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Litz v. Saint Consulting Group, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

November 4, 2014

CRYSTAL LITZ, and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, Appellants,
v.
THE SAINT CONSULTING GROUP, INC.; P. MICHAEL SAINT; PATRICK F. FOX, Defendants, Appellees

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Hon. George A. O'Toole, Jr., U.S. District Judge.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, with whom John E. Duke, Lichten & Liss-Riordan, P.C., James B. Zouras, Ryan F. Stephan, and Stephan Zouras, LLP were on brief, for appellants.

Sean P. O'Connor, with whom Robert P. Joy, Daniel S. Field, and Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP were on brief, for appellees.

Before Torruella, Howard, and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

KAYATTA, Circuit Judge.

Appellants Crystal Litz and Amanda Payne (" plaintiffs" ) claim unpaid overtime wages for their work as project managers for The Saint Consulting Group, Inc. (" Saint Consulting" ). The district court concluded that plaintiffs were " highly compensated employees" and thus exempt from the overtime pay protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ). 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1); 29 C.F.R. § 541.601. For the following reasons, we affirm.

I. Background

The relevant facts are not in dispute. Saint Consulting is a Massachusetts corporation

Page 2

that provides political consulting to land use campaigns across the country. P. Michael Saint is its founder, CEO, chairman, and majority shareholder, and Patrick Fox serves as its president. Litz joined Saint Consulting as a project manager in 2005. Her relevant period of employment for this appeal is from October 2009, when she returned to the project manager position after a three-year stint as division manager, until her employment with Saint Consulting ended in March 2010. Amanda Payne worked as a project manager for Saint Consulting from June 2003 until October 2008.

The plaintiffs earned well over $100,000 per year as project managers during the years at issue. For most weeks, their earnings equaled the number of hours they billed to clients multiplied by an hourly rate between $40 and $60. Project managers typically received $2,500 to $4,000 per week in gross pay, which means that they typically worked more than 40 hours per week. Saint Consulting did not pay its project managers at a higher, overtime rate for hours worked beyond 40 hours per week. Saint Consulting's compensation plan for the relevant time provided, however, that " [a]ll project managers will . . . be guaranteed a minimum weekly salary of $1,000 whether they bill any hours or not." Therefore, if a project manager billed 10 hours at a $50 hourly rate, or $500, she would still receive $1,000 in pay for that week. If she instead billed 60 hours, she would simply receive $3,000, or 60 times $50. There is no dispute that Saint Consulting always paid the $1,000 stipend[1] when the value of a project manager's billed hours did not exceed $1,000. Indeed, Payne billed no hours during several weeks and still received $1,000 per week, designated as " MINSAL" or " STIPEN" on her paystubs.

In September 2010, former project manager Leigh Mayo filed suit against Saint Consulting in the Northern District of Illinois for unpaid overtime compensation under the FLSA. See 29 U.S.C. § 207. Litz and Payne consented to join the action as party plaintiffs in December 2010 and January 2011, respectively. Litz became the representative plaintiff[2] in March 2011 after Mayo settled with Saint Consulting. Because none of the 36 other project managers opted to join the lawsuit after receiving notice of opt-in rights under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), Litz and Payne were the sole party plaintiffs.

With Mayo, an Illinois resident, out of the case, Saint Consulting filed and the court granted an uncontested motion to transfer venue to the District of Massachusetts. After the transfer, the plaintiffs sought leave to file a second amended complaint with a claim under the Massachusetts overtime statute. See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151, ยง 1A. The ...


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