United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
RONNIE ROBBINS, AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED UNDER 29 U.S.C. 216B, Plaintiff,
XTO ENERGY, INC. (a/k/a EXXONMOBIL), Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA M. G. LYNN, CHIEF JUDGE
the Court is the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's Overbroad Class Definition and Related Class
Allegations (ECF No. 20). For the reasons stated below, the
Motion is GRANTED.
December 27, 2016, Plaintiff Ronnie Robbins filed a
collective action against Defendant ExxonMobil, his former
employer, alleging it failed to pay him and other similarly
situated employees overtime, in violation of the Fair Labor
Standards Act, 28 U.S.C. § 206, et seq.
(“FLSA”). Robbins alleges he was responsible for
inspecting and operating well equipment and performing other
routine duties as assigned. He defines the class as current
and former frontline oilfield workers, including, but not
limited to, lease operators, automation technicians, and
other production-side workers. Robbins claims that he and
other class members worked in excess of 40 hours per week but
were not paid the time and a half rate required by the FLSA.
Defendant moves to dismiss Robbins' alleged overbroad
class definition and related class allegation.
8(a) requires that a pleading contain “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To survive a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The
plausibility standard requires more than a sheer possibility
that the defendant acted unlawfully, and a Plaintiff's
factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555.
Ecoquij-Tzep v. Hawaiian Grill, No. 3:16-CV-625-M,
2016 WL 3745685 (N.D. Tex. July 12, 2016), this Court
recognized that courts disagree about whether a plaintiff
purporting to represent similarly situated individuals under
§ 216(b) must plead facts to support the propriety of a
collective action in order to survive a motion to dismiss:
Some have held that a “challenge on the pleadings is an
end-run around the certification process, ” since the
plaintiffs have not had the opportunity to develop the
record. Lang v. DirecTV, Inc., 735 F.Supp.2d 421,
435-36 (E.D. La. 2010) (“Defendants' motion to
dismiss is premature.”); Hoffman, 2009 WL
4825224 (S.D. Tex. Dec. 8, 2009) (“Plaintiffs need not
plead facts to support the propriety of a collective action
to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Whether proceeding
collectively is appropriate will be addressed when the
plaintiffs move for conditional certification.”);
Perez v. T.A.S.T.E. Food Products, Inc., 2014 WL
412327, at *6-7 (W.D. Tex. Feb. 3, 2014) (same); Craven
v. Excel Staffing Serv., Inc., 2014 WL 345682, at *7
(S.D. Tex. Jan. 30, 2014) (same); Ambrose v. Northstar
Memorial Group, 2012 WL 3727156, at *1 (W.D. Tenn. Aug.
27, 2012) (same).
Other courts have held that Rule 12(b)(6) requires that the
complaint at least give the defendant fair notice of the
putative class, finding that a fair notice inquiry is a much
different inquiry than that made at the conditional class
certification stage. Flores v. Act Event Servs.,
Inc., 55 F.Supp.3d 928, 940 (N.D. Tex. 2014) (Fish, J.)
(finding a class defined in inexact and broad terms did not
give fair notice to the defendant and could not survive a
motion to dismiss); Huchingson v. Rao, 2015 WL
1655113, at *3 (W.D. Tex. Apr. 14, 2015) (same); Dyer v.
Lara's Trucks, Inc., 2013 WL 609307, at *3 (N.D.Ga.
Feb. 19, 2013) (same); Creech v. Holiday CVS, LLC,
2012 WL 4483384, at *3 (M.D. La. Sept. 28, 2012) (same).
Ecoquij-Tzep v. Hawaiian Grill, 2016 WL 3745685, at
argues Robbins did not properly allege that this action can
be maintained as a collective action under 29 U.S.C. §
216(b). In his First Amended Complaint, Robbins contends that
he and similarly situated workers were required to work in
excess of twelve hours a day, seven days a week, for
consecutive weeks, in Defendant's oilfields across
fifteen states. Robbins alleges he worked as a lease operator
for Defendant “within the last three years and until
approximately September 2014.” He further claims he was
responsible for inspecting and operating well equipment and
performing other route and routine duties as assigned, but
simply states class member duties were to “perform
similarly non-exempt duties pursuant to Defendant's own
common classification scheme.”
the Fifth Circuit has not addressed the issue, many district
courts in the Fifth Circuit have consistently found an FLSA
pleading sufficient when it “puts Defendant on notice
as to the relevant date range, as well as the approximate
number of hours for which Plaintiff claims [he or she] was
under-compensated…the FLSA does not require
more.” Jones v. Warren Unilube, Inc.,
5:16-CV-264-DAE, 2016 WL 4586044, at *2 (W.D. Tex. Sept. 1,
2016) (collecting cases). In Ecoquij-Tzep, this
Court held that “at the pleading stage, plaintiffs
asserting FLSA collective actions must make plausible
allegations that there are similarly situated employees with
certain common alleged attributes that could support a
collective action.” 2016 WL 3745685, at *5.
allegations do not cite the date range when he worked or when
the FLSA violations allegedly occurred; instead, he vaguely
alleges he worked within the last three years until September
2014. The First Amended Complaint states he worked over
twelve hours a day for seven days for weeks at a time, but
does not state the number of hours for which he was allegedly
undercompensated. Robbins names fifteen states where the
Defendant conducts business, but does not state where the
alleged FLSA violations occurred. Although Robbins gives
several job titles for members of the class, he does not
describe their work or state the common attributes between
them, vaguely asserting that the purported class members had
duties similar to his own. Overall, the First Amended
Complaint does not adequately put Defendant on notice of the
characteristics of the members of the purported class.
Therefore, Robbins has not provided Defendant fair notice of
the putative class, and his “[t]hreadbare
recitals” are insufficient to survive a motion to
dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.