EAST ST. LOUIS – A federal judge has denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by employees of GLH Capital Enterprise, M.L.K. Enterprises and Backstreet Entertainment, who allege that they were not paid overtime.
According to an order entered by District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel on July 14, a counterclaim by manager Charles “Jerry” Westlund Jr., who is the manager and president of Back Street Entertainment and is also named in the lawsuit, was also dismissed.
The original lawsuit was filed Dec. 16, 2016, by employees Tabitha Owens and Chad Walters on behalf of themselves and others, who claim their employers failed to pay a rate of time-and-a-half for overtime pay, per the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Westlund filed a countersuit, alleging false light and defamation. Westlund contends that because the plaintiffs’ suit acknowledged that he was the “fall guy” for the companies, he should not be named. He also claims the lawsuit "fails to state facts to support any allegations against defendant Westlund personally and he should be dismissed as an individually named defendant.”
Rosenstengel said Westlund’s countersuit was denied as a matter of law.
"There is a long standing principal in Illinois that anything said or written in a legal proceeding, including pleadings, is protected by an absolute privilege against defamation actions, as long as the words are relevant or pertinent to the matters in controversy,” Rosenstengel wrote in her opinion.
Rosenstengel also noted that the plaintiffs’ suit said “defendant Westlund Jr. is the primary owner of the named defendant business entities and is directly involved with their business operations including but not limited to negotiating purchase agreements, obtaining alcohol and gaming licenses, developing marketing strategies, decisions on employee staffing at specific locations, and reviewing and signing employee paychecks."
Rosenstengel said the evidence supports "the reasonable inference that Westlund is responsible for the failure to pay employees overtime as alleged in the case.
"Because employees have pled sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face, Westlund’s motion to dismiss is denied,” Rosenstengel ruled.