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Stouffer v. Restorecore Management

June 30, 2008

JOSEPH ANTHONY STOUFFER, PLAINTIFF
v.
RESTORECORE MANAGEMENT, INC., T/D/B/A RESTORECORE CENTRAL PA ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Chief Judge Kane)

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to dismiss Defendant RestoreCore Management Inc.'s Counterclaim. (Doc. No. 6.) For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

In November 2005, Plaintiff Joseph Anthony Stouffer was hired by Defendant RestoreCore as a material/purchasing coordinator at an annual salary of $42,000. RestoreCore was engaged in the business of fire and water restoration following catastrophic events. Stouffer's duties were to include, among other things, obtaining vendors following a disaster, coordinating with project managers, and receiving calls and dispatching crews to respond to those calls. Stouffer alleges, however, that from the beginning of his employment, he was unable to "coordinate" purchasing due to the last minute materials requests of the project managers, and spent most of his time picking up and delivering materials from Lowe's and Home Depot.

In November 2006, Stouffer's position was eliminated and he was transferred to an emergency crew as a water technician. Despite his demands, Stouffer was not paid overtime, but his salary was increased to $43,000. Each of the other technicians at RestoreCore received overtime pay as provided in an employee manual. On March 19, 2007, Stouffer informed Defendant Michael Goldberg, owner and president of RestoreCore, that he wished to take some paid time off. On March 21, 2007, Stouffer filed a wage complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry pursuant to the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (WPCL), 43 Pa. C.S. §§260.1-260.12. Five days later, Stouffer's employment was terminated. Stouffer never received the overtime compensation that he claimed was due to him.

Stouffer commenced this action in federal court on August 29, 2007. In his complaint, Stouffer states four claims: a claim under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.; a retaliation claim; a claim under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment & Collection Law (WPCL), and a common law breach of contract claim. On October 26, 2007, RestoreCore filed an answer and a counterclaim alleging that Stouffer violated a non-compete agreement.

Following RestoreCore's answer and counterclaim, Stouffer filed a motion to dismiss RestoreCore's counterclaim based on lack of supplemental jurisdiction or, in the alternative, on the merits. Both parties have briefed the motion, which is before the Court for disposition.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides that a party may move to dismiss a claim for "lack of subject-matter jurisdiction." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). When reviewing a facial attack on a pleading under Rule 12(b)(1), "the Court must accept as true all material allegations set forth in the [pleading], and must construe those facts in favor of the nonmoving party." Ballentine v. United States, 486 F.3d 806, 810 (3d Cir. 2007); Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891-92 (3d Cir. 1977) (distinguishing between facial and factual attacks under Rule 12(b)(1)). Additionally, the Court does not "consider in its jurisdictional inquiry the legal sufficiency of those claims." Suber v. Chrysler Corp., 104 F.3d 578, 583 (3d Cir. 1997).

III. DISCUSSION

The Court's ability to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over RestoreCore's counterclaim is determined by 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a), which provides, in relevant part and subject to certain exceptions, that:

[I]n any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution.

28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).*fn1 Supplemental jurisdiction over a pendent state claim is available under § 1367(a) only if three requirements are met. Lyon v. Whisman, 45 F.3d 758, 760 (3d Cir. 1995).*fn2 First, there must be a federal claim that has "substance sufficient to confer subject matter jurisdiction on the court." Id. (quoting United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725 (1966)). In this case, it is agreed that Stouffer's FLSA claim establishes subject matter jurisdiction in this case. Second, under what is called the "nexus requirement," the federal claim and the pendent state claim must "derive from a common nucleus of operative facts." Lyon, 45 F.3d at 760. Third, leaving the claims' federal or state character aside, the nature of the claims must be such that the party would "ordinarily be expected to try them all in one judicial proceeding." Id. Subject-matter jurisdiction over the non-diverse state-law claim exists only when each of these three requirements are satisfied.

Stouffer argues that RestoreCore's counterclaim must be dismissed because the "nexus" requirement is not satisfied. Whether claims derive from a "common nucleus of operative facts" is a fact-intensive inquiry. For example, the Third Circuit has held that a nexus exists between a federal FLSA claim and a state WPCL claim when both claims address whether employees should be paid for "donning and doffing time."*fn3 De Asencio, 342 F.3d at 308. By contrast, in Lyon, the Third Circuit held that no nexus existed between a FLSA claim involving a failure to pay overtime wages and common law contract and tort claims involving the underpayment of a bonus. 45 F.3d at 763. In fact, the court stated that because there was "so little ...


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