United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
RONNIE ROBBINS, AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED UNDER 29 U.S.C. 216(B)
XTO ENERGY, INC. (a/k/a EXXONMOBIL)
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
GREN SCHOLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Order addresses Defendant XTO Energy Inc.'s
("XTO") Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Overbroad
Class Definition and Related Class Allegations [ECF No. 47].
For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion.
December 27, 2016, Plaintiff Ronnie Robbins
("Robbins") filed a collective action against XTO
(the "Amended Complaint"), alleging it failed to
pay him and other similarly situated employees overtime in
violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"),
29 U.S.C. §§ 206-207, 215(a)(2). In the Amended
Complaint, Robbins alleged he was responsible for inspecting
and operating well equipment and performing other routine
duties. Am. Compl. ¶ 13. He defined the proposed class
as current and former frontline oilfield workers, including
lease operators, automation technicians, and other
production-side workers. Id. ¶ 3. Robbins
claims that XTO classified Robbins and similarly situated
employees as non-exempt, overtime eligible employees, yet
failed to pay them overtime when they worked more than 40
hours per week. Id. ¶¶ 14-15.
moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint, On July 28, 2017, the
Court granted XTO's motion and afforded Robbins the
opportunity to replead. See Order 4 (the "Lynn
Order"). The issues identified in the Lynn Order were:
1) failure to cite the date range worked or when the FLSA
violations allegedly occurred; 2) failure to state the number
of hours for which Robbins was allegedly undercompensated; 3)
failure to state where the alleged FLSA violations occurred;
and 4) failure to describe the class members' work or
state the common attributes among them. See Id.
"Overall, the . . . Amended Complaint [did] not
adequately put Defendant on notice of the characteristics of
the members of the purported class." Id.
filed an amended complaint on September 5, 2017 (the
"Second Amended Complaint"). Robbins amended the
class definition to "consist of [XTO's] Lease
Operators employed in the United States who (1) were
classified as non-exempt; and (2) did not receive an overtime
compensation for overtime work in one or more individual
workweeks over the past three years." Second Am. Compl.
¶ 5. This definition "include[s], without
limitation, such job titles as 'Lease Operator,'
'Pumper,' and all job titles performing similar
duties." Id. The duties uniting the job titles
at issue are "performing] manual and technical labor at
well sites to assist with oil and gas production."
Id. ¶ 2. Robbins further alleges that XTO
subjected class members to a common scheme to deprive them of
compensation for overtime hours worked. See, e.g.,
Id. ¶ 26. XTO allegedly threatened discipline if
putative class members failed to meet minimum productivity
requirements, thus causing them to work more than 40 hours
per week on a regular basis, refused to approve or pay for
all overtime hours worked, and instructed class members not
to record all hours worked. Id. ¶¶ 20-22.
moved to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint, arguing that
Robbins failed to correct the deficiencies identified in the
Lynn Order. Pursuant to Special Order 3-318, this case was
transferred from the docket of Chief Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn
to the docket of this Court on March 9, 2018.
The Rule 12(b) (6) Standard
defeat a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), 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); Reliable Consultants, Inc. v.
Earle, 517 F.3d 738, 742 (5th Cir. 2008). To meet this
"facial plausibility" standard, a plaintiff must
"plead 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). Plausibility does not require
probability, but a plaintiff must establish "more than a
sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully." Id. The court must accept
well-pleaded facts as true and view them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, Sonnier v. State Farm Mut.
Auto. Ins. Co., 509 F.3d 673, 675 (5th Cir. 2007).
However, the court does not accept as true "conclusory
allegations, unwarranted factual inferences, or legal
conclusions." Ferrer v. Chevron Corp., 484 F.3d
776, 780 (5th Cir. 2007). A plaintiff must provide "more
than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action will not do."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations
omitted). "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)." Id.
ultimate question is whether the complaint states a valid
claim when viewed in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. Great Plains Tr. Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean
Witter, 313 F.3d 305, 312 (5th Cir. 2012). At the motion
to dismiss stage, the court does not evaluate the plaintiffs
likelihood of success. It only determines whether the
plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be
granted. Mann v. Adams Realty Co., 556 F.2d 288, 293
(5th Cir. 1977).
Dismissing Class Allegations
noted in the Lynn Order, courts disagree about whether a
plaintiff must plead facts to support the propriety of a
collective action in order to survive a motion to dismiss.
"A minority of courts have held that a motion to dismiss
is an inappropriate place to challenge the sufficiency of
class allegations when the plaintiffs have not yet moved for
conditional certification." Huchingson v. Rao,
CV No. 5:14-CV-l 118, 2015 WL 1655113, at *3 (W.D. Tex. Apr.
14, 2015) (citations omitted). However, courts in this
district generally have adhered to the majority approach and
have held that the complaint must give the defendant fair
notice of the putative class. See, e.g., Flores v. Act
Event Servs., Inc., 55 F.Supp.3d 928, 940 (N.D. Tex.
2014). This inquiry is much different than the inquiry at the
class certification stage. See Huchingson, 2015 WL
1655113, at *3. This Court adopts the majority approach and
requires 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." Ecoquij-Tzep v. Hawaiian
Grill, No. 3:16-CV-0625-M, 2016 WL 3745685, at *5 (N.D.
Tex. July 12, 2016) (citation omitted).