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Carl Hoops v. Keyspan Energy and National Grid Usa

March 8, 2011

CARL HOOPS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KEYSPAN ENERGY AND NATIONAL GRID USA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Spatt, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

On June 16, 2010, Carl Hoops ("Hoops" or "the Plaintiff") commenced this lawsuit against his employers KeySpan Corporation ("KeySpan") and National Grid USA ("National Grid" and together with KeySpan "the Defendants"), alleging that they violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 207, by failing to incorporate miscellaneous shift differentials into his regular rate of pay for the purposes of overtime compensation. In addition, the Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants failed to compensate him for the laundering of his issued uniform in violation of the New York State Labor Law ("New York Labor Law") as defined in the Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York (the "N.Y. Rules and Regulations"), tit. 12 § 142-2.5. Presently before the Court is the Defendants' motion to dismiss: (1) the FLSA cause of action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) ("Rule 12(b)(6)") on the ground that the claim is preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185, et. seq.; and (2) the New York Labor Law cause of action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) ("Rule 12(b)(1)") on the ground that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the state law claim does not arise from the same case or controversy as the federal law claim. For the reasons that follow, the Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint is granted in its entirety and the Court affords the Plaintiff twenty days from the date of this order to serve an amended complaint only as to the FLSA cause of action.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are drawn from the Plaintiff's complaint, the parties' submissions and the documents that were incorporated by specific reference therein.

The Plaintiff, Carl Hoops, commenced employment with KeySpan Energy in 1978. KeySpan is a supplier of natural gas in parts of New York City, Long Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. The complaint does not reference Hoops' job responsibilities beyond stating that, beginning in 1999, he became an "Emergency Service Specialist." When performing his job responsibilities, Hoops is required to wear a uniform and he is also responsible for the laundering and maintenance of the uniform. In or about December 2007, KeySpan was purchased by National Grid USA. Both KeySpan and National Grid are named as defendants in the instant action. However, the relationship between KeySpan and National Grid as they relate to the Plaintiff's employment in the past and currently is not entirely clear. Because the distinction is not relevant for the purposes of this motion, the Court refers to KeySpan and National Grid collectively as "the Company" or "the Defendants."

As an employee of the Company, the terms of Hoops' employment are governed by a collective bargaining agreement (the "CBA") between his union, Local 1049, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ("the Union") and the Company. (See Affirmation of Patrick M. Collins in Support of Motion to Dismiss (Collins Aff."), Exs. 1--3 (excerpts from the CBA).) The CBA between the Union and the Company contains grievance procedures that an employee is required to follow when there is an alleged violation of any provisions of the CBA, or when there is a dispute involving the interpretation of the CBA. (Collins Aff., Ex. 2 (CBA Art. XVIII(a)).)

In addition, pursuant to unspecified provisions in the CBA, employees such as Hoops are entitled to receive miscellaneous shift differentials ("contractual shift differentials"). According to Hoops, after the Company implemented a payroll program for computing wages called "Smart Time" approximately ten years ago, the Company ceased including the "full and appropriate contractual shift differentials" in the calculation of his overtime rate. (Compl., ¶ 10.) Hoops alleges that, by failing to include the contractual shift differentials in his regular rate of pay for purposes of calculating his overtime, the Company violated its obligations under the FLSA to pay his overtime compensation at the minimum required rate of time and a half of his regular rate of pay.

For their part, the Defendants maintain that Hoops is not only seeking a determination with regard to his overtime compensation, but he is asking the Court to decide if he should have been receiving certain contractual shift differentials in his straight-time wage rate as well. To determine whether Hoops was entitled to certain contractual shift differentials in his straight-time wage rate (the "threshold question"), and therefore also entitled to have them included in his regular rate for the purposes of overtime compensation, the Court would have to interpret the CBA. Thus, the Defendants' contend that Hoops' FLSA claim is preempted by the LMRA, which requires Hoops to follow the grievance procedures in the CBA as to the threshold question before seeking adjudication on his FLSA claim.

Finally, Hoops also alleges that the Company is required under the New York Labor Law to provide him with weekly sums to cover the maintenance of his uniform, and that the Company has violated the Labor Law by failing to make such payments for an undisclosed period of time. In response, the Defendants' argue that the Court lacks jurisdiction over the Labor Law claim both because the FLSA claim is improper, and because the Labor Law claim does not arise out of the same case or controversy as the FLSA claim.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standards of Review

1. Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss

"A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it." Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). The standard for reviewing a 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is essentially identical to the 12(b)(6) standard, except that "[a] plaintiff asserting subject matter jurisdiction has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it exists." Id. at 113.

2. Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

Under the now well-established Twombly standard, a complaint should be dismissed only if it does not contain enough allegations of fact to state a claim for relief that is "plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007). The Second Circuit has explained that, after Twombly, the Court's inquiry under Rule 12(b)(6) is guided by two principles. Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66 (2d Cir. 2009) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009)). "First, although 'a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint,' that 'tenet' 'is inapplicable to legal conclusions,' and '[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.'" Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949). "'Second, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss' and '[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its ...


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