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Ballard v. Dover Wipes Co.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

May 4, 2015



MARY PAT THYNGE, Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction

In this action alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") brought by plaintiff, Daena Ballard ("plaintiff'), against The Dover Wipes Company ("defendant" or "Dover Wipes"), who moves for summary judgment pursuant to FED. R. C1v. P. 56(a). For the reasons stated below, the motion should be granted.

II. Background

Plaintiff is a Delaware resident and a former employee of defendant, an Ohio corporation that produces and packages baby wipes and other consumer paper products at a facility in Dover, Delaware.[1]

Following her graduation from Rutgers University with a Masters of Science in Industrial and Systems Engineering, plaintiff began working on June 13, 2005, as a Process Engineer for The Procter & Gamble Company ("P&G"), the parent corporation of defendant, in Stamford, CT.[2] From June 2005 to November 2009, plaintiff was employed in various management positions at the Stamford plant.[3] Her responsibilities included managing between 6 to 32 employees, developing master plans for multiple product lines, and preparing for the global quality audit.[4] In February 2009, plaintiff was hired for the position of Specialty Operations Department Manager at defendant's plant in Delaware.[5] That employment began on November 1, 2009.[6]

While employed by defendant, her responsibilities included: overseeing a team of 81 contract employees; managing and supervising the plant's Finished Product Handling Team consisting of three full-time employees; creating a master plan, identifying training needs for employees, controlling overtime, developing job postings to seek new employees, and interviewing candidates for open positions in her department; reviewing direct reports regarding performance and determining whether goals would be met; investigating performance issues and identifying deficiencies of direct reports; imposing corrective action and making recommendations to Human Resources regarding consequences for deficient performance; and managing over 50% of the total plant volume.[7]

Beginning in December 2009, product orders increased. Plaintiff informed management about her concerns on inadequate staffing to execute high performance production.[8] In January 2010, plaintiff was assigned to lead the startup of a $1 million project; none of her previous responsibilities were re-assigned or de-prioritized because of her new position.[9] Although plaintiff was able to facilitate the startup of this new project, she was required to be on call twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. [10] In May 2011, plaintiff advised management that she needed to be reassigned due to increased stress and anxiety.[11] In September 2011, plaintiff began a one-month approved disability leave.[12] Upon her return to work, plaintiff notified management that since her two year commitment was almost done, she wanted another assignment.[13] Management advised it would not support plaintiff's request. [14] In February 2012, plaintiff was issued a Performance Improvement Plan, warning she risked a grade of "not meeting expectations" for her upcoming annual performance review in June.[15] In March 2012, plaintiff informed management that she was pregnant, and on May 2, 2012, she began approved disability leave due to complications with the pregnancy.[16] When plaintiff returned to work on June 5, 2012, she was immediately reissued a Performance Improvement Plan and notified that her position was reassigned to another manager.[17] On August 6, 2012, management informed plaintiff that she was "no longer a fit" for employment and she was terminated the following day. [18]

Ill. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Delaware Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on October 15, 2012.[19] On January 24, 2013, plaintiff received a right to sue letter from the EEOC.[20]

On April 24, 2013, plaintiff initially sued Procter & Gamble Distributing LLC alleging claims of gender, racial, national origin, and pregnancy discrimination, violations of the Family Medical Leave Act, and violations of FSLA for failure to pay for overtime and all hours worked.[21] On May 21, 2013, plaintiff amended her complaint, substituting Dover Wipes and the Proctor & Gamble Company ("P&G") as defendants.[22] On August 28, 2013, the parties dismissed P&G with prejudice, and on October 28, 2014, dismissed all counts with prejudice, except the FLSA claims.[23] On October 30, 2014, Dover Wipes moved for judgment in its favor on the FLSA claims. [24]

IV. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate if the "movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law."[25] Following discovery, FED R. CIV. P. 56(a) mandates judgment against the party who "fails to make a sufficient showing to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial."[26] When a party fails to make such a showing, "there can be no genuine issue as to any material fact' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial."[27] A dispute of material fact exists where "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."[28]

The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.[29] A party may move for summary judgment with or without supporting affidavits.[30] Therefore, "the burden on the moving party may be discharged by showing' - that is, pointing out to the district court - that there is an absence of evidence supporting the nonmoving party's case."[31]

If the moving party demonstrates an absence of material fact, the non moving party must then show "that the fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed" through appropriate evidence.[32] If the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, it "must go beyond the pleadings in order to survive a motion for summary judgment."[33] That party "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [its] pleadings, but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."[34] At the summary judgment stage, the court is not to "weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial."[35] The threshold inquiry therefore is "determining whether there is a need for trial - whether, in other words, there are genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party."[36]

V. Discussion

Under the FLSA, "no employer shall employ any of his employees... for a workweek of longer than forty hours unless such employee receives compensation... at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which [she] is employed."[37] An action for unpaid wages and unpaid overtime under the FLSA must be filed within two years after the cause of action accrued, except where the matter arose out of a willful violation, then a three year limitations period applies. [38]

Certain employees, however, are exempted from the FLSA, including those who are "employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity."[39] An executive employee, under the FLSA, includes one who is:

(1) Compensated on a salary basis at a rate of not less than $455 per week... exclusive of board, lodging or other facilities;
(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 ...

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