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Hinterberger v. Catholic Health

November 24, 2008

GAIL HINTERBERGER, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CATHOLIC HEALTH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Presently, before this Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' New York Labor Law ("NYLL") and Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Docket No. 86). Specifically, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' claims should be dismissed because: (1) Plaintiffs' allegations fail to state individual claims under the FLSA or the NYLL; (2) Plaintiffs' NYLL claims are preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act; (3) Plaintiffs' FLSA claims are precluded by the Labor Management Relations Act; and (4) Plaintiffs' class action claims, as currently pled, violate NYCPLR §901(b). For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Plaintiffs are a group of hourly-paid, Catholic Health employees. (Docket No.1, ¶¶ 1, 8, 72). The group is believed to be over 50 employees. (Id., ¶ 7). Plaintiffs are employed by Defendants, Catholic Health.*fn1

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants have not properly calculated Plaintiffs' compensable hours and therefore Plaintiffs have not been compensated for all hours that they worked. (Docket No. 1, ¶¶ 72, 73 79, 90). Specifically, Plaintiffs contend that Defendants "maintain at least three policies which deprive employees compensation for time worked." (Docket No. 103). These policies are: (1) Defendants' "Break Deduction Policy," which allegedly deducts half an hour of time from each employee's paycheck for a meal-break, regardless of whether the employee actually takes the break (Docket No. 1, ¶¶ 73, 76); (2) the "Unpaid Preliminary and Postliminary Work Policy," which allegedly permits employees to perform work before and after their shifts for which they receive no compensation (Id., ¶¶ 73, 79); and (3) the "Unpaid Training Policy," which allegedly permits employees to attend training sessions without receiving compensation. (Id., ¶¶ 73, 80). Plaintiffs also allege that, but for the miscalculations in compensable work time allegedly caused by such policies, "the time spent working through the breaks, performing work before and/or after their shifts, and/or training, should have been calculated at premium overtime rates." (Id., ¶ 90).

B. Procedural History

Plaintiffs commenced this case on May 22, 2008, by filing a Complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York. (Docket No. 1). Plaintiffs originally alleged thirteen claims. However, Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed ten of their thirteen claims, leaving the NYLL, FLSA, and estoppel claims. (Docket No. 101). In sum, Plaintiffs currently allege that Defendants' failure to pay Plaintiffs for all hours worked and overtime violates the NYLL and the FLSA, and that Defendants are estopped from claiming any statute of limitations defense. (Id., ¶¶12, 91, 129, 131). On July 1, 2008, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint in its entirety pursuant to Rules 8 and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Docket No. 86). Presently, before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

III. DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

A. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' NYLL and FLSA claims pursuant to Rules 8 and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' NYLL and FLSA claims against all Defendants should be dismissed pursuant to Rules 8 and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Docket No. 86). According to Defendants, Plaintiffs' Complaint "hardly puts Defendants on notice as to the grounds upon which Plaintiffs' individual claims are based." (Docket No. 87). Defendants argue that Plaintiffs do "little more than allege, in wholly conclusory fashion, that Defendants violated the law." (Docket No. 125). Arguing that the Complaint does not plead "any unique, useful, or identifying facts," (Docket No. 125), such as when Plaintiffs performed off-the-clock work or when Plaintiffs requested and were denied overtime, (Id.), Defendants allege that they are "simply left guessing." (Id.) As a result, Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs' NYLL and FLSA claims for failure to comply with Rules 8 and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not require heightened fact pleading, but merely requires the plaintiff to "give the defendant fair notice of [plaintiff's] claim and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (emphasis added). A complaint may be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for non-compliance with Rule 8. See Kittay v. Kornstein, 230 F.3d 531, 541 (2d Cir. 2000) (applying abuse of discretion standard when claim was dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) because the reason for dismissal was failure to satisfy the pleading standard of Rule 8).

In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), all factual allegations in the complaint are accepted as true and all reasonable inferences are viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiffs. Leeds v. Meltz, 85 F.3d 51, 53 (2d Cir. 1996). However, the factual allegations contained in the complaint must not be "conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions." Smith v. Local 819 I.B.T. Pension Plan, 291 F.3d 236, 240 (2d Cir. 2002). In the specific context of an FLSA claim, "where a plaintiff alleges violations of the FLSA's minimum and overtime wage provisions, the complaint should, at least approximately, allege the hours worked, for which wages were not received." Zhong v. August August Corp., 498 F.Supp.2d 625, 628 (S.D.N.Y. 2007).*fn2

Plaintiffs satisfy the notice pleading requirements of Rule 8. First, Defendants have notice of Plaintiffs' legal claims. Since the complaint continually references the NYLL and the FLSA, Defendants are aware, or at least should be aware, of Plaintiffs' legal claims. Second, Plaintiffs plead the factual grounds supporting their claims by identifying three specific policies/practices of Defendants. First, Plaintiffs allege that they are a class of Catholic employees subject to Catholic's break deduction policy, (Docket No. 1, ¶73), which automatically deducts 30 minutes from their daily paycheck (Id.), despite Plaintiffs continued performance of work during this unpaid period. (Id.) Second, Plaintiffs allege that they worked before and after their scheduled shifts, (Id.), and as a result, performed compensable work without compensation. (Id. ¶¶ 79 & 89). Third, Plaintiffs allege that they "attend compensable training sessions, but Catholic fails to pay employees for their attendance at such training." (Id. ¶¶ 80 & 89). Additionally, Plaintiffs allege that but for the policies' miscalculations, which neither quantified the alleged work time in question nor compensated Plaintiffs for such time, Plaintiffs' actual work hours exceeded forty hours per week, and therefore Plaintiffs are entitled to compensation at the overtime rate. (Id. ¶90).

Defendants cite to two decisions, from this Court, in support of their argument that Plaintiffs fail to satisfy the pleading obligations of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). See Vossler v. Phasecom America, Inc., 04-CV-128S, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29156 (W.D.N.Y July 19, 2004) (Skretny, J.); Curto v. Bender, 04-CV-26S, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6236, *3 (W.D.N.Y. March 28, 2005) (Skretny, J.). In Vossler, the plaintiff, in a complaint less than 3 pages, alleged a sexual harassment claim. Vossler, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29156, *2. The complaint merely stated, "that beginning in April 2001, plaintiff [] was sexually harassed by a co-worker employed by the defendant." Id. Similarly, in Curto, the plaintiff alleged, inter alia, a section 1985 claim--conspiracy to interfere with civil rights. In pleading the existence of a conspiracy, the plaintiff alleged only that the defendants "spoke to one another." Curto, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6236, *39. Further, in support of the civil rights (equal protection) claim, the plaintiff alleged, without comparing herself to any other specific individuals, "I was treated less favorably than other citizens complaints." Id. at 40. This Court dismissed the plaintiff's complaint because "a complaint that does not identify the basis upon which purported discrimination occurred does not give a defendant fair notice of [the claim]. Id. Additionally, the complaint contained only "conclusory allegations, devoid of any supporting facts." Id.

The case at bar is distinguishable from the foregoing decisions because those cases were devoid of any factual background. Specifically, unlike the plaintiffs in Vossler and Curto, Plaintiffs in this case go beyond mere identification of their legal claims and allege three specific, underlying factual bases that support their legal claims, and do so in a complaint that exceeds 24 pages. Furthermore, although Plaintiffs in this case do not allege differential treatment, Plaintiffs satisfy the notice pleading standard because they offer ...


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