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Rose Ann Stephens v. Alken Tours

January 21, 2011

ROSE ANN STEPHENS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALKEN TOURS, INC. AND PATRICIA LAWRENCE-HAUGHTON, DEFENDANTS. GOLD,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Steven M. Gold United States Magistrate Judge

S., United States Magistrate Judge:

Introduction

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER Plaintiff, Roseanne Stephens, brings this action against her former employer, Alken Tours, Inc. ("Alken"), and its principal, Patrcia Lawrence-Houghton. Plaintiff alleges that she frequently worked more than forty hours in a week but was not paid overtime. Plaintiff asserts claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and in particular 29 U.S.C. § 207, as well as under parallel New York State law provisions.

The parties consented to reassignment of this action to a magistrate judge for all purposes. Docket Entry 48. The parties agreed to a bench trial, which I held on January 13, 2011. For the reasons stated below, judgment is entered in plaintiff's favor in the amount of $25,379, comprised of $5,733 in FLSA overtime wages due, $5,733 in FLSA liquidated damages, $12,633 in state law overtime wages due, and $1,250 in attorney's fees and costs.

Facts

The background facts are undisputed. Defendant Alken is a travel agency. The agency is run by defendant Lawrence-Haughton, who has served as its president since 1997. Plaintiff Stephens began working for Alken in or about 1984 and was at all relevant times supervised by defendant Lawrence-Haughton. Stephens' employment was terminated on September 10, 2008. The reason offered by defendants was that the volume of business in the travel industry had declined. Pl. Ex. 1.

Plaintiff's case included her own testimony and the testimony of two of her friends; her letter of termination, Pl. Ex. 1; and a log reflecting employee starting times from January of 2003 through March of 2004, written in plaintiff's hand and found and produced in discovery by defendants. Pl. Ex. 2. Defendants' case was comprised of the testimony of Lawrence-Haughton and Steven Grandison, Alken's accounting manager. Defendants also introduced an affidavit sworn to by plaintiff during the course of this litigation. Def. Ex. A.

Plaintiff testified that she regularly worked five or six days per week and often remained at work after regular business hours. According to her testimony, plaintiff worked an average of fifty hours per week, but was usually paid for working only forty hours.*fn1 Plaintiff did acknowledge that she was paid overtime wages about one-third of the time. Plaintiff also acknowledged that she frequently complained to Grandison about being owed overtime, and that Grandison would correct her pay and include overtime wages about one-quarter of the time. At all times relevant to this lawsuit, plaintiff's regular wage was $14.00 per hour.

Defendant Lawrence-Houghton testified that, as far as she knew, plaintiff never worked more than forty hours in a single week. Lawrence-Houghton further testified that, after the World Trade Center was attacked on September 11, 2001, business fell off markedly, and her staff agreed to work four days per week to avoid layoffs. Steven Grandison, who is no longer employed by Alken, corroborated Lawrence-Houghton's testimony and stated that plaintiff never worked more than forty hours in a single week and never complained to him that she worked overtime but was not paid for it.

Both plaintiff and Grandison testified that Alken employees punched time cards that Grandison reviewed when preparing payroll checks. In her testimony, Lawrence-Houghton acknowledged that plaintiff's time cards were not retained and therefore could not be produced in discovery or at trial.

Discussion

A. Liability

Under the FLSA, an employer is required to maintain records establishing the hours worked by its employees. 29 U.S.C. § 211(c). When an employer fails to keep records of the hours worked by its employees, a plaintiff may prove her hours by evidence that "show[s] the amount and extent of [her] work as a matter of just and reasonable inference." Angel v. Queens Blvd. Car Wash, 2008 WL 111159, at *8 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 8, 2008), quoting Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680, 687 (1946).

I credit plaintiff's testimony that she worked overtime hours on a regular basis but that she was not consistently paid for doing so. I make this decision primarily because the only documentation reflecting plaintiff's hours tends to corroborate her testimony and to refute the ...


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