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Martinez-Gonzalez v. Lakeshore Staffing, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 26, 2018




         Plaintiffs, Estefany Martinez-Gonzalez and Imelda Lucio Lopez, filed their Complaint against Defendants, Lakeshore Staffing and its president and owner Randell Price (collectively, “Lakeshore”), on October 18, 2016. (ECF No. 1.) Martinez and Lopez alleged five counts of discrimination because of their Mexican nationality. The counts will be more fully described later in the Opinion.

         On November 30, 2017, Lakeshore filed a motion for summary judgment and dismissal for failure to state a claim, moving the Court to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety. (ECF No. 28.) Lakeshore asserts that Martinez and Lopez were assigned tasks that are within their job description and are typically assigned to all employees in that position; that Martinez and Lopez are paid above the pay scale and are among the highest paid crew members; that Martinez and Lopez have not suffered any adverse employment actions; any claims of harassment are based on a few minor incidents that do not rise to an actionable level; and that there is no legal basis for the claims against Price in his individual capacity.

         For the following reasons, the Court will grant Lakeshore's motion to dismiss for failing to state a claim on the Equal Pay Act claim, [1] and will grant summary judgment on the remaining claims.

         I. FACTS

         Lakeshore staffing supplies employees to nineteen franchised McDonald's restaurants in the West Michigan area, employing around one thousand people. Martinez and Lopez have been employed by Lakeshore since 2009 and have worked only at a McDonald's on West Leonard Street in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Both Martinez and Lopez worked as cooks, a position classified under the broader designation of “crew member.” Crew members work primarily at the front counter taking orders or cooking in the kitchen. Lakeshore also employed individuals classified as “maintenance, ” who handled typical maintenance duties such as cleaning the bathrooms, cleaning windows, cleaning kitchen vents, and so forth. However, crew members had secondary duties that they did regularly, including touching up the bathrooms, sweeping the floors, checking the parking lot for litter, and so forth. The written job description for “crew” includes, in pertinent part, the responsibility to “[k]eep general area clean” and “[c]onduct sweeps and mops.” (ECF No. 28-12 at PageID.286.)

         Lakeshore submitted affidavits of four different managers from the Leonard Street McDonald's, in which each manager stated that all crew members are assigned cleaning tasks. The managers include specific examples, e.g., Terry Wilber, an African-American crew member, takes out the trash from his area daily, sweeps and mops the floors, spot cleans the bathroom, and cleans windows and doors; Sarah LaBelle, a Caucasian crew member, takes out trash, sweeps and mops, cleans the grill, cleans the bathrooms, and cleans windows and doors. Maricela Pena, who is now a manager, specifically stated that

[i]n [her] experience as a crew member, all crew members are regularly assigned to do cleaning tasks such as spot cleaning the bathrooms, windows and doors, mopping and sweeping the floors, and taking out the trash. . . . [E]mployees from all racial and ethnic backgrounds . . . have all been called upon to perform the[se] tasks . . . on a regular and routine basis.

(ECF No. 28-9 at PageID.228.) Two Caucasian crew members, Veronica Beltran and Brad Street, also signed affidavits. Beltran stated,

As a crew member, I am most often assigned to work as a cook on the grill. However I am regularly assigned other tasks. Examples of the other things I do on a daily or almost daily basis are: take out the trash including boxes and containers (I do this almost every hour), clean glass doors and windows, clean bathrooms, sweep and mop the floors and outside the restaurant, clean the kitchen equipment and the grill.

(ECF No. 28-10 at PageID.231.) Street's declaration regarding his regular duties as a crew member is quite similar. (ECF No. 28-11 at PageID.234.)

         The affidavits consistently state that there is no policy regarding the language to be spoken at the Leonard Street McDonald's, and that Spanish is regularly spoken. Pena, herself a fluent Spanish speaker, stated “[t]here is no ‘English only' policy . . . and there never has been. . . . There has never been any problem or issue with [employees speaking Spanish regularly].” (ECF No. 28-9 at PageID.229.)

         Pay for crew members is set between minimum wage and $9.50 per hour. (ECF No. 28-12 at PageID.241.) Martinez and Lucio were paid more than $9.50 per hour beginning March 1, 2016, and were frequently the, or among the, highest paid employees. (ECF No. 28-12 at PageID.242-46.)

         Randell Price is the owner and president of Lakeshore, and has never interacted with Martinez or Lopez.


         Martinez and Lopez assert that although they may technically be classified as “crew members, ” they “were primarily responsible for cooking and were not responsible for any of the other positions.” Martinez and Lopez allege that they were forced to sweep the interior and exterior of the restaurant, clean doors and windows, clean bathrooms, take out trash, and remove ice during the winter.

         Martinez, in particular, asserts that she was required on a regular basis to sweep when the restaurant first opened for the day; spread salt in the winter; occasionally take trash bags outside; clean the grill she used in the kitchen several times; and to clean the bathroom three times. (ECF No. 28-3 at PageID.192-94.) Lopez, in particular, asserts that she had to sweep outside on three occasions since 2009; clean doors or windows twice; clean the bathroom glass and sink once; take kitchen trash out; and clean the refrigerator. (ECF No. 28-4 at ...

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