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Ridley v. Penbar, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

January 12, 2018

Mark Ridley, et al., Plaintiffs,
Penbar, Inc., et al., Defendants



         Pending before the court is a motion to dismiss filed by defendant Penbar, Inc. d/b/a Regency Village Skilled Nursing and Rehab Center (“Regency Village”). Dkt. 11. Plaintiffs Mark Ridley, Stephanie Ketchum, Olga Guevara, and Maria Fernandez (“Plaintiffs”) responded in opposition to the motion, or in the alternative, seeking leave to amend their complaint. Dkt. 22. Regency Village replied. Dkt. 23. Having considered the complaint, the motion, the response, the reply, and the applicable law, the court is of the opinion that the motion to dismiss should be GRANTED and the motion for leave to amend should be GRANTED.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs sued Regency Village on March 29, 2017, alleging violations of (1) the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) for unpaid overtime wages and (2) state law for unpaid “straight-time” compensation.[1] Dkt. 1 at 1. Plaintiffs sued as a collective action under the FLSA and a Rule 23 class action for the state law claims. Id.

         According to Plaintiffs, Regency Village employed Plaintiffs and others similarly situated as nurses. Id. at 6-7. Regency Village scheduled its nurses to work numerous twelve-hour shifts per week, and many nurses regularly worked more than forty hours per week. Id. at 7. Regency Village's timekeeping software automatically deducted one hour (during each twelve-hour shift) for a lunch break. Id. at 8. The hour lunch break would be deducted regardless of whether the nurses actually took the break or worked through their break. Id. at 8-9. Further, Plaintiffs allege that Regency Village knew and expected its nurses to work through their lunch breaks, despite its policy of automatically deducting one hour. Id. at 10.

         Plaintiffs filed this FLSA collective action claiming that Regency Village should have paid overtime wages to nurses for the one hour work break automatically deducted when the nurses worked more than forty hours per week. Id. at 13. Plaintiffs assert a Rule 23 class action based on state law claims for the one hour deduction of “straight-time, ” or when nurses worked forty hours or fewer per week. Id. at 15.

         In the instant motion, Regency Village moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Dkt. 11. Plaintiffs argue that the case should not be dismissed, or in the alternative, that they should be given leave to amend their complaint to cure any deficiencies. Dkt. 22.

         II. Legal Standard

         Rule 8(a)(2) requires that the 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). A party against whom claims are asserted may move to dismiss those claims when the nonmovant has failed “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         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.'” In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007)). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). While the allegations need not be overly detailed, a plaintiff's pleading must still provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief, which “requires more than labels and conclusions, ” and “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id.; see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). “[C]onclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss.” Blackburn v. City of Marshall, 42 F.3d 925, 931 (5th Cir. 1995). Instead, “[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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Evaluating a motion to dismiss is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. “Ultimately, the question for a court to decide is whether the complaint states a valid claim when viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” NuVasive, Inc. v. Renaissance Surgical Ctr., 853 F.Supp.2d 654, 658 (S.D. Tex. 2012).

         III. Analysis

         A. FLSA Claim

         Regency Village contends that Plaintiffs fail to state a cause of action under the FLSA because they plead insufficient facts to show that Plaintiffs engaged in interstate commerce or that Regency Village constituted an enterprise engaged in commerce as defined by the FLSA. Dkt. 11 at 6. Alternatively, Regency Village argues that Plaintiffs fail to plead sufficient facts to support their claim for failure to pay overtime wages under the FLSA. Id. at 8. Because Plaintiffs fail to plead FLSA coverage, the court need not determine whether Plaintiffs plead sufficient facts for their claim for failure to pay overtime wages.

         Under the FLSA, any employee “who is engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, or is employed in an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce” must receive time-and-a-half compensation for hours worked in excess of forty hours per week. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(2)(C). The FLSA applies only to individuals and enterprises engaged in “activities constituting interstate commerce, not activities merely affecting commerce.” Thorne v. All Restoration Servs., Inc., 448 F.3d 1264, 1266 (11th Cir. 2006) (citing McLeod v. Threlkeld, 319 U.S. 491, 497, 63 S.Ct. 1248 (1943)). To properly plead a claim under the FLSA, ...

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