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Coley v. Vannguard Urban Improvement Association, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

September 24, 2014

SONYA COLEY, EBONY HALL, SONYA JOHNSON, MOSSA JONES, RUTH RICHARDSON, SALIKA TAYLOR, ELIZABETH WRIGHT, and THOMAS POPE, Plaintiffs,
v.
VANNGUARD URBAN IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION, INC., and both THOMAS C. HANSARD JR., individually and as chairman of the board of directors, and ARTHUR H. NILES, executive director/general manager of VANNGUARD URBAN IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION, INC., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

PAMELA K. CHEN, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Defendant Thomas C. Hansard's motion to dismiss the second amended complaint ("SAC") (Dkt. 68), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("FRCP") 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Dkt. 87.)[1] The SAC asserts violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and the New York Labor Law ("NYLL") for failure to pay proper wages for all hours worked. Because the SAC does not plausibly allege that Hansard is an employer under the FLSA, his motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are former employees of Vannguard, a non-profit corporation engaged in the business of vocational training and job preparation for economically disadvantaged youth. (SAC ¶ 11.) As of the briefing of this motion, [2] Defendant was either the current or former chairman of Vannguard's board of directors. (SAC ¶ 7.)[3]

In the SAC, Plaintiffs allege that their paychecks were delayed on a regular basis throughout 2010 to 2012, and that Defendants, including Hansard, were aware of these delays. (SAC ¶¶ 28-31.) Plaintiffs complained frequently, but to no avail; their paychecks continued to be delayed, despite at least some of the Defendants' acknowledgment of the continued chronic delays. (SAC ¶¶ 34-36.) In August 2012, Vannguard had not yet paid Plaintiffs' wages due for that pay period, and Plaintiffs requested a meeting with Vannguard's board of directors to discuss payment. (SAC ¶¶ 37-38.) The meeting was held on August 7, 2012, with numerous Plaintiffs and Defendants present, including Hansard. (SAC ¶ 39.) At the meeting, Vannguard's attorney, Andre Soleil, announced that Vannguard was in the process of selling its assets, and that Plaintiffs would receive a "nice settlement package for Christmas, " derived from the proceeds of that sale. (SAC ¶ 40.) Plaintiffs did not receive the promised settlement package. (SAC ¶ 41.)

Thereafter, Plaintiffs continued to experience delays in their paychecks, and continued to advise Vannguard's leadership, particularly Vanguard's Executive Director and General Manager Arthur Niles, a defendant in this case, of the ongoing payroll problems. (SAC ¶¶ 42-44.)

On November 9, 2012, while still employed at Vannguard, Plaintiffs initiated the instant lawsuit. (Dkt. 1.) On November 26, 2012, Hansard and Niles posted in Vannguard's offices a resolution of the board of directors notifying the employees that Vannguard was ceasing operations. (SAC ¶ 54.) The notice stated that those employees who were necessary to wind down operations would continue working at Vannguard until December 31, 2012. (SAC ¶ 54.) The rest of the employees would be terminated that day, November 26, 2012. (SAC ¶ 54.) Plaintiffs were terminated on that date. ( See SAC ¶ 55 ("The employees who continued to work for Vannguard were those who were not listed as plaintiffs on the instant lawsuit.").)

In this action, with respect to Hansard, one of Plaintiffs' primary allegations is that, "[a]t all times relevant to this action, Hansard failed to supervise Defendant Niles, Vannguard's Executive Director and General Manager, rubber-stamping Niles' decisions and failing to manage Vannguard's affairs, in disregard of a known or obvious risk of wage law violations that made it highly probable that the plaintiffs would suffer harm." (SAC ¶ 59.) Plaintiffs further allege that Hansard had actual or constructive knowledge of wage law violations, but permitted those violations to continue. (SAC ¶¶ 60-65.)[4]

Hansard moves to dismiss the SAC as to him on two grounds: first, that Plaintiffs fail to allege facts sufficient to demonstrate that Hansard constitutes an employer for purposes of the FLSA; and second, that Hansard is immune from liability under the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997. (Dkt. 87 at 1.)

MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD

To withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6), a complaint must plead facts sufficient "to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the district court must accept the factual allegations set forth in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Nielsen v. Rabin, 746 F.3d 58, 62 (2d Cir. 2014); Cleveland v. Caplaw Enter., 448 F.3d 518, 521 (2d Cir. 2006). The liberal notice pleading standard of FRCP 8(a) only requires that a complaint set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 573. Under FRCP 8(a)(2), the complaint need not set forth "detailed factual allegations, " but the plaintiff must present "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555. "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level[.]" Id. A complaint should be dismissed where a plaintiff has not "nudged [its] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible[.]" Id. at 570.

In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court is constrained to consider the "four corners" of the operative pleading, here, the SAC, and may not look to evidence outside the pleadings, except in limited circumstances not present here. See Mayo v. Fed. Gov't, 558 Fed.App'x 55, 56 (2d Cir. Mar. 11, 2014) (citing Friedl v. City of New York, 210 F.3d 79, 83 (2d Cir. 2000)). Accordingly, the Court disregards Hansard's affidavit, which was submitted in connection with Hansard's moving papers, ( see Dkt. 87), and considers only the well-pleaded factual allegations set forth in the SAC.

DISCUSSION

I. The ...


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