Abuelghanamv.Discount Car Wash, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston DivisionNov 10, 2010
CIVIL ACTION NO. H-08-3682 (S.D. Tex. Nov. 10, 2010)


November 10, 2010


MELINDA HARMON, District Judge

After half a day of trial to the bench, at the close of Plaintiff Ziad Abuelghanam's ("Abuelghanam") case, the Court granted Defendant Discount Car Wash, Inc.'s ("Discount Car Wash") motion for directed verdict. The following is a statement of the Court's reasons.

I. Background and Relevant Facts

On December 18, 2008, Abuelghanam filed suit against Defendants Discount Car Wash, Mervin Alexus Nalletamby ("Nalletamby"), and Adeeb Mohammad Amir ("Amir") for violations of the FLSA seeking equitable relief, compensatory and liquidated damages, and attorney's fees and costs. (Doc. 1.) Nalletamby and Amir are shareholders and employees of Discount Car Wash and were Abuelghanam's supervisors. By mutual agreement of the parties, the case was tried to the bench on November 8, 2010. (Doc. 36.) At the close of Abuelghanam's case, the Court granted Defendants' motion for a directed verdict.

Abuelghanam worked for Discount Car Wash in Crosby, Texas, from April 9, 2006 to November 9, 2008. His duties at Discount Car Wash included washing and waxing cars, as well as interior cleaning, vacuuming, and polishing. Abuelghanam's starting pay at Discount Car Wash was $6 per hour, which eventually increased to $9. Abuelghanam testified, and Defendants conceded, that although he sometimes worked more than forty hours per week, he was not paid one and one half times his hourly rate for overtime hours, as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 ("FLSA"), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. Abuelghanam calculated that Discount Car Wash had wrongfully underpaid him by $7,325.33 over the duration of his employment. As proof, Abuelghanam introduced exhibits, including a payroll report, showing that he sometimes worked more than forty hours per week at his standard hourly rate.

At the close of Abuelghanam's case Defendants moved for a Judgement, arguing that Abuelghanam was not entitled to the protection of the FLSA because he was not "engaged in interstate commerce." 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)

II. Conclusions of Law

A motion for judgement should be granted "when there is not a sufficient conflict in substantial evidence to create a jury question." Travis v. Bd. Of Regents of the Univ. of Tex. Sys., 122 F.3d 259, 263 (5th Cir. 1997) (citing Foreman v. Babcock Wilcox Co., 117 F.3d 800, 804 (5th Cir. 1997)). Substantial evidence is evidence "of such quality and weight that reasonable and fair minded men in the exercise of impartial judgment might reach different conclusions." Boeing Co. v. Shipman, 411 F.2d 365, 374 (5th Cir. 1969).

The burden is on the Plaintiff to prove that he is an eligible employee covered by the FLSA. Warren-Bradshaw Drilling Co. v. Hall, 317 U.S. 88, 90 (1942). To be entitled to the FLSA's protections, an employee must be "engaged in interstate commerce" when performing his job duties. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a). "The test is whether the work is so directly and vitally related to the functioning of an instrumentality or facility of interstate commerce as to be, in practical effect, a part of it, rather than isolated local activity." Mitchell v. H.B. Zachry Co., 362 U.S. 310, 324 (1960). Among other requirements, an enterprise "engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce" must have employees "handling, selling, or otherwise working on goods or materials that have been moved in or produced for commerce by any person[.]" 29 U.S.C. § 203(s)(1)(A)(i).

In support of Abuelghanam's claim that he was personally engaged in interstate commerce, Abuelghanam argued that he used chemicals and other materials manufactured outside of Texas in the course of his duties at Discount Car Wash. At trial, however, Abuelghanam did not introduce testimony or any other evidence proving this fact by a preponderance of the evidence. He failed to meet his burden of proof on this essential element of his claim.

Accordingly, judgment in favor of the Defendants is proper.

SIGNED at Houston, Texas, this 10th day of November, 2010.