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Lacroix v. Portland Regency, Inc.

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

August 7, 2018



          Nancy Mills, Justice

         Before the court is defendant Portland Regency, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motion is denied in part and granted in part.

         I. Facts

         Defendant Portland Regency, Inc. (the Regency) is a hotel located in downtown Portland, Maine. (Def.'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶ 1.) Plaintiff Tanya LaCroix is a massage therapist who began working in the spa at the Regency on May 1, 2015. (Def.'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff's employment at the Regency was terminated on either April 26, 2016 or April 27, 2016. (Def.'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶ 6; Pl's Opp. to Def.'s S.M.F. ¶ 6.)

         During her tenure at the Regency, plaintiff worked scheduled shifts during which she was "on call" to provide massage services to hotel clients. (Def.'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶¶ 15-17; Pl's Add'l S.M.F. 55 1, 3.) During her shifts, plaintiff was available to be called in to the hotel if a client scheduled an appointment; plaintiff was compensated only if she was actually called in to perform the services. (Def.'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶¶ 13-14, 20; Pl's Add'l S.M.F.¶¶ 3-4.) Plaintiff was not paid for time in which she was available but not providing services to hotel clients. (Def.'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶ 20; Pl's Add'l S.M.F. ¶¶ 4-5.)

         The hotel would advise plaintiff of any scheduled appointments the evening before her scheduled shift. (Def.'s Supp'g S.M.F.¶ 16; Pl's Opp. to Def .'s S.M.F. ¶ 16.) If a client scheduled an appointment during one of plaintiff's shifts, the hotel would call and notify plaintiff at least one hour before the appointment. (Def.'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶ 17; Pl's Add'l S.M.F. ¶ 8.) Once notified of a scheduled appointment, plaintiff was required to arrive at the Regency twenty or thirty minutes in advance of the appointment. (Def .'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶ 17; Pl's Add'l S.M.F. ¶¶ 12-13.) Pursuant to the hotel's employee policy, massage therapists were "free to do as [they] please" if not called for service during their availability periods. (Def.'s Supp'g S.M.F.¶ 19; Pl's Opp. to Def.'s S.M.F. ¶ 19.) Unless called in for an appointment, plaintiff was not required to be at the Regency. (Def.'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶ 18; Pl's Add'l S.M.F. ¶¶ 24, 33.) During her shifts plaintiff was required to refrain from using drugs or alcohol. (Def.'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶ 18.)[1]

         Plaintiff admits that during her employment she was rude and unprofessional as well as impatient with the front desk staff.[2] (Def.'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶¶ 25, [3] 27; Pl's Opp. to Def.'s S.M.F. ¶¶ 25, 27.) Plaintiff also signed a document stating that she was insubordinate. (Def.'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶¶ 34-35, 38.) Plaintiff, however, denies that she was actually insubordinate. (Pl's Opp. to Def.'s S.M.F. ¶ 25.) Plaintiff admits that her supervisor verbally discussed her poor behavior and attitude issues with her on multiple occasions. (Def.'s Supp'g S.M.F. ¶¶ 26, 28-31, 33; Pl's Opp. to Def.'s S.M.F. ¶¶ 26-27.) During her employment plaintiff also brought to her employer's attention numerous conditions that plaintiff believed to be either unsafe or a violation of law. (Pl's Add'l S.M.F. ¶¶ 36-71.)

         On August 17, 2017, plaintiff filed a complaint against the Regency. The complaint contains two counts: count I, unpaid wages; and count II, Whistleblower Protection Act retaliation under the Maine Human Rights Act. On May 3, 2018, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. On May 24, 2018, plaintiff filed an opposition to defendant's motion. On June 4, 2018, defendant filed a reply.

         II. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the record reflects that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. M.R. Civ. P. 56(c). "A material fact is one that can affect the outcome of the case, and there is a genuine issue when there is sufficient evidence for a fact-finder to choose between competing versions of the fact." Stewart-Pore v. Webber Hosp. Ass'n, 2011 ME 26, ¶ 8, 13 A.3d 773 (quotation marks omitted). "A plaintiff may avoid a summary judgment for the defendant as a matter of law on a given claim by establishing a prima facie case for each element of the claim for which the plaintiff will bear the burden of proof at trial." Binette v. Dyer Library Ass'n, 688 A.2d 898, 902 (Me. 1996).

         III. Discussion

         Defendant has moved for summary judgment on both counts of the complaint.

         A. Count I: Unpaid Wages

         In count I of her complaint, plaintiff seeks to recover unpaid wages she alleges she is owed for time spent waiting while on call but not providing services at the Regency spa. 26 M.R.S. §§ 663-64, 670 (2016). Defendant argues that plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie claim that she is entitled to additional wages and that summary judgment must therefore be entered in its favor. Specifically, defendant argues that plaintiff's leisure time while on call was not restricted to such a degree that the time was spent primarily for the benefit of the Regency. (Def .'s ...

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