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Flawn-Chopp v. Heinrichs Silver Hill Enterprises, Ltd.

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

September 27, 2019

PRISCILLA FLAWN-CHOPP, Plaintiff
v.
HEINRICHS SILVER HILL ENTERPRISES, LTD., HEINRICHS SILVER HILL, LLC, SANDRA HEINRICHS, HADLEY HEINRICHS, Defendants

          HONORABLE ROBERT PITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          SUSAN HIGHTOWER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before this Court are Defendants Heinrichs Silver Hill Enterprises, Ltd., Heinrichs Silver Hill, LLC, Sandra Heinrichs, and Hadley Heinrichs’ (collectively, “Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss FLSA Cause of Action (the “Motion”), filed May 6, 2019 (Dkt. No. 6); Plaintiff Priscilla Flawn-Chopp’s Response (Dkt. No. 7); and Defendants’ Reply (Dkt. No. 8). On August 7, 2019, the District Court referred the Motion and all related filings to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72, and Rule 1 of Appendix C of the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas (“Local Rules”).

         I. Background

         Silver Hill[1] owns and operates a dressage horse sale and breeding facility in Austin, Texas. Complaint at ¶ 8, Dkt. No. 1. Sandra Heinrichs and her son, Hadley Heinrichs, own and operate the stable. See Id . at ¶¶ 5, 10. Plaintiff Priscilla Flawn-Chopp (“Ms. Chopp”) began working for Silver Hill as a part-time employee on May 1, 2017. Id. at ¶ 9. From August 1, 2017 until August 30, 2018, Ms. Chopp worked for the stable full-time. Id. at ¶¶ 10, 14.

         Ms. Chopp alleges that she consistently worked an 84-hour workweek but was never paid overtime, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 207, 215(a)(2). She seeks to recover unpaid wages of at least $88, 009.68. Ms. Chopp also asserts breach of contract and quantum meruit claims based on Defendants’ alleged failure to reimburse her for mileage, for which she claims to be owed more than $32, 000.[2] See Complaint at ¶¶ 23-30.

         In their Motion, Defendants seek to dismiss only the FLSA claim. They contend that Ms. Chopp has failed to plead facts sufficient to create an inference that either Silver Hill or Ms. Chopp herself engaged in interstate commerce, and therefore the FLSA does not apply. See Motion at 1, Dkt. No. 6.

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Motion To Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a party to move to dismiss an action for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, “[t]he court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the [nonmovant].” In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion does not need detailed factual allegations in order to avoid dismissal, the plaintiff’s factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The Supreme Court has explained that a court need not accept as true conclusory allegations or allegations stating a legal conclusion. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A complaint must contain sufficient factual matter “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the [nonmovant] pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the [movant] is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, courts do not look beyond the face of the pleadings or refer to extrinsic evidence. See Spivey v. Robertson, 197 F.3d 772, 774 (5th Cir. 1999). Rather, the court’s review is limited to the complaint, any documents attached to the complaint, and any documents attached to the motion to dismiss that are central to the claim and referenced by the complaint. Lone Star Fund V (U.S.), L.P. v. Barclays Bank PLC, 594 F.3d 383, 387 (5th Cir. 2010).

         B. Fair Labor Standards Act

         The FLSA requires overtime pay when “a workweek [is] longer than forty hours.” 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). If an employer violates the overtime compensation requirement, it is “liable to the employee or employees affected in the amount of their unpaid minimum wages, or their unpaid overtime compensation, as the case may be, and in an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.” Id. § 216(b).

         A plaintiff must prove four elements to make her prima facie case: (1) that there existed an employer-employee relationship during the unpaid overtime periods claimed; (2) that the employee engaged in activities within the coverage of the FLSA; (3) that the employer violated the FLSA’s overtime wage requirements; and (4) the amount of overtime compensation due. Parrish v. Premier Directional Drilling, L.P., 917 F.3d 369, 379 (5th Cir. 2019) (quoting Johnson v. Heckmann Water Res. (CVR), Inc., 758 F.3d 627, 630 (5th Cir. 2014) (citations omitted)). Each element must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. Id. If “the employee establishes a prima facie case, the burden then shifts to the employer to come forward with evidence of ...


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