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Carmen Attanasio, Lynn Marie Potoski, and Denise Gaiteri, On v. Community Health Systems

March 27, 2012

CARMEN ATTANASIO, LYNN MARIE POTOSKI, AND DENISE GAITERI, ON THEIR OWN BEHALF AND FOR ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COMMUNITY HEALTH SYSTEMS, INC., WYOMING VALLEY HEALTH CARE SYSTEM AND WILKES-BARRE HOSPITAL CO., LLC, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (judge Caputo)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (In Part) the Amended Complaint. (Doc. 25.) In their Amended Collective Action Complaint, Plaintiffs allege two categorical violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq. Defendants allege: (1) that Defendant Community Health Systems, Inc. should be dismissed as its employer status has not been properly plead; and (2) that off-the-clock uniform maintenance work cannot support a FLSA claim. Since a uniform maintenance can support a FLSA claim, Defendants' Motion will be denied in that respect. However, because the Plaintiffs have not properly pleaded that Community Health Systems is an employer under the FLSA, that Defendant will be dismissed and Plaintiffs will be afforded one further opportunity to amend their Complaint.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Carmen Attanasio, Lynn Marie Potoski, and Denise Gaiteri ("Plaintiffs") bring this Amended Collective Action Complaint*fn1 pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq. They allege that Defendants Community Health Systems, Inc., Wyoming Valley Health Care System, and Wilkes-Barre Hospital Co., LLC ("Defendants"),and all of the Pennsylvania health care systems and hospitals under Defendants' control, violated the FLSA by failing to compensate their employees for the time they spent working during meal breaks and on required maintenance of their uniforms. (Am. Compl. at ¶ 1, Doc. 1.)

At all pertinent times, all three of the named Plaintiffs worked as registered nurses at the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. (Id. at ¶¶ 5, 6, 7.) All three specifically allege that between March 28, 2008 and April 30, 2009, they worked for Wilkes-Barre Hospital Co., LLC ("WBHC") and the Wyoming Valley Health Care System ("WVHCS"). (Id.) WVHCS is alleged to have been "Northeastern Pennsylvania's leading health care delivery network, employing more than 3,000 people" (Id. at ¶ 9), and WBHC was apparently "a wholly-owned subsidiary or affiliate of WVHCS that shared responsibility for the operation and management of Wilkes-Barre General Hospital . . . with more than 2,000 employees" (Id. at ¶ 10). On April 30, 2009, WVHCS was acquired by Community Health Systems, Inc. ("CHS") and its wholly-owned subsidiary or affiliate, Wilkes -Barre Holdings, LLC. (Id. at ¶ 9.) Therefore, from that date on,*fn2 the Plaintiffs also allege to have been employed by CHS.

In Pennsylvania, CHS allegedly owns and operates "on its own or through its affiliates" entities employing more than 11,000 people "who, together, comprise the putative Class in this litigation." (Id. at p. 5, n.1.) Thus, to clarify, the putative class as between the dates of March 28, 2008 and April 29, 2009 would pertain only to WVHCS's 3,000 employees (and the lesser-included WBHC), while the putative class from class from April 30, 2009 to the present would include all 11,000 of CHS's Pennsylvania employees.

In their Amended Collective Action Complaint, Plaintiffs are seeking to assemble two subclasses to address two distinct violations by their employers. The first proposed class is the "meal break work sub-class."*fn3 There, the Plaintiffs complain that while provided one unpaid meal break per shift, they were routinely forced to perform duties during this unpaid time. (Id. at ¶¶ 32-33.) The Defendants were aware that this work was occurring because their "agents regularly encouraged, instructed, suffered and permitted Plaintiffs and the Class members to perform this work and observed this work being performed on a regular basis." (Id. at ¶ 34.) Specifically, the named Plaintiffs aver that they were each required to work for roughly 95% of their meal breaks. (Id. at ¶¶ 39-41.) At their respective overtime rates, Plaintiffs Attanasio, Potoski, and Gaiteri are seeking $13,087, $14,763 and $15,290, respectively, for this meal break work. (Id.)

The second class, styled as the "uniform maintenance work sub-class,"*fn4 complains that the "Defendants maintained policies and practices that required Plaintiffs and the Class members to maintain a professional appearance in the workplace" (Id. at ¶ 45), and that this was done outside of work as "Plaintiffs and the Class members were not permitted to perform the required uniform maintenance work at their assigned work locations or during their shifts." (Id. at ¶ 47.) As in the above meal break subclass, the Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants were aware of the maintenance being done outside of work as their "agents observed the results of this work on a regular basis." (Id. at ¶ 49.) Specifically, the named Plaintiffs aver that they were each required to "perform eight hours of off-the-clock uniform maintenance work each month." (Id. at ¶¶ 39-41.) At their respective overtime rates, Plaintiffs Attanasio, Potoski, and Gaiteri are seeking $11,700, $14,448 and $14,964, respectively, for their work maintaining their uniforms. (Id.)

Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint further seeks a list of names of potential Class members and the authorization to issue notice to those individuals. Moreover, Plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages, pre-judgment interest, liquidated damages, attorney's fees and costs as well as equitable and injunctive relief. Plaintiffs claim that all named parties are members of both subclasses, and that all Plaintiffs and class members were subjected to the same meal break and uniform maintenance policies and systems. Plaintiffs believe the Class, "including both current and ex-employees over the relevant period, will include more than 5,000 people." (Id. at ¶ 23.)

Defendants have collectively moved to dismiss portions of the Amended Complaint as it fails to allege: (1) that CHS is an employer for purposes of the FLSA; (2) that WVHCS and WBHC are joint employers as to class members working outside the Wyoming Valley Health Care System*fn5 ; and (3) a plausible claim as to the uniform maintenance subclass. The Defendants' Motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for the Court's review.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining if a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of their claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

"A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). The statement required by Rule 8(a)(2) must give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Detailed factual allegations are not required. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. However, mere conclusory statements will not do; "a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009). Instead, a complaint must "show" this entitlement by ...


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