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Whenry v. Board of Commisioners

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 5, 2015

DOYLE WHENRY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BOARD OF COMMISIONERS, et al., Defendants.

OPINION

MAURICE B. COHILL, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint [ECF No. 32] filed by Brian Beader, John Lechner, and Matthew B. McConnell who make up the Board of Commissioners of the County of Mercer (referred to collectively as the "Board" or "Defendants"). The Motion was filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants are in violation of the law when they did not pay Plaintiffs for 10 minutes of required work time before roll-call. In their Motion to Dismiss, the Defendants assert that Plaintiffs have not filed a viable claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") or the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act ("PMWA"). More specifically, the Defendants assert the type of claim filed by the Plaintiffs is not covered under the FLSA and furthermore political subdivisions such as the Board are not employers under PMWA. Therefore, Plaintiffs' claims are not plausible.

On May 22, 2014 Plaintiffs, fifty-seven (57) individuals, joined later by nine more individuals who consented to opt in (collectively referred to as "Plaintiffs"), filed a Complaint in Civil Action [ECF No. 1] under the Fair Labor Standards Act for unpaid wages for mandatory on-the-job time prior to roll call. Plaintiffs are all employed, or were formerly employed, as corrections officers by Defendants [ECF No. 1 at 8]. The Complaint alleged at Count I, a Violation of Section 7(k) of the FLSA (29 C.F.R. § 553.221) and at Count II, Retaliation under the FLSA at 29 U.S.C. § 215(3) [ECF No. 1]. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction or in the Alternative a Motion to Stay [ECF No. 12]. After this Court issued an Opinion granting in part and denying in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction [ECF No. 21] and denying Defendants' Motion to Stay [ECF No. 21], the Defendants filed an Answer [ECF No. 23] and a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [ECF No. 24]. Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint [ECF No. 31] and leave was granted by the Court [ECF No. 30].

On October 31, 2014 Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint making Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings moot, alleging the same Count I as in the original Complaint, a Violation of Section 7(k) of the FLSA (29 C.F.R. § 553.221), and added Count II a claim under the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, 43 P.S. § 1367(a). In response, Defendants filed the Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 3] at issue here. The Plaintiffs filed a Brief in Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 35] to which the Defendants filed a Reply [ECF No. 39].

I. Standard of Review.

In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion for Failure to State a Claim upon which Relief can be granted, a court must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'" Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Iloldings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n. 7 (3d Cir. 2002)); (see also Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563, n.8 (2007)). A valid complaint requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 8 does, however, "demand more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmedme accusation." See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

"To survive a motion to dismiss a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "Factual allegations [of a complaint] must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. "This [standard] does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, ' but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Thus, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).

The Supreme Court in Iqbal explained that although a court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in a complaint, that requirement does not apply to legal conclusions; therefore, pleadings must include factual allegations to support the legal claims asserted. See 556 U.S. at 678. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Id . (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555); see also Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232 ("We caution that without some factual allegation in the complaint, a claimant cannot satisfy the requirement that he or she provide not only fair notice, ' but also the grounds' on which the claim rests.") (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n. 3 (2007)). Accordingly, to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

Finally, if the court decides to grant a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the court must next decide whether leave to amend the complaint must be granted. As explained in Phillips, "We have instructed that if a complaint is vulnerable to 12(b)(6) dismissal, a district court must permit a curative amendment, unless an amendment would be inequitable or futile." 515 F.3d 236 (citing Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir.2002)).

II. Relevant Facts.

Plaintiffs were represented by Teamsters Local 250 for collective bargaining and are covered by a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") effective January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2012 [See CBA as Exhibit 1 to Complaint at ECF No. 1]. Though expired, it is undisputed that the parties continue to operate under the terms of this CBA. The CBA provides, "A daily mandatory roll call will be implemented and all employees are to report ten (10) minutes before their actual shift begins. This time will not be paid time and will not be used in the calculation of overtime." [ECF No. 1 at Ex. 1, CBA Art VII].

Plaintiffs allege they have not been paid for the contractually required pre-roll call time since at least January 1, 2009 [ECF No. 1 at 8] in violation of the FLSA. In addition, Plaintiffs assert that the practice of unpaid roll call as described above violates the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act. Defendants state that the FLSA provides a remedy for two types of claims in this context - unpaid overtime for work in excess of the regular work week or wages paid below the minimum wage. Defendants assert that neither is the case here. In addition, Defendants assert that the Board is not subject to the law under PMWA. We agree with Defendants that the Plaintiffs' claim is not cognizable under the law.

III. Legal Analysis.

Defendants seek dismissal of this case based on the letter of the law under FLSA and PMWA. Defendants assert that the applicable laws do not cover Plaintiffs' claims and therefore, as ...


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