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Cardoza v. Bloomin' Brands, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

February 5, 2015

Brooke Cardoza et al., Plaintiffs
v.
Bloomin' Brands, Inc., et al., Defendants

ORDER [167, 169, 187]

JENNIFER A. DORSEY, District Judge.

On October 24, 2014, I conditionally certified this multi-state class action by Outback Steakhouse Restaurant employees who allege their employer refused to pay wages for required off-the-clock work, overtime, and minimum required wages to many thousands of minimum-wage employees, violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and various state employment laws.[1] In the conditional certification order, I also approved the form of the notice and consent-to-join form and gave defendants 60 days to provide plaintiffs' counsel with all names and addresses of the putative class members.[2]

Just before those 60 days ran, defendants filed a motion seeking a Rule 12(c) judgment on the pleadings or, alternatively, reconsideration of my July 2014 denial of their motion to dismiss.[3] They also ask me to decertify the class and asked to stay the class-notice process while I considered this new motion.[4] The premise of this multi-part motion is that the Ninth Circuit's November 12, 2014, opinion in Landers v. Quality Communications, Inc., adopted a new standard for "the degree of specificity required to state a claim for failure to pay minimum wages or overtime wages under the FLSA" post- Twombly and Iqbal. [5] Based on this representation, I granted the stay and scheduled the balance of the motion for oral argument on February 9, 2015.[6] Defendants also move to supplement their motion with an amended version of Landers and an alphabet of exhibits.[7]

Having reviewed the parties full briefs, the record, and Landers, I find that Landers changes nothing because it merely adopts the standard articulated by the Second Circuit in Lundy v. Catholic Health System of Long Island [8]-the standard I already applied in denying defendants' motion to dismiss.[9] I find these motions appropriate for disposition without oral argument, and I vacate the February 9, 2014, hearing.[10] I grant the request for supplementation in part and deny the 12(c) motion and request for decertification.

Discussion

I. Pending Matters in the Outback Defendants' Omnibus Motion and Supplement

The Outback defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings is brought, in the alternative, as a motion for reconsideration.[11] I therefore consider their motion under each of these standards.

A. Defendants' Rule 12(c) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that "after the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." When a Rule 12(c) motion challenges a complaint for failure to state a claim, as this one does, "a motion for judgment on the pleadings faces the same test as a motion under Rule 12(b)(6)."[12] Dismissal may be granted "only if it is clear" that no set of facts consistent with the allegations could support relief.[13]

A motion to dismiss is converted into a motion for summary judgment when the court relies on materials outside the pleadings.[14] District courts have discretion to exclude outside matters to avoid converting a motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment.[15]

1. The Landers workweek

The Outback defendants' motion focuses on the Ninth Circuit's recent opinion in Landers v. Quality Communications, which was issued in November 2014, just one month after I granted conditional certification in this case.[16] Circuit Judge Rawlinson writes a straightforward opinion that surveys other circuits' decisions on the sufficiency of FLSA pleadings, including the Second Circuit's recent decision in Lundy v. Catholic Health System of Long Island , and effectively adopts the standard presented in Lundy. [17] Landers holds that "a plaintiff asserting a claim to overtime payments must allege that she worked more than forty hours in a given workweek."[18] Consistent with Rule 8, Landers specifically does not require detailed factual pleading; instead, it details multiple ways that plaintiffs can establish a plausible claim, e.g., estimating the length of an average workweek and the pay received in an average workweek; estimating the amount of overtime wages allegedly owed; and pleading "any other facts that will permit the court to find plausibility."[19] "Mathematical precision" is not demanded.[20] Nor is this a mandate to identify calendar dates.[21] To survive a 12(b)(6) challenge, Landers simply requires an FLSA plaintiff to have alleged that actual overtime went unpaid.[22]

The defendants rely on Landers and Lundy to argue that plaintiffs' FLSA claims are insufficiently pled because no plaintiff alleged that he worked a specific workweek and then went unpaid for that specific workweek and/or was not paid minimum wage.[23] They rely on Landers to urge that the plaintiffs' state claims fail to satisfy the Iqbal and Twombly standards.[24] As the plaintiffs observe, this is not the first time that the Outback defendants have raised the Lundy standard. Their motion to dismiss urged that "Plaintiffs never provide the degree of specificity' required to make their claims plausible."[25] They contended that, under Lundy, plaintiffs failed to allege facts showing "a single workweek in which they worked at least 40 hours and also worked uncompensated time in excess of 40 hours."[26] In addressing this argument, I quoted that exact language and ruled that "Plaintiffs have done so."[27] In my July 30, 2014, order, I explained that the complaint alleges that (1) "[a]t least once during the past three years, [plaintiffs have] worked for Defendants more than forty (40) hours in a week without receiving premium overtime pay, and thus [have] worked unpaid compensable time" and (2) "[a]t least once during the past three years, [plaintiffs were] paid at the minimum wage rate per hour, and yet had worked unpaid compensable time."[28] I then explicitly enumerated six supporting allegations that made the plaintiffs' claims plausible.[29]

The defendants' arguments in this Rule 12(c) motion, when considered alongside their earlier Rule 12(b)(6) motion, are redundant. The pleadings have not changed; no amendment was filed. Neither has the Lundy standard, now adopted in the Ninth Circuit through Landers, changed from when I analyzed and applied it in July 2014. For the reasons stated in my July 2014 order and reiterated here, I continue to find these ...


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