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TerMorshuizen v. Spurwink Services, Inc.

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

June 26, 2018

SYDNEY A. and PATRICIA A. TerMORSHUIZEN Plaintiffs
v.
SPURWINK SERVICES, INC. Defendant

          Attorneys for Plaintiffs: Guy Loranger, Esq. Danielle Campbell, Esq. Law Office of Guy D. Loranger.

          Attorney for Defendant: Graydon Stevens, Esq. Kelly Remmel & Zimmerman.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          A. M. Horton, Justice.

         The Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Spurwink Services, Inc. ["Spurwink"] is before the court, together with the opposition of Plaintiffs Sydney A. and Patricia A. TerMorshuizen, and Spurwink's reply memorandum.

         The Plaintiffs are spouses who were formerly employed by Spurwink as a live-in therapeutic couple whose duties required them to stay for 10 days and 11 nights at a time at one of the group homes operated by Spurwink for its clients. The legal issue presented in this case is whether the Plaintiffs are entitled to additional overtime pay during their overnight stays at the group home.

         Background

         Plaintiffs Sydney and Patricia TerMorshuizen are husband and wife, and were employed by Defendant Spurwink between September 2011 and December 2016. Defendant Spurwink is a licensed, nonprofit mental health agency that provides services for children, adolescents and adults with emotional or behavioral disturbances and/or developmental disabilities. Plaintiffs worked as a live-in "therapeutic couple" at a group home serving up to three Spurwink clients at any given time. Most of the clients who resided at the group home while Plaintiffs worked there were between 11 and 16 years old, and required significant care and attention due to emotional, behavioral or development issues.

         Plaintiffs' primary responsibility as a therapeutic couple was to reside with the clients in a home-like, safe and comfortable environment while supporting individual treatment plans for clients. Plaintiffs' work schedule generally began at 8 p.m. Monday of a given week and continued until 10 a.m. of the Friday of the following week, with 11 consecutive overnights at the residence. They had their own bedroom in the home and were required to remain on premises overnight. There were "baby monitors" in the clients' bedroom with a receiver in Plaintiffs' bedroom, so that Plaintiffs were able to hear sounds from the clients' bedrooms during sleep hours, and were thus able to respond to a client during the night if necessary.

         The Plaintiffs' daily schedule included up to eight hours of unpaid "sleep time" between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. each overnight and breaks of several hours each on each full day of their 10-day shift except for the Saturday-Sunday falling at the midpoint of each 10-day shift. All other time was paid at a specified hourly rate.

         At all relevant times, Spurwink's practice regarding compensation for interrupted sleep time was to pay Plaintiffs for interruptions only if an interruption involved attending to a client. If the Plaintiffs' sleep was interrupted to the point that Plaintiffs were able to get less than five hours of sleep that night, the Plaintiffs were paid for the entire eight hours of sleep time.

         Spurwink's policy regarding unpaid sleep time is meant to track the federal Department of Labor standards for payment of sleep time codified at 29 C.F.R. § 785.23.

         The Plaintiffs acknowledge that they have been compensated for all interruptions of their sleep that were eligible for compensation under Spurwink's policy. See Plaintiffs' Response to Defendant's Statement of Material Facts No. 29. However, Plaintiffs contend that there were many more sleep interruptions for which they were not compensated, because Spurwink would not permit them to record time associated with a sleep interruption unless it involved responding to a client.

         They contend that they routinely suffered sleep deprivation for which they were not compensated when they were awakened during sleep time but were not required to respond to a client. They say that due to the baby monitors and due to the construction of the residence, they were regularly awakened or prevented from falling asleep by sounds and movement in the clients' bedrooms that did not require them to get out of bed and attend to a client.

         Spurwink's response contends that nothing in state or federal law required Spurwink to compensate Plaintiffs for interruptions of their sleep if the Plaintiffs did not attend to a client during the period of the interruption, as long as the Plaintiffs could get at least five hours of sleep.

         Standard of Review

         "The function of a summary judgment is to permit a court, prior to trial, to determine whether there exists a triable issue of fact or whether the question[s] before the court [are] solely ... of law." Bouchard v. American Orthodontics, 661 A.2d 1143, 44 (Me. 1995).

         Questions of fact must be viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party-Plaintiff in this case. Thus, for purposes of Spurwink's motion, the court takes as true and established the Plaintiffs assertions that they were often awakened from sleep by noises that did not require them to get out of bed and attend to a client, and also that they were not regularly able to get a good night's sleep due to frequent interruption of sleep by sounds made by clients.

         However, "summary judgment is appropriate when the portions of the record referenced in the statements of material fact disclose no genuine issues of material fact and reveal that one party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Currie v. Indus. Sec, Inc., 2007 ME 12, ¶ 11, 915 A.2d 400. "A material fact is one that can affect the outcome of the case, and a genuine issue exists when there is sufficient evidence for a fact finder to choose between competing versions of the fact." Lougee Conservancy v. City-Mortgage, Inc., 2012 ME 103, ¶ 11, 48 A.3d 774 (quotation omitted).

         Analysis

         Plaintiffs' single-count complaint alleges that Defendant failed to pay them for all hours worked, and that Defendant's failure to pay violates the overtime pay provision of Maine statute, 26 M.R.S. § 664(3), and entitles Plaintiff to actual, liquidated and punitive damages, attorney fees and costs, as well as interest.

         (1) The Maine Overtime Payment Law

         The parties agree that there is no Maine Law Court precedent that defines whether, and under what criteria, an employee who is required to spend the night at the employer's premises is entitled to be paid for sleep time or interruptions to sleep time. However, the United States District Court has recently addressed issues very similar to those raised in this case. See ...


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