QUATTLEBAUM, Circuit Judge:
In this appeal, we are required to apply statutory provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and accompanying regulations to workers in the restaurant industry. Ãn Asian Cuisine ("Ãn"), an upscale sushi restaurant in Cary, North Carolina, paid its servers an hourly rate plus tips and automatic gratuities, which generally consisted of twenty percent of the bill for parties of six or more. When combined, the hourly wage, tips and automatic gratuities almost always exceeded the FLSA's minimum-wage and overtime requirements. The Appellants (the "Employees") claim, however, that the tips and automatic gratuities cannot be considered in determining whether Ãn met its FLSA obligations because they were paid through an unlawful tip pool. Tip pools must only include employees who customarily and regularly receive tips. Ãn, according to the Employees, included in its tip pool employees who did not meet that criteria. Therefore, the Employees claim Ãn violated the FLSA, entitling them to damages, attorneys' fees and costs.
The district court disagreed and entered summary judgment in favor of Ãn. It determined that the automatic gratuities were not tips but instead commissions, which, according to the court, entitled Ãn to invoke a statutory exemption to the FLSA's requirements—29 U.S.C. § 207(i) ("the 7(i) exemption"). The district court held that the automatic gratuities satisfied the requirements of the 7(i) exemption for most weeks at issue here and, for those that it did not, the tip pool was valid as a matter of law.
We agree with the district court that the automatic gratuities were not tips. But, for the reasons set forth below, we conclude the district court erred in its application of the 7(i) exemption. Accordingly, we affirm in part, vacate in part and remand the case to the district court for consideration of that exemption consistent with this decision. Further, to the extent that, on remand, Ãn's tip pool remains relevant to its FLSA obligations, we conclude that there are genuine issues of material fact as to whether all of its participants customarily and regularly receive tips and, thus, whether the tip pool was lawful.
We begin with some basics about the FLSA. Congress enacted the FLSA in 1938 in order "to protect all covered workers from substandard wages and oppressive working hours." Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight Sys., Inc., 450 U.S. 728,
Although it has many provisions, "[t]he FLSA is best understood as the `minimum wage/maximum hour law.'" Trejo v. Ryman Hosp. Props., Inc., 795 F.3d 442, 446 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting Monahan v. Cty. of Chesterfield, 95 F.3d 1263, 1266 (4th Cir. 1996)). "Thus, the [FLSA] requires payment of a minimum wage and limits the maximum working hours an employee may work without receiving overtime compensation."
The FLSA obligations are simple enough for employees who receive a traditional hourly wage. In those situations, employers satisfy their FLSA obligations by directly paying their employees hourly wages in excess of the statutory minimum wage and overtime requirements. But things get more complicated in the restaurant industry. There, certain employees— such as servers—are typically paid lower hourly wages, well below the minimum wage. Yet they also receive compensation through tips or gratuities. The question then becomes how do restaurants satisfy their FLSA obligations? More specifically, can tips and/or gratuities be used to satisfy those obligations and, if so, what FLSA rules govern how this should be done? Unfortunately, the FLSA provides only limited guidance.
Generally, the FLSA characterizes employees' non-hourly compensation in three different categories that may be relevant to restaurant employees—tips, service charges and commissions. The classification of a restaurant employee's pay determines how, and to what extent, that compensation satisfies the FLSA's minimumwage or overtime requirements. We now discuss each category and how it can be used to satisfy an employer's FLSA obligations.
The FLSA defines a "tipped employee" as "any employee engaged in an occupation in which he customarily and regularly receives more than $30 a month in tips." 29 U.S.C. § 203(t). The accompanying regulations further define "tips" as follows:
29 C.F.R. § 531.52 (emphasis added). In addition, that same regulation provides that tips can satisfy the FLSA's minimumwage requirement by use of the tip credit in 29 U.S.C. § 203(m)(2)(A). Id. The tip credit provision permits an employer to pay tipped employees a reduced cash wage of $2.13 per hour and "take a credit against the minimum wage by using an employees' [sic] tips as wages." Trejo, 795 F.3d at 447 (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, for an employee making $2.13 per hour, the employer can utilize a tip credit of $5.12 per hour to meet its minimum-wage obligations. See 29 C.F.R. 531.59(a).
This same tip credit can be applied to an employer's overtime obligations. See 29 C.F.R. § 531.60. To illustrate how this works, an employee working overtime must be paid $10.88 per hour—one and one-half times $7.25. The employer can still use the $5.12 tip credit but not more, meaning the hourly wage for overtime must be $5.76— $10.88 minus a $5.12 tip credit.
Whether for regular wages or overtime wages, an employer must notify its employees in advance if it intends to rely on the tip credit provision to meet its FLSA obligations and must allow employees to retain "all tips received." 29 U.S.C. § 203(m)(2)(A). As described in more detail below, under certain circumstances, employers are permitted to allow "the pooling of tips among employees who customarily and regularly receive tips." Id.
Service charges are not defined in the FLSA. But under FLSA regulations, "[a] compulsory charge for service, such as 15 percent of the amount of the bill, imposed on a customer by an employer's establishment, is not a tip...." 29 C.F.R. § 531.55(a). Instead, it is a service charge. Id. Further, service charges "may be used in their entirety to satisfy the monetary requirements of the [FLSA]" if they "are distributed by the employer to its employees." Id. § 531.55(b). So, compensation that qualifies as service charges can satisfy the FLSA minimum-wage and overtime obligations.
Finally, the third category of compensation is commissions on goods or services. For commissions, the FLSA instructs that:
29 U.S.C. § 207(i). As the corresponding regulation explains, the 7(i) exemption "was enacted to relieve an employer from the obligation of paying overtime compensation to certain employees of a retail or service establishment paid wholly or in greater part on the basis of commissions." 29 C.F.R. § 779.414. Thus, if compensation qualifies as a commission under this provision, an employer is exempt from the FLSA's overtime requirements, but not its minimum-wage requirements.
Id. This is a non-exhaustive list, as "[t]here may be other segments in retailing where the proportionate amount of commission payments would be great enough for employees employed in such segments to come within the exemption." Id.
While perhaps benign on the surface, these FLSA provisions are difficult to apply largely due to the potential overlap of the categories. Making matters worse is the lack of guidance as to how these provisions interact. Reflecting that difficulty, the parties present competing views on how to characterize Ãn's automatic gratuities. The Employees contend they are tips, which, they argue, cannot be used to satisfy Ãn's FLSA obligations because Ãn required the Employees to pool their tips with other staff members who did not "customarily and regularly receive tips." See 29 U.S.C. § 203(m)(2)(A). Ãn, on the other hand, argues the automatic gratuities are commissions, which can be used to satisfy its FLSA obligations pursuant to the 7(i) exemption. To resolve this issue, we must delve into a morass of FLSA statutory and regulatory provisions. Doing so makes us sympathize with both employers and employees who must try to understand them. And it certainly amplifies the difficulties that district courts often face when resolving FLSA collective actions. Before turning to the difficult legal issues presented in this case, however, we turn first to the facts.
Ãn was an upscale, fine-dining sushi
Ãn employed a variety of staff members, including Servers, Server Assistants, General Manager, Assistant Restaurant Manager, Beverage Manager, Closing Kitchen Supervisor, Sushi Chef, Sushi Chef Helpers,
While working at Ãn, Servers and Server Assistants received compensation from four sources: (1) an hourly wage of at least $2.13 for the first forty hours of the week and at least $5.76 for all additional hours; (2) cash tips; (3) credit card tips and (4) automatic gratuities. The parties dispute the nature and legal effect of automatic gratuities. However, Ãn generally applied an automatic gratuity of twenty percent to the bill of parties of six or more people.
In July 2014, Ãn implemented a tip pool for its evening shifts, pooling together all tips and automatic gratuities that were then "tipped out" to employees based on their job descriptions:
Apart from the tip pool, the Hostess received 100% of all tips received from to-go orders. The tip pool policy was outlined in the employee handbook, and Ãn required employees to sign off on the policy. Under this system, many of the Servers were paid very well. For example, in 2015, Kelly, one of the Servers seeking relief here, made more than $81,000. In fact, some of the Servers made more than Ãn's Managers.
On February 21, 2017, Kelly sued Ãn under the FLSA and North Carolina Wage and Hour Act ("NCWHA"). Specifically, Kelly brought a putative collective action under the FLSA, alleging that Ãn violated the FLSA's minimum-wage and overtime requirements by operating a tip pool that unlawfully included employees who did not customarily and regularly receive tips and were, thus, ineligible. Kelly, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, also alleged violations of the NCWHA. Finally, Kelly, on behalf of himself and Tom, claimed that Ãn engaged in unlawful retaliation in violation of the FLSA. After the Complaint was filed, seven Opt-In Plaintiffs —including Tom—filed Consents to Sue As Party Plaintiffs.
The Employees later filed a First Amended Complaint, substituting Tom as the Named Plaintiff. After Ãn filed an Answer, the district court entered an Order bifurcating discovery into two phases. The Order restricted Phase I discovery to issues of conditional certification of the Employees' class and collective action. However, because Ãn advanced the argument that the 7(i) exemption barred the Employees' claims, the district court also permitted discovery on that issue.
After the first phase of discovery, the Employees moved to conditionally certify the case as an FLSA collective action and a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 class action. Ãn moved for summary judgment contending that the automatic gratuities were commissions under the 7(i) exemption, which satisfied its FLSA obligations for each of the Employees' workweeks. Alternatively, assuming the 7(i) exemption did not apply, Ãn contended that it was entitled to a tip credit under 29 U.S.C. § 203(m)(2)(A).
The district court granted summary judgment for Ãn on the Employees' FLSA claims relying on two FLSA provisions. First, the district court held that Ãn satisfied its FLSA obligations in most weeks under the 7(i) exemption for "commissions on goods and services." Second, the district court found that Ãn satisfied its
The Employees timely appealed. "We review de novo a district court's decision to grant summary judgment, applying the same legal standards as the district court and viewing all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Ballengee v. CBS Broad., Inc., 968 F.3d 344, 349 (4th Cir. 2020) (citing News & Observer Publ'g Co. v. Raleigh-Durham Airport Auth., 597 F.3d 570, 576 (4th Cir. 2010)).
Turning to the merits of the arguments presented on appeal, we first address the application of the 7(i) exemption. Then we consider the validity of the tip pool before finally considering the retaliation claim.
The Employees first argue that the district court erred in concluding that Ãn satisfied its FLSA obligations by way of the 7(i) exemption. That argument has several sub-issues. First, the Employees argue that the automatic gratuities must be tips because Ãn notified the Employees that a tip pool would be used. Second, the Employees contend that there are genuine issues of material fact as to whether the automatic gratuities are tips. Finally, the Employees argue that, on this record, the requirements of the 7(i) exemption have not been met. We will consider these arguments in turn.
Initially, the Employees insist that the automatic gratuities cannot be considered anything but tips because Ãn informed Employees that tips would be used as a credit against Ãn's FLSA obligations.
Alternatively, the Employees argue that there are genuine issues of material fact as to whether the automatic gratuities are tips or commissions. Specifically, the Employees contend that customers and Servers, on occasion, asked management to remove the automatic gratuity from the bill. Therefore, they argue that the automatic gratuity was sufficiently flexible and negotiable to qualify as a tip.
In response, Ãn argues that the automatic gratuities could not be tips, as the
The district court agreed with Ãn, finding that the automatic gratuities imposed by Ãn and distributed to the Employees qualified as commissions that could be used to satisfy Ãn's FLSA obligations. In so holding, the district court found that Ãn's management had the sole discretion to remove an automatic gratuity from a customer's bill.
After reviewing the record, we find no error in the district court's determination that the automatic gratuities were not tips. In granting summary judgment on this issue, it properly applied Rule 56, which states "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A fact is "material" if proof of its existence or non-existence would affect disposition of the case under applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). An issue of material fact is "genuine" if the evidence offered is such that a reasonable jury might return a verdict for the non-movant. Id. When determining whether a genuine issue of material fact has been raised, the court must construe all reasonable inferences and ambiguities against the movant and in favor of the nonmoving party. Ballengee, 968 F.3d at 349.
The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once the movant has made this threshold demonstration, the nonmoving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings. Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548. Rather, the nonmoving party must demonstrate specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id. Under this standard, the existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-movant's position is insufficient to withstand the summary judgment motion. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Likewise, conclusory allegations or denials, without more, are insufficient to preclude granting the summary judgment motion. See Strickler v. Waters, 989 F.2d 1375, 1383 (4th Cir. 1993). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (citation omitted).
With those principles in mind, we turn to Ãn's motion. The Employees do raise a factual dispute about whether Ãn charged every qualifying group of six or more customers an automatic gratuity. However, not all factual disputes defeat a motion for summary judgment. To do so, a factual dispute must be material. Id. Recall that a fact is "material" if proof of its existence or non-existence would affect disposition of the case under applicable law. Id. To consider the applicable law, we refer again to the regulatory requirements for a tip. A sum of money "presented by a customer as a gift or gratuity in recognition of some service performed" is only a tip when both the decision to pay the gratuity and the amount of the gratuity
As it is undisputed that the customers did not have unfettered discretion to leave (or not leave) the twenty-percent gratuity, the Employees have not raised a question of fact that would enable a reasonable jury to determine that the automatic gratuities were tips. The decision to remove or modify the automatic gratuity—even construing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Employees—was Ãn's. Consequently, even if the Employees could prove that Ãn would occasionally waive the automatic gratuities, that fact would not be material as it still would not enable a reasonable jury to find the twenty-percent automatic gratuity was a tip.
Our decision should not be construed to mean that any time a fixed-rate gratuity is placed on a restaurant bill, it is not a tip. The Employees point to several district court decisions where there was a genuine issue of material fact concerning the proper classification of automatic gratuities. See, e.g., Alban v. 2K Clevelander LLC, No. 17-CV-23923, 2018 WL 4859068, at *5 (S.D. Fla. Aug. 28, 2018) (finding a genuine issue of material fact as to whether a fixed-rate gratuity was discretionary); Shehata v. Sobe Miami, LLC, No. 17-cv-23175, 2018 WL 2995603, at *3 (S.D. Fla. June 14, 2018) (finding a genuine issue of material fact when plaintiffs offered evidence that a twenty-percent gratuity was suggested rather than mandatory). But those cases involved disputes as to whether the discretion concerning the charge rested with the customer or the restaurant. For example, if a bill listed a twenty-percent charge for a party of six or more, but indicated the charge was "suggested," our decision might be different. But the record here is clear. The twenty-percent gratuity was automatically applied absent Ãn's decision to waive it. Therefore, we agree with the district court that the automatic gratuities are not tips under the FLSA. This finding, however, does not end the inquiry, as we still must determine whether the district court properly applied the 7(i) exemption.
Finally—assuming the automatic gratuities were not tips—the Employees argue the district court erred in its application of the 7(i) exemption. They first argue that the district court incorrectly held that the 7(i) exemption satisfied both Ãn's minimum-wage and overtime obligations. We agree. The 7(i) exemption applies only to overtime obligations. See 29 U.S.C. § 207(i) ("No employer shall be deemed to have violated [29 U.S.C. § 207(a)] by employing any employee of a retail or service establishment for a workweek in excess of the applicable workweek specified therein, if [ ] the regular rate of pay of such employee is in excess of one and one-half times the minimum hourly rate applicable to him under [29 U.S.C. § 206] ...." (emphasis added)). In other words, if the 7(i) exemption applies, an employer does not have to pay FLSA overtime wages for the applicable workweek. It says nothing about the FLSA's non-overtime minimum-wage requirements, which apply regardless of whether overtime is also due.
Second, the Employees argue that the automatic gratuities fail to satisfy the requirements of the 7(i) exemption. To qualify as commissions, the 7(i) exemption requires that "more than half [of the employee's] compensation ... represents
The district court rejected this argument. It held, as a matter of law, that tips need not be included if they were not used to satisfy Ãn's FLSA obligations. Specifically, the court relied on a regulation which provided that "[a]ny tips received by the employee in excess of the tip credit need not be included in the regular rate." 29 C.F.R § 531.60.
We find the Employees' arguments on this point persuasive. The regulation relied on by Ãn—29 C.F.R § 531.60—details how to calculate the "regular rate of pay" for a tipped employee who works overtime. See 29 C.F.R § 531.60. The district court imported that regulation's "regular rate of pay" language into its analysis of "compensation" under the 7(i) exemption. "Compensation" and "regular rate of pay," however, are distinct issues. This is made clear by the plain language of the 7(i) exemption, which uses both terms in different contexts. See 29 U.S.C. § 207(i) (requiring an employer to prove that "the regular rate of pay of [an] employee is in excess of one and one-half times the minimum hourly rate" and "more than half his compensation for a representative period (not less than one month) represents commissions on goods or services").
Moreover, the governing regulation provides guidance on computing an employee's compensation for the representative period under the 7(i) exemption. See 29 C.F.R. § 779.415. Specifically, the regulation instructs:
Id. § 779.415(a) (emphasis added) (internal quotation marks omitted). This language is straightforward. "[A]ll compensation" means what it says. Id. It does not exclude tips or any other form of compensation. Further, the broad language—"in whatever form or by whatever method paid"— plainly indicates that tips are not to be excluded. Id. Therefore, we conclude that the district court erred in declining to include tips when determining whether the automatic gratuities constituted more than half of the Employees' compensation for a representative period.
Accordingly, we remand the case to the district court to consider whether the automatic gratuities qualify as commissions under the 7(i) exemption as we have explained and, if so, to what extent they satisfy Ãn's overtime obligations. In so doing, we do not intend to limit any other ways in which Ãn can satisfy its FLSA obligations. Ãn may rely on other avenues of FLSA compliance other than the 7(i) exemption as this case proceeds on remand. For example, it may contend that
With that, we turn to the propriety of the tip pool.
The Employees next contend that the district court erred in finding that Ãn satisfied its FLSA obligations in the workweeks not covered by the 7(i) exemption by operating a valid tip pool under 29 U.S.C. § 203(m)(2)(A). Given our remand on the 7(i) exemption and the early procedural posture of this case, it remains to be seen whether Ãn will need to invoke the tip credit to satisfy any of its FLSA obligations. It may very well be the case that Ãn can satisfy its minimum-wage and overtime obligations by relying on the service charge regulation or another exemption to the FLSA. However, because Ãn may need to rely on the tip pool to meet its obligations, we turn to the merits of the Employees' arguments.
As noted above, the FLSA allows an employer to pay a tipped employee a reduced hourly wage and utilize a tip credit to meet its FLSA obligations. See Trejo, 795 F.3d at 447. If an employer seeks to use tips to meet its FLSA requirements, it must inform its employees of its use of the tip credit, and the employees must be permitted to retain the tips. 29 U.S.C. § 203(m)(2)(A). The employer may only pool, however, the "tips among employees who customarily and regularly receive tips." Id. While our Court has not addressed the question of when an employee is deemed to receive tips customarily and regularly, those that have analyze the employee's job duties rather than the employee's job description. See, e.g., Montano v. Montrose Rest. Assocs., Inc., 800 F.3d 186, 191 (5th Cir. 2015) ("Labels are easily molded to fit a party's goals and cannot be determinative of whether an employee customarily and regularly receives tips."). In this inquiry, our sister circuits have looked to whether the employee "ha[s] `more than de minimis interaction with the customers' in an industry in which `undesignated tips are common.'" Montano, 800 F.3d at 192 (quoting Kilgore v. Outback Steakhouse of Fla., Inc., 160 F.3d 294, 301 (6th Cir. 1998)). We find that test persuasive and apply it here.
The Employees argue that the Kitchen Closing Supervisor (Nicholas Papas) and the Sushi Chef Helpers did not customarily and regularly receive tips. Therefore, according to the Employees, Ãn's inclusion of these employees in the tip
First, the district court held that Papas —the Kitchen Closing Supervisor who also sometimes served as an Expediter— was a valid tip pool participant because he "had more than de minimis interaction with the customers of [Ãn]." J.A. 3534. In large part, the district court relied on Papas's characterization of his job duties and frequent interaction with customers. While the district court acknowledged that the Employees produced conflicting testimony that indicated Papas had little, if any, interaction with customers and was almost exclusively a back-of-the-house employee, it held that the Employees' observations "only provide[d] a first-person view point of time periods in which such servers were working and watching the activities of Papas, whereas Papas's statements reflect his complete first-hand account of his activities...." J.A. 3536. The Employees contend that the district court improperly weighed the evidence in granting summary judgment for Ãn. We agree.
The record contains evidence that indicates Papas frequently served guests at the sushi bar, interacted with customers in the dining room and ran food to tables as an Expediter. Conversely, the Employees produced testimony that Papas primarily worked in the kitchen, rarely interacted with customers and had only de minimis interactions with customers. This presents a quintessential factual dispute that is both genuine and material to the Employees' claims about the validity of the tip pool. Thus, we must conclude that the district court erred in discounting the conflicting evidence about Papas's duties.
Second, the district court held that the Sushi Chef Helpers "also meet the criteria of valid tip pool participants." J.A. 3536. In support of this finding, the district court noted that the Sushi Chef Helpers frequently interacted with customers and often took orders from guests. The district court recognized conflicting evidence offered by the Employees but, as with Papas, held that the Employees' observations "only provide[d] a first-person view point of time periods in which [the Employees] were working and watching the activities of sushi chef helpers, whereas statements by the sushi chefs and sushi chef helpers... reflect[ed] their complete first-hand account of their activities." J.A. 3538. Here, again, the Employees contend that the district court improperly weighed the evidence and discounted the Employees' evidence. We agree that this aspect of the district court's decision appears to constitute weighing the evidence in a way that is improper at the summary judgment stage of the case. After all, we must consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the Employees as the nonmoving parties.
But that is not the end of our inquiry. We must still examine whether the Employees presented evidence that creates a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the Sushi Chef Helpers had more than de minimis interaction with the customers. To be sure, Tom and Opt-In Plaintiff Deion Dorsey testified that Sushi Chef Helpers rarely interacted with guests. Aside from this conclusory testimony, however, the Employees offered no other evidence in support of their argument. On the other hand, Ãn produced specific, compelling
Applying the standard for summary judgment described above, Ãn made a threshold showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Accordingly, the Employees were required to demonstrate specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548. Under this standard, the existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-movant's position is insufficient to withstand the summary judgment motion. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Likewise, conclusory allegations or denials, without more, are insufficient to preclude granting the summary judgment motion. See Strickler, 989 F.2d at 1383. The limited testimony offered by the Employees are conclusory allegations. Without more, even construing all reasonable inferences and ambiguities against Ãn and in favor of the Employees, we cannot say the district court erred in granting summary judgment.
Despite our conclusion about the Sushi Chef Helpers, assuming the automatic gratuities —either as service charges or by another method—do not satisfy Ãn's FLSA obligations, our decision about Papas is enough to create a genuine issue of material fact about the validity of the tip pool. See Oregon Rest. & Lodging Ass'n v. Perez, 816 F.3d 1080, 1082 (9th Cir. 2016) (noting that a tip pool is only valid "if it is comprised exclusively of employees who are `customarily and regularly' tipped" (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 203(m)(2)(A))); Montano, 800 F.3d. at 189 ("Therefore, the narrow issue is whether the coffeeman was an employee who `customarily and regularly receive[d] tips.' 29 U.S.C. § 203(m). If the answer is yes, [the restaurant] prevails. If the answer is no, [the restaurant] violated the FLSA by failing to pay Appellants $7.25 per hour." (footnote omitted)). However, any further consideration of the validity of the tip pool shall be based on evidence related to Papas and not the Sushi Chef Helpers.
Last, we turn to Tom's retaliation claim.
Darveau v. Detecon, Inc., 515 F.3d 334, 340 (4th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). Courts generally look to the Title VII framework when analyzing the "adverse action" element of a FLSA retaliation case. Id. at 341-43. Therefore, "a plaintiff asserting a retaliation claim under the FLSA need only allege that his employer retaliated against him by engaging in an action `that would have been materially adverse to a reasonable employee' because the `employer's actions ... could well dissuade a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.'" Id. at 343 (quoting Burlington N. & Santa Fe
The district court held that Tom's retaliation claims fail as a matter of law because he has not shown that he suffered an adverse employment action after complaining to management about wage and hour policies. The parties agree that Tom complained to Ãn's General Manager in September 2016. However, Tom testified that his income generally stayed the same or increased and that he did not notice a reduction in his hours.
Tom raises two arguments on appeal. First, he argues that summary judgment on his retaliation claim was premature given the bifurcated discovery. Second, he contends that the evidence in the record is sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact as to the necessary elements of an FLSA retaliation claim. Despite his argument that summary judgment is premature, Tom has not articulated what discovery remains that would aid him in proving his retaliation claim. Moreover, Tom's testimony serves as a tacit admission that he did not suffer any adverse action as a result of his complaint to Ãn's management. Even viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Tom, we agree with the district court that Tom has not articulated a genuine issue of material fact as to whether he suffered an adverse employment action. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (noting that a dispute about a material fact is genuine only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party"). Accordingly, we affirm the district court's judgment as to Tom's retaliation claim.
For the reasons stated above, the district court's order granting Ãn's Motion for Summary Judgment is
AFFIRMED IN PART, VACATED IN PART AND REMANDED.