears the initial burden of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion" and identifying the matter that "it believes demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The substantive law governing the case will identify those facts which are material and "only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

  In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citing United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)); see also Gallo, 22 F.3d at 1223. Summary judgment is improper if there is any evidence in the record from any source from which a reasonable inference could be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. See Chambers v. TRM Copy Ctrs. Corp., 43 F.3d 29, 37 (2d Cir. 1994). If the moving party meets its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). The nonmoving party must produce evidence in the record and "may not rely simply on conclusory statements or on contentions that the affidavits supporting the motion are not credible." Ying Jing Gan v. City of New York, 996 F.2d 522, 532 (2d Cir. 1993). See also Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105, 114-15 (2d Cir. 1998) (collecting cases); Estevez-Yalcin v. Children's Village, 331 F. Supp. 2d 170, 171 (S.D.N.Y. 2004).

  II.

  The evidence in the summary judgment record, construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff as the nonmoving party, is as follows. MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan social policy research organization. (Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1.)*fn1 It employs approximately 165 employees, and all of these employees have access to the MDRC computer network. (Id. ¶ 4.) MDRC's computer network infrastructure includes but is not limited to a wide area network ("WAN"); a New York local area network ("NY LAN"); and a California local area network ("CA LAN"). (Id. ¶ 6.) MDRC networks are connected to numerous devices, including servers, switches, hubs, and databases. (Id. ¶ 7.) A server is an operating system, and some users at MDRC had several servers. (Id. ¶ 8-9.) At the time the plaintiff was employed by MDRC, the NY LAN included 26 servers connecting 210 devices, including computers, printers, and storage hardware and the CA LAN included 3 servers connecting 25 devices. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 14.)

  In or around March 2001, MDRC had an opening for a Network Administrator*fn2 and conducted a search for someone with significant experience in managing computer system networks. (Id. ¶ 41.) Paul Feliu, the Director of Information Technology ("IT"), reviewed the plaintiff's resume and found that Bobadilla had credentials related to network management. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 43.) During an interview with the plaintiff, Feliu discussed the plaintiff's overall experience with hardware and software that was listed on the plaintiff's resume, with a focus on Cisco networking experience. (Id. ¶¶ 44-5, 61.) At that time, the plaintiff's resume included references to:
Hardware: Cisco routers and switches, Cisco VPN modules; Cisco Pix firewalls, Compaq 1850 servers; HP DL380; HP DLT; Dell Poweredge Servers; 3COM wireless networking devices; HP LPR's DAT backup devices; Matrix UPS; network analyzers.
Software: Cisco IOS; What's Up Gold; Cisco Works; MS Exchange; 2K; Arc-Serve 2K; Checkpoint-FWI; Citrix; RAID; Cisco TFTP; VNC; VMWare; Win 2K advanced Server-AD; DHCP; WINS; DNS; HS; RAS/Routing, Win 2K Professional; Novell Netware 4.11.
(See Ex. 1 attached to Aff. of Paul Feliu ("Feliu Aff.") sworn to Dec. 13, 2004, attached as Ex. A. to Aff. of John Ho ("Ho Aff.") sworn to Dec. 15, 2004, ¶ 22.) The plaintiff also held a certificate issued by Cisco Systems ("Cisco"), a manufacturer of network hardware and software, which entitled him to designation as a Cisco Certified Network Associate ("CCNA").*fn3 (Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 46.) According to the Cisco website, the CCNA exam requires the "planning and designing" of various network devices, including a requirement that applicants "[d]esign a simple LAN using Cisco technology", "[d]esign an IP address scheme to meet design requirements", and "[d]evelop an access list to meet user specifications." (Ex. 2 to Feliu Aff.) The plaintiff acknowledges that he was required to study "quite a bit" to pass the test. (Bobadilla Dep. at 37; Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 50.)*fn4

  Bobadilla claims that he never received any formal training in computer technology, except for a one-week course during his prior employment. (Bobadilla Dep. at 37-39.) He obtained a high school diploma and his resume lists attendance at Brooklyn College and the NYU School of Professional Studies. (See Ex. 4 attached to Feliu Aff.; Decl. of Rolando Bobadilla ("Bobadilla Decl.") dated Feb. 8, 2005 attached to Bartlett Decl., ¶ 4.)

  Network Administrators typically have seven or more years of experience with personal computers. (Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 39.) When the plaintiff was interviewed for the position at MDRC, Bobadilla claims to have had four years of experience working on computers and networks. (Bobadilla Decl. ¶ 3.) His resume, however, indicates a far longer history of experience with computers. In 1993, Bobadilla started his own private computer consulting service. (See Ex. 4 attached to Feliu Aff.) The plaintiff was employed in 1995 as a lab technician at The New School, where he was promoted to lab manager and then to "technical support analyst" in which he "[m]aintained all associated LAN connectivity" and "[c]onfigured and implemented all client configurations" for the Computer Services Department. (See id.) Bobadilla then worked at Condé Nast as a technical support analyst and at NYU Medical Center as a computer analyst. In both positions, Bobadilla worked on computer networking issues. (See id.) Immediately prior to his work at MDRC, Bobadilla worked at Oneclip.com, a dot.com startup, where he allegedly "[d]esigned a bastion router for its connectivity infrastructure; [and] [d]esigned and implemented physical and logical network infrastructure changes; . . . [d]esigned the Windows 2000 AD, DNS, DHCP, and WINS environment to facilitate the introduction of Exchange 2000." (Id.) The plaintiff claims that, at the time he was hired by MDRC, he did not have experience as a programmer, systems analyst, or software engineer (Bobadilla Decl. ¶ 7), but that he had experience maintaining and troubleshooting personal computers. (Id. ¶ 8.)

  During the plaintiff's initial MDRC interview Feliu, noted that the "network" position was salaried and would sometimes require the plaintiff to work more than eight hours per day, and that the position was not eligible for overtime. (Feliu Aff. ¶ 29; Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 55-56; Bobadilla Dep. at 76.) Feliu told the plaintiff that MDRC expected Bobadilla to design and implement a network system in California. (Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 57.) The plaintiff told Feliu that he had experience related to designing and implementing network systems. (Id. ¶ 58.)

  Feliu and three Network Administrators, including Angelica Manigbas, subsequently met with the plaintiff. (Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 62.) The Network Administrators allegedly informed the plaintiff that MDRC was looking for a senior level Network Administrator to provide support and to monitor a California network that MDRC expected to build. (Id. ¶ 63.) The plaintiff claims that he was not told that he would be responsible for the build-out of the California network. (Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 63.) The plaintiff discussed his experiences at Oneclip.com and noted that he held a Cisco certification for which he had attended a one-week class. (Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 66-68, 69-71.) The Network Administrators informed Feliu that they believed Bobadilla was a suitable candidate for the open Network Administrator position at MDRC. (Id. ¶ 72.) MDRC offered the position to the plaintiff, and he accepted the position with a salary of $70,000 per year and a $5,000 signing bonus. (Id. ¶ 75.) This was the highest salary grade for a Network Administrator. (Id. ¶ 77.) At the time, the average salary for a Network Administrator was approximately $75,600 per year. (Id. ¶ 78.)

  When the plaintiff began his employment at MDRC on or about April 16, 2001, the Network Administration position was classified as an exempt position within MDRC. In 1998, MDRC had hired Mercer Human Resources Consulting, Inc. ("Mercer") to assist MDRC in establishing a formal salary structure and compensation administration program for its employees. (Id. ¶ 171.) During its evaluation, Mercer concluded that Network Administrators are exempt employees under the FLSA. (Id. ¶¶ 174-76.) In contrast to the exempt Network Administrators, MDRC's IT Department also included Help Desk employees who are classified as non-exempt. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 27.) Help Desk employees are paid an hourly wage plus overtime for hours worked in excess of forty hours per week or as otherwise required by law. (Id. ¶ 28.) At the time that the plaintiff began working at MDRC, the average hourly rate for Help Desk employees was $24 per hour or about $43,680 per year based on MDRC's standard workweek of 35 hours. (Id.) At all relevant times, MDRC's Help Desk group consisted of three individuals who assisted other MDRC employees with basic computer problems, including those related to personal computers, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, printers, email accounts, and laptops. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19.)

  The parties dispute whether Help Desk employees perform any tasks on the MDRC network. MDRC asserts that Help Desk personnel typically assist users with basic computer problems. (Id. ¶ 21.) According to MDRC, the only network-related functions that Help Desk personnel perform are limited to network account access. Help Desk employees assign account numbers and provide users with access to certain parts of the network (id.), but allegedly do not work on network equipment, servers, infrastructure, or network maintenance. (Id. ¶ 22.) Rather, MDRC alleges that Help Desk personnel are primarily responsible for the physical maintenance of personal computer equipment. For example, Help Desk personnel might replace a broken keyboard. (Id. ¶ 23.) MDRC does not require applicants for Help Desk positions to possess specialized computer certifications or computer degrees. (Id. ¶ 30.) MDRC maintains that Help Desk personnel are prohibited from working on some network devices, including: WAN or LAN network devices; servers; switches; routers; power conditioning equipment; network backup devices; the network infrastructure; and network maintenance. (Id. ¶ 25.) If the Help Desk is not qualified to assist a user with a problem or the problem is directly related to network devices or "connectivity," it is allegedly ...


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