On appeal from The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida ">

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Date: 12-26-2021

Case Style:

United States Department of Labor v. William H. Lovett, Jr.

Case Number: 20-13276

Judge: Before NEWSOM and BRANCH, Circuit Judges.1 PER CURIAM


United States Court of Appeals For the Eleventh Circuit
On appeal from The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida

Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office

Defendant's Attorney:

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Atlanta, GA- Fair Labor Standards Act lawyer represented defendant with being sued to enforce the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime and recordkeeping requirements, seeking back pay, liquidated damages, and a permanent injunction.

Lovett is a veterinarian who owns and operates Hardee Animal Clinic in Wauchula, Florida. In that capacity, he has a handful
of employees—all of whom are paid an hourly wage. From at least
2015 through 2018, Lovett paid his employees the same hourly rate
without regard to the number of hours worked in each week—that
is to say, he didn’t pay them more than their ordinary wage for
overtime. When his employees worked more than 40 hours in a
given week, he paid their ordinary hourly rate and classified those
payments as “discretionary bonuses.”
After catching on to Lovett playing fast-and-loose with the
FLSA’s overtime requirements, the Department began
1 Due to Judge Martin’s retirement on September 30, 2021, this case is decided
by quorum. See 28 U.S.C. § 46(d).
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20-13276 Opinion of the Court 3
investigating. Eventually, the Department filed a complaint, alleging that he had violated the FLSA’s overtime and recordkeeping
Throughout the litigation, Lovett—who was and is representing himself pro se—has proven difficult to work with. For example, he refused to (1) produce disclosures required under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 26, (2) comply with the district court’s order to provide records, (3) respond to the Department’s discovery
requests, or (4) cooperate with the Department to create a case
management report.
In the same vein, Lovett also failed to respond to several Requests for Admission (RFAs). Those requests sought to establish,
among other things, the following: (1) that Lovett owned and operated the Clinic; (2) that he employed several individuals who
were paid an hourly wage; (3) that he intentionally failed to pay his
employees the 150% rate of pay that he knew he was required to
pay for overtime hours, and that Lovett classified payment for
those overtime hours as “discretionary bonuses”; (4) that he destroyed payroll records during the investigation; (5) that he failed
to pay seven employees $18,820.55 in compensation that was owed
for overtime pay from 2015 to 2017; (6) that he failed to provide
pay stubs to the Department despite a lawful subpoena seeking
such records; (7) that he no longer possessed documentation showing wages paid from 2015 to 2017 because he had destroyed those
records; (8) that he willfully violated the overtime provisions of the
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4 Opinion of the Court 20-13276
FLSA; and (9) that the Department’s backpay calculation was accurate.
When Lovett failed to respond to those requests within the
30 days permitted by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36(a)(3), the
Department moved for summary judgment. The Department
contended that, by failing to respond to the RFAs, Lovett had effectively admitted to each request. Because those requests established every element of the FLSA violations, the Department asserted that summary judgment was warranted.
Lovett resisted summary judgment on three primary
grounds. First, he contended that the summary judgment motion
was not supported by competent evidence. Second, he averred
that a declaration by one of the investigating officers—which established the amount of backpay Lovett owed—was inadmissible
hearsay. Third, he asserted that the investigating officers had committed a trespass and violated his Fourth Amendment rights when
they visited his clinic. The district court rejected each of Lovett’s
contentions and granted summary judgment. It determined that
Lovett was liable for $18,820.55 in backpay and an additional
$18,820.55 in liquidated damages, and it permanently enjoined him
from violating the FLSA. Lovett timely appeals.2
2 We review a grant of summary judgment de novo, viewing all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Hickman v. Spirit of
Athens, Ala., Inc., 985 F.3d 1284, 1287 (11th Cir. 2021).
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20-13276 Opinion of the Court 5
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36 permits a litigant to serve
an opposing party with a written request to admit certain facts and
the application of law to fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(1)(A). The rule
allows the opposing party 30 days to respond with a written answer
or objection. Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(3). Importantly for our purposes, if a party fails to respond to an RFA within that 30-day window, the “matter is admitted.” Id. And “[a] matter admitted” pursuant to Rule 36 “is conclusively established unless the court, on
motion, permits the admission to be withdrawn or amended.” Fed.
R. Civ. P. 36(b) (emphasis added).
Although we generally construe documents filed by pro se
litigants liberally, that leniency does not excuse pro se litigants
from conforming with procedural rules. Loren v. Sasser, 309 F.3d
1296, 1304 (11th Cir. 2002) (per curiam). Consequently—Lovett’s
pro se status notwithstanding—Rule 36’s respond-or-concede requirement applies to him as it would any other litigant. See id.
Thus, by failing to respond to the RFAs, he “admitted” to all of the
Department’s requests, and those admissions are “conclusively established.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(3), (b).3
Having determined that Lovett’s admissions are “conclusively established,” Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(b), it is plain that summary
judgment was appropriate. The FLSA prohibits an employer from
3 Additionally, Lovett made no attempt to “withdraw[] or amend[]” his admissions. Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(b).
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6 Opinion of the Court 20-13276
working an employee more than 40 hours a week “unless” the employee is paid “not less than one and one-half times the regular rate
at which he is employed” for all hours worked beyond the 40-hour
threshold. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). It also requires employers to
“make, keep, and preserve” records of its employees’ “wages,
hours, and other conditions and practices of employment.” 29
U.S.C. § 211(c).
Lovett admitted that he was an “employer,” 29 U.S.C.
§ 203(d), whose employees were “engaged in commerce or in the
production of goods for commerce,” and that he failed to compensate those employees “at a rate not less than one and one-half times
the regular rate at which [they were] employed” for hours worked
in excess of a 40-hour workweek, 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). So, he admitted that he violated the FLSA’s overtime requirement.
He also admitted that he “destroyed . . . employee payroll
records,” and that he was “not in possession of documentation
showing the wages paid to employees from at least November 28,
2015 through November 28, 2017 because [he], or someone under
[his] direction, destroyed such records.” So, he admitted that he
violated the FLSA’s recordkeeping requirements. See 29 U.S.C.
§ 211(c).
Finally, he admitted that each of those violations was knowingly and willfully done, which extends the FLSA’s statute of limitations from two to three years. 29 U.S.C. § 255(a). Taken together, those violations subject Lovett to (1) liability for “unpaid
overtime compensation” and “an additional equal amount as
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20-13276 Opinion of the Court 7
liquidated damages,” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b),4 and (2) an injunction
from continued violations, see 29 U.S.C. §§ 217, 215(a)(5)

Outcome: Lovett’s admissions establish every element of liability for
both provisions under which the Department sued—§§ 207 and
211. Accordingly, Lovett admitted liability for the entirety of the
judgment from which he now appeals.


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