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Bamgbose v. Delta-T Group

July 6, 2009

TEMI BAMGBOSE, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED
v.
DELTA-T GROUP, INC., ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLaughlin, J.

MEMORANDUM

The plaintiff seeks to prosecute a nationwide collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). He argues, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, that the defendants willfully and maliciously classified him and other healthcare workers as independent contractors in order to evade FLSA overtime compensation requirements. He also plans to bring a class action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA") on the basis that the misclassified individuals have been denied certain employee benefits to which they otherwise would have been entitled, but for the misclassification.

The defendants have moved to dismiss the plaintiff's ERISA claims pursuant to Federal Rules 12(b)(6), 12(b)(7), and 19(a). They argue that the ERISA claims should be dismissed in their entirety for failure to comply with the statute of limitations. They also argue that the plaintiff's breach of fiduciary duty claim should be dismissed for failure to state a claim, and that the plaintiff's denial of benefits claim should be dismissed for failure to join all necessary parties. The Court agrees that the named plaintiff's ERISA claims were not brought within the applicable statute of limitations periods. Those claims will therefore be dismissed.

I. Background*fn1

Delta-T is a Pennsylvania corporation that recruits, hires, places, schedules, and supervises healthcare workers who provide temporary services to client facilities. Although the workers are assigned to client facilities, they maintain a continuous and ongoing relationship with Delta-T. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7-8, 20.

On November 30, 1999, the plaintiff entered into an independent contractor broker agreement ("ICBA") with Delta-T. The ICBA states that the plaintiff is a "self-employed independent contractor,... with Delta-T having no control, direction, or influence whatsoever over" his actions in performing duties for clients. The ICBA also states that because the plaintiff "is engaged in [his] own independently established business,... [he] is not eligible for, and shall not participate in, any employee pension, health, or other fringe benefit plans of Delta-T...." Defs.' Mot. Ex. A.

The plaintiff alleges that the defendants administer and sponsor employee retirement and welfare plans. These plans offer benefits that include health insurance, 401(k) matching contributions, long-term disability insurance, group term life insurance, vacation compensation, and tuition reimbursements. According to the plaintiff, the defendants deny certain healthcare workers access to these benefits by misclassifying them as independent contractors. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 23-25.

In addition to being denied employee benefits, the plaintiff alleges that being misclassified as independent contractors further affects healthcare workers by preventing them from receiving overtime payment. The plaintiff claims that he and others similarly situated regularly and customarily work in excess of forty hours per week for the defendants and their clients. These individuals, the plaintiff alleges, are compensated at a flat hourly rate, with no additional compensation for overtime hours worked. Id. ¶¶ 28-30.

II. Discussion

The plaintiff argues that the defendants' misclassification of healthcare workers as independent contractors violates ERISA in two respects. First, he argues that he and others similarly situated have been improperly denied employee and plan benefits. Second, he argues that the defendants' conduct amounts to a breach of fiduciary duty. The defendants move to dismiss the plaintiff's ERISA claims on three grounds: (1) that the claims should be dismissed in their entirety because they were brought outside the applicable statute of limitations periods; (2) that the plaintiff's breach of fiduciary duty claim should be dismissed for failure to state a claim; and (3) that the plaintiff's denial of benefits claim should be dismissed for failure to join all necessary parties. Because the claims were not brought within the applicable limitations periods, the Court will grant the defendants' motion.*fn2

A. Statute of Limitations

The defendants argue that the plaintiff's ERISA claims are untimely under the relevant statute of limitations periods. The Court agrees.

1. Denial of Benefits Claim

ERISA does not contain a statute of limitations period for non-fiduciary claims. For such claims, the applicable statute of limitations is that of the forum state claim most analogous to the ERISA claim at hand. Miller v. Fortis Benefits Ins. Co., 475 F.3d 516, 520 n.2 (3d Cir. 2007); Gluck v. Unisys Corp., 960 F.2d 1168, 1179 (3d Cir. 1992). A claim for denial of benefits under ERISA § 502(a)(1)(B) is most analogous to a breach of contract claim under Pennsylvania law. See Hill v. Conn. Gen. Life Ins. Co., No. 07-1706, 2008 WL 4200161, at *2-3 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 8, 2008); Keen v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 486 F. Supp. 2d 481, 486 (E.D. Pa. 2007); see also Syed v. Hercules, Inc., 214 F.3d 155, 159 (3d Cir. 2000) ("Although this Circuit has not decided which state statute of limitations is applicable to ERISA ยง 502(a)(1)(B), every other circuit to ...


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