6th Cir.: Employee’s Testimony Alone Enough to Defeat Summary Judgment in Unpaid Overtime Case

A recent ruling regarding an auto shop employee’s unpaid overtime claim creates an outcome that is potentially beneficial to Tennessee employees but worrisome to Tennessee employers. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that an employee’s uncorroborated testimony, even in the absence of any additional supporting evidence, may be enough to create a dispute of fact and defeat an employer’s attempt to end the case via summary judgment.

The dispute centered around the hours worked by Jeffrey Moran, an employee at Auto Pro auto repair shop in Warren, Mich. According to the employee, he agreed to work during all of the shop’s operating hours, which spanned six days and 58 hours. In exchange, the employer agreed to pay Moran $300 per week plus “bonus-type profit sharing.”

In his legal action against the employer, Moran claimed he actually worked 65-68 hours per week. According to the employer, Moran was paid $300 per week to work a 30-hour weekly schedule and Moran never worked more than 30 hours in a week. To back up his claim regarding the long hours he worked, the employee had nothing more than his own uncorroborated testimony. The employer presented copies of Moran’s paystubs and timesheets, showing that the employee never worked more than 30 hours in a single week.

While this evidence was enough to persuade the trial court to grant summary judgment in favor of the employer, the appeals court was less convinced. The case boiled down to one straightforward question: is an employee’s testimony, without any additional evidence, enough create the necessary factual dispute required to stave off summary judgment? The answer, according to the appeals court, was “yes.”

Part of what strengthened Moran’s case was the coherent manner in which he recalled his weekly work schedules, including his normal daily start and end times, which he used to arrive at his estimate of 65-68 hours worked per week. The employer’s evidence, on the other hand, appeared to suffer from a lack of credibility. Allegedly, the employer updated employees’ timesheets based upon viewing employees’ arrivals and departures using a security camera system. The employer allegedly used this footage to calculate the employees’ time worked, which he wrote on pieces of paper that he subsequently threw away. However, on 85 of the 90 timesheets the employer offered, Moran worked precisely 30 hours, which the court appeared to find peculiar given that Moran’s weekly work schedules varied every week, sometimes dramatically.

In its ruling, the appeals court explained that the law did not demand absolute precision from the employee. While the trial court viewed Moran’s recollection regarding his hours as “vague,” the appeals court stated that the law does “not require employees to recall their schedules with perfect accuracy in order to survive a motion for summary judgment.”

Whether you are an employee who is owed unpaid overtime, or you are an employer, the knowledgeable Tennessee unpaid overtime attorneys at Parks, Chesin & Walbert can help you understand your rights, obligations and options throughout each step of the legal process. To speak with one of our lawyers about your case, call 404-873-8048.

More blog posts:

Monitoring Radio Is Not Enough to Transform Breaks Into Work Time, Holds 6th Cir., Atlanta Employment Attorneys Blog, March 25, 2015

Employer That Edited Overtime Records Liable for FLSA Violations, Atlanta Employment Attorneys Blog, Feb. 4, 2015

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