County Superior Court
Plaintiff: Curtis Ray Pouliot-Alvarez, Esq.
Defendant: Bernard Patrick Healy, Esq.
the Court is Plaintiff Luis Sanchez's (Plaintiff or
Sanchez) appeal from an order of the State of Rhode Island
Department of Labor and Training (DLT) dismissing his claim
for overtime pay. Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956
§ 42-35-15. For the reasons set forth herein, this Court
affirms the DLT's decision.
was employed as a cook at Aurora Restaurant (Aurora or
restaurant) from November 10, 2014 to February 11, 2015,
receiving $400 weekly. Department of Labor and Training
Division of Labor Standards Claim No. LS: 15-65, October 19,
2015 Order (Order). Plaintiff asserts that he worked fifteen
hours a day, seven days a week during that period. Compl.
¶¶ 2-3. On February 24, 2015, Sanchez filed a
complaint with the DLT's Division of Labor Standards,
alleging that he was owed $8800. See id. at ¶
5; Non-Payment of Wages Compl. Form. On October 15, 2015,
pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 28-14-19, a DLT authorized
representative (hearing officer) conducted a hearing on
Sanchez's claim against Aurora. See Order;
see also § 28-14-19(c) (setting forth hearing
the hearing, Sanchez received the assistance of a Spanish
interpreter, the Labor Standards examiner in his case.
See Tr. 3:4-7. Sanchez, representing himself,
testified as to the aforementioned start and end dates, hours
per day worked, and weekly pay. Id. at 4:21-6:12. He
also confirmed his contention that he was owed $8800,
offering documentation of his hours in the form of his
personal notes. See id. at 8:3-10, 9:20-10:8,
11:4-18; Pet'r's Ex. 2 (Notebook). However, Sanchez
could not articulate how he calculated or arrived at that
monetary figure. See Tr. 8:10-12:11. It was then
that the hearing officer realized the true nature of
Sanchez's claim and allowed him to amend his complaint.
Id. at 12:12-14, 14:4-20. Sanchez sought overtime
pay-time and one-half-for every hour per week over forty that
he worked at Aurora. See id. at 23:7-10,
35:17-36:12; see also § 28-12-4.1 (providing
overtime pay rates).
fifteen-hour days that Sanchez said he normally worked
amounted to 105 hours total each week, or sixty-five hours of
overtime. See Tr. 23:3-10, 31:2-17, 35:20-36:12.
Sanchez also claimed to have worked twenty-four hours per day
the week of December 17, 2014 to December 24, 2014.
Id. at 21:10-22:8; see also Notebook.
Despite first asserting that he never left the restaurant
that week, Sanchez then clarified that he would go home to
shower, which would take an hour at most. Tr. 22:5-23:2.
Sanchez testified that he did not sleep at all for those
seven days. Id. at 24:5-10.
cross-examination, Aurora's attorney questioned the
contents of Sanchez's notes. Although Sanchez said that
he included the start and end times of his work shifts in his
notes, he had to clarify that he memorialized only the total
hours each day. See id. at 24:23-26:5; Notebook.
When Sanchez wrote the hours down in his notebook was also
examined. See Tr. 24:11-22, 26:10-28:11.
Furthermore, the attorney for the restaurant asked why
Sanchez would go to work at 7:00 a.m. if Aurora did not open
until lunch and why his notes reflect that he worked every
day in December 2014 even though the restaurant was closed at
least three days during a snowstorm. See id. at
28:12-29:22, 31:18-32:7; Notebook.
hearing officer then offered Sanchez the opportunity to
testify further, which Sanchez declined. Tr. 32:19-33:1. At
that point, Aurora's attorney moved for a "directed
verdict, " calling into question the veracity of
Sanchez's testimony and documentary evidence. See
id. at 33:2-33:14. In agreement, the hearing officer
found Sanchez's testimony regarding the hours he
worked-especially twenty-four hours for seven straight
days-"not very credible, to say the least."
Id. at 36:22; see also id. at 36:23-37:7.
The hearing officer also gave weight to the fact that Sanchez
did not keep track of when he entered and exited the
restaurant, instead offering only the blanket assertion that
he generally worked fifteen hours per day. See id.
at 36:12-17. After continuing to discuss the lack of
credibility in Sanchez's testimony, the hearing officer
concluded: "So taking everything in light at this time,
I don't believe that [Sanchez] has presented a prima
facie case, and for that reason, I'm going to grant the
motion to dismiss this case as it stands right now, and this
matter is concluded." Id. at 37:7-12.
October 19, 2015, the hearing officer entered an order to
that effect. See Order. Stated therein, the hearing
officer made the following findings:
"[Sanchez] was employed by [Aurora] for the period from
November 10, 2014 through February 11, 2015 and was paid a
salary of $400.00 per week. [Sanchez] was unable to
demonstrate by credible evidence that he worked any overtime
hours and was due any additional salary. Considering all of
the evidence most favorable to [Sanchez], it is apparent that
[Sanchez] failed to meet his burden of proof and present a
prima faci[e] case." Id.
the hearing officer dismissed Sanchez's complaint.
Id.; see also § 28-14-19(c) (mandating
that the hearing officer, within thirty days of the close of
the hearing, enter an order which "shall dismiss the
complaint or direct payment of any wages and/or benefits
found to be due"). On November 19, 2015, Plaintiff
appealed the Order to this Court. See Compl.
Rhode Island Administrative Procedures Act (APA),
§§ 42-35-1 et seq. governs Superior Court
review of an administrative agency's decision. Rivera
v. Emps.' Ret. Sys. of R.I., 70 A.3d 905, 909 (R.I.
2013). Section 42-35-15(g) of the APA provides as follows:
"The court shall not substitute its judgment for that of
the agency as to the weight of the evidence on questions of
fact. The court may affirm the decision of the agency or
remand the case for further proceedings, or it may reverse or
modify the decision if substantial rights of the appellant
have been prejudiced because the administrative findings,
inferences, conclusions, or decisions are:
"(1) In violation of constitutional or statutory
"(2) In excess of the statutory authority of the agency;
"(3) Made upon unlawful procedure;
"(4) Affected by other error or law;
"(5) Clearly erroneous in view of the reliable,
probative, and substantial evidence on the ...