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Helen Kane v. Platinum Healthcare

January 25, 2011

HELEN KANE
v.
PLATINUM HEALTHCARE, LLC, ET AL.



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

MEMORANDUM RE: MOTION TO DISMISS

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Helen Kane filed this civil action against her former employer, Platinum Healthcare, LLC ("Platinum"), and her current employers, Global Healthcare Fiscal Services Group, LLC ("GHFS") and Global Healthcare Services Group Corporation ("GHSG") (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging violations of the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq., the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law ("PWPCL"), 43 P.S. § 260.1 et seq., and state common law. Presently before the court is GHFS and GHSG's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 9) in part, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), because Count II of Plaintiff's Complaint alleging breach of contract does not state facts to show that she had any contractual relationship to Defendants; Counts IV and V seek equitable relief when Plaintiff has an adequate remedy at law; and Defendant GHSG asserts it does not exist as a corporate entity. For the following reasons, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

II. Factual and Procedural Background

From 2006 to the present, Plaintiff has worked as a nutritionist at Westgate Hills Rehabilitation and Nursing Center ("Westgate"). Compl. ¶¶ 1, 10. Plaintiff was hired in 2006 with a salary and eligibility for medical benefits. Compl. ¶ 40. Platinum was Plaintiff's employer at Westgate from approximately February 2009 until July 1, 2010. Compl. ¶¶ 2-3, 10.*fn1

As of August 2009, Plaintiff worked 40 hours per week and was eligible for healthcare benefits. Compl. ¶ 10. On August 19, 2009, Plaintiff took a leave of absence for the birth of her child, which was approved by Platinum. Compl. ¶¶ 11, 28. While Plaintiff was on leave, a consulting company hired by Platinum issued a report that concluded that the duties of Plaintiff's position could be accomplished in fewer hours. Compl. ¶¶ 12-13. When Plaintiff returned to work on November 3, 2009, Platinum reduced her work hours to part-time, and Plaintiff became ineligible for healthcare benefits. Compl. ¶¶ 11, 14. Plaintiff agreed to work fewer hours in return for an hourly wage and loss of benefit eligibility. Compl. ¶¶ 42-43. However, Plaintiff's reduced hours were insufficient for her to complete her assignments. Compl. ¶ 15. Plaintiff worked additional hours at home and informed Platinum that she was doing so, but she was not compensated for her time. Compl. ¶¶ 15-16.

On or about July 1, 2010, Defendants GHFS and GHSG (collectively, "Global Defendants") bought Platinum, assumed ownership and operation of Westgate, and became Plaintiff's employer. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 17-18. Plaintiff alleges that the Global Defendants were aware of the facts of Plaintiff's employment, including her reduced schedule. Compl. ¶ 19. Plaintiff informed the Global Defendants by email on August 11, 2010 of their failure to fully compensate her, after which her work hours were increased to 32 per week and she became eligible for healthcare benefits after a waiting period of approximately 60 days. Compl. ¶¶ 20-21.

On August 30, 2010, Plaintiff filed her Complaint against Defendants alleging the following five counts: discrimination, retaliation, and failure to reinstate to equivalent position in violation of FMLA (Count I); breach of express and implied contracts (Count II); failure to pay for hours worked in violation of PWPCL (Count III); unjust enrichment (Count IV); and quantum meruit (Count V). (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff seeks reinstatement of employment, damages, attorney fees and costs. On November 23, 2010, the Global Defendants filed the Motion to Dismiss Counts II, IV, and V of the Complaint and to dismiss Defendant GHSG. (ECF No. 9). Plaintiff filed her Response and Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss on January 4, 2011. (ECF No. 14).

III. The Parties' Contentions

The Global Defendants raise three arguments in their motion to dismiss. First, they contend that Plaintiff cannot state a breach of contract claim, because Plaintiff was an at-will employee. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss ¶¶ 4-10. Plaintiff responds that her agreement to work for Defendants in exchange for salary and eligibility for healthcare benefits was an employment contract. Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 10; Compl. ¶¶ 41, 48. Plaintiff also contends that her expectation of continuing healthcare benefits was sufficient additional consideration to overcome the presumption of at-will employment. Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 10.

Second, the Global Defendants contend that Plaintiff's quantum meruit and unjust enrichment claims plead a single theory of equitable relief, which is unavailable to Plaintiff because she has adequate remedies at law. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss ¶¶ 11-18. Plaintiff responds that pleading equitable remedies in the alternative is permissible, unless a contract indisputably exists. Pl.'s Resp. ¶¶ 12-15.

Third, the Global Defendants argue that no legal entity exists in the State of New Jersey with the name "Global Healthcare Services Group Corporation," and therefore GHSG should be dismissed from the suit. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss ¶¶ 19-20. Plaintiff admits that she cannot maintain a cause of action against a non-existent entity, but contends that she properly pled that GHSG is a legal entity residing in and doing business in New Jersey, and that GHSG employs her and is Platinum's successor in interest. Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 20; Compl.¶ 3.

IV. Legal Standard for Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

When deciding a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), "courts generally consider only the allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The court will "accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences from the facts alleged ...


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