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Cooley v. HMR of Alabama, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division

April 11, 2017

JACQUELINE COOLEY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
HMR OF ALABAMA, INC. d/b/a Robert L. Howard Veterans Home, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS, United States District Judge

         This civil action has been filed by 44 individual Plaintiffs[1] who allege that the Defendant, HMR of Alabama, Inc. d/b/a Robert L. Howard Veterans Home (“HMR”) has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219 (the “FLSA”), by failing to pay required overtime to them when they were required to perform work duties during their lunch periods. (Count One). The Plaintiffs also allege that this same conduct breached an implied contract between themselves and the Defendant (Count Two), and that the Defendant owes them compensation pursuant to the theories of “Quasi-Contract/Work and Labor Done/Quantum Meruit” (Count Three). The FLSA claims are brought as a collective action pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §§ 207 and 216(b). The Alabama state law claims are brought as a purported class action pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 1 at 20, ¶75).

         This case comes before the Court on the Defendant's motion to dismiss, or alternatively to strike the class action allegations in the Complaint. (Doc. 6). On October 28, 2016, this Court ordered that “[d]scovery in the matter, and any requirements of Rule 26(a) and (f), are hereby STAYED until the Court rules on the pending motion to dismiss.” (Doc. 14). However, on November 18, 2016, the Court, upon reconsideration, lifted the stay as to “discovery directed solely to the issue of conditional class certification.” (Doc. 19 at 3). Since then the case has been at a standstill save for the aforementioned limited discovery.

         For the reasons stated herein, the motion to dismiss will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. I.STANDARD A Rule 12(b)(6) motion attacks the legal sufficiency of the complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) (“[A] party may assert the following defenses by motion: (6) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted[.]”). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that the complaint provide “‘a short and plain statement of the claim' that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 103, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957) (footnote omitted) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)), abrogated by Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) (setting forth general pleading requirements for a complaint including providing “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”).

         While a plaintiff must provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief, Rule 8 does not mandate the inclusion of “detailed factual allegations” within a complaint. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964 (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47, 78 S.Ct. at 103). However, at the same time, “it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). “[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563, 127 S.Ct. at 1969.

         “[A] court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id. “When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. (emphasis added). “Under Twombly's construction of Rule 8 . . . [a plaintiff's] complaint [must] ‘nudge[] [any] claims' . . . ‘across the line from conceivable to plausible.' Ibid.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680, 129 S.Ct. at 1950-51. A claim is plausible on its face “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, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965).

         II. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS IN THE COMPLAINT

         The following pertinent factual allegations appear in the Complaint:

53. At all times material hereto, Defendant employed Plaintiffs and class members on a non-exempt hourly wage basis.
54. Defendant paid Plaintiffs and class members for some, but not all, of Plaintiffs' overtime hours, at one and one-half times Plaintiffs' regular hourly rates of pay.
55. At all times material hereto, Defendant's Employee Handbook stated that employees normally working over four (4) hours per workday, whose work schedule extended over a meal period, were entitled to a thirty (30) minute meal break.
56. At all times material hereto, Defendant had a policy, set forth in its Employee Handbook, in which it automatically deducted a 30-minute uncompensated meal break (hereinafter “uncompensated meal break”), per workday, from a non-exempt employee's workweek.
57. These uncompensated meal breaks were considered an employee's “own time.” 58. According to the Employee Handbook, a non-exempt employee's supervisor or department head was responsible for scheduling the employee's uncompensated meal breaks.
59. Said supervisors and/or department heads often failed and/or refused to make the schedule specifying a non-exempt employee's uncompensated meal breaks.
60. Defendant knows and/or has reason to believe that Plaintiffs and class members perform work during their uncompensated meal breaks.
61. Even when schedules were made, Plaintiffs and class members were required to work during many of their uncompensated meal breaks, for the benefit of Defendant.
62. Defendants did not ensure that Plaintiffs and class members were completely relieved of their work duties during their uncompensated meal breaks.
63. Plaintiffs and class members were routinely not completely relieved of their work duties during their uncompensated meal breaks.
64. As a result of Defendant's practice, Plaintiffs and class members worked multiple hours per workweek for which they received no compensation whatsoever, whether straight-time or overtime.
65. Plaintiffs and class members regularly worked over forty (40) hours per workweek, but did not get the proper amount of overtime compensation for the additional hours worked, due to Defendant's practice of requiring Plaintiffs and class members to regularly perform compensable work for Defendant during their uncompensated meal breaks.
66. Plaintiffs and class members performed work for Defendant, on Defendant's premises, in plain sight, and at management's request during their uncompensated meal breaks.
67. Defendant observed Plaintiffs and class members working through their uncompensated meal breaks.
68. Defendant directed Plaintiffs and class members to work during their uncompensated meal breaks.
69. Even though Defendant knew that Plaintiffs and class members worked during their uncompensated meal breaks, Defendant failed to compensate Plaintiffs and class members for their work, electing instead to accept the benefits of Plaintiffs' and class members' uncompensated work.

(Doc. 1 at 15-17, ¶¶ 53-69).

         The Complaint also identifies that specific job titles of each of the named Plaintiffs. Thirty-three Plaintiffs were employed by the Defendant solely as “Certified Nursing Assistants” or “CNAs.” (Doc. 1 at 4-5, ¶¶7-13).[2] Three Plaintiffs were employed as “Licensed Practical Nurses” or “LPNs.” (Doc. 1 at 5, 8, 12, ¶¶, 14, 23, 40).[3] One Plaintiff was employed as a “Driver/Driver Coordinator.” (Doc. 1 at 6, ¶18).[4] Three Plaintiffs were each employed as a “CNA/Concierge.” (Doc. 1 at 7, 8, 13, ¶¶19, 25, 44).[5] One Plaintiff was employed as a “CNA/Driver.” (Doc. 1 at 8, ¶26).[6] One Plaintiff was employed as a “CNA/Unit Clerk.” (Doc. 1 at 12, ¶42).[7] One Plaintiff was employed as a “Concierge.” (Doc. 1 at 14, ¶49).[8] Finally, one Plaintiff was employed as a “CNA/Machine Operator.” (Doc. 1 at 14, ¶50).[9]

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Count Two Will Be Dismissed

         The Plaintiffs “concede that the signed disclaimers to the Employee Handbook foreclose their implied contract claim (Count Two).” (Doc. 13 at 4; see also, doc. 13 at 4 (“Plaintiffs contend that Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is due to be GRANTED as to Plaintiffs' implied contract claim (Count Two)[.]”); doc. 13 at 10-11). Count Two will be dismissed.

         B. Count Three (the Quantum Meruit Claim) Will ...


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