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Bedolla v. Brandolini

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 18, 2018



          Baylson, J.

         I. Introduction

         At issue in this employment case is whether the Court should grant a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants, Lewis J. Brandolini, III (“Brandolini”) and Brandolini Companies (“BC”), pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         For reasons discussed below, the Motion to Dismiss will be DENIED.

         II. Relevant Factual[1]

         History A. The Parties

         Plaintiffs in this case, Jose Luis Mora Bedolla (“Bedolla”) and Andres Martin Jurado Perez (“Perez”) allege that they worked at Defendant Brandolini's family residences in Chester County to perform general landscaping, gardening, and similar maintenance work. (ECF 5, Amended Complaint (“AC”), ¶¶ 4, 10, 59).[2] Both Plaintiffs allege that they worked in excess of forty hours per workweek without receiving premium overtime compensation or minimum wages for all hours worked.

         Defendant BC is a diversified real estate organization that develops, owns and operates a portfolio of properties. (Id. ¶ 28). Defendant Brandolini was, at all relevant times, the Owner, Chairman, and CEO of Defendant BC. (Id. ¶ 30).

         B. Joint Employment

         Plaintiffs allege that the terms of their employment and compensation were jointly controlled and directed by Defendants. (Id. ¶ 34). Plaintiffs' compensation information was held by BC's payroll service, with BC's administrative staff assisting in the payroll process. (Id. ¶ 47). Plaintiffs' paystubs list the address for BC as their “company code, ” while listing Brandolini himself as the top line of the “company code.” (Id.). BC “required or permitted” Brandolini to use shirts and jackets bearing its logo for Plaintiffs to wear while working, thus “requiring or permitting Plaintiffs to hold themselves out to the world as employees of the former.” (Id. ¶¶ 50-51).

         Upon Plaintiffs' hiring, they were told they would be paid on an hourly basis, with the hours they worked each week recorded for payroll purposes. (Id. ¶ 61). At the beginning of the relevant time period, Plaintiff Bedolla was instructed by Defendant Brandolini to record the hours he worked using a paper time period, with the hours submitted bi-weekly. (Id. ¶ 62-63). Around the beginning of 2016, Plaintiff Bedolla “was informed by his supervisor” that Plaintiff Bedolla did not need to record his hours anymore, but that he would still be paid. (Id. ¶ 64). Plaintiff Perez's hours were recorded solely by his supervisor. (Id. ¶ 66).

         C. Plaintiff Bedolla's Allegations of Retaliation and Emotional Distress

         In approximately April, 2017, Plaintiff Perez's employment, as well as that of a third landscaper, was abruptly terminated by Defendants. (Id. ¶ 88). As a result, Plaintiff Bedolla was directed to complete some of the recently-terminated employees' tasks. (Id. ¶ 89). Plaintiff Bedolla asked Defendant Brandolini's step-son-who was also responsible for supervising Plaintiffs' work-for additional compensation to reflect the overtime hours he would be required to work to complete the tasks. (Id. ¶ 91). Then Plaintiff Bedolla complained to his supervisor, but his complaints were ignored. (Id. ¶ 94). At the end of May, 2017, Plaintiff Bedolla handed a letter to Defendant Brandolini requesting overtime compensation. (Id. ¶¶ 95-96).

         In early September, 2017, Defendant Brandolini confronted Plaintiff Bedolla and accused him of engaging in a variety of improper activities while working for Defendants. (Id. ¶ 100). Plaintiff contends that these allegations were knowingly false, and intended as retaliation for the complaint made four months earlier. (Id. ¶ 101). At a meeting on September 9, 2017, Plaintiff Bedolla attended a meeting with Brandolini's step-son and daughter, during which he was told that a work vehicle previously available for his use in traveling to and from work would no longer be available to him, and that he would not receive overtime compensation. (Id. ¶¶ 103, 105).

         On September 11, 2017, Plaintiff Bedolla arrived at work forty-five minutes late, and, after working approximately five hours, was abruptly terminated from his job for being late to work. (Id. ¶ 109). Plaintiff Bedolla was not paid for the hours he worked on his last day, and alleges that his tardiness was not the actual reason for his termination, but rather a pretense. (Id. ¶ 111). Instead, Plaintiff Bedolla alleges that he was actually terminated for complaining about not receiving overtime compensation. (Id.).

         As a result of his termination, Plaintiff Bedolla is unemployed, embarrassed, ashamed, and stressed about his financial situation, resulting in his being easily irritated and having difficulty sleeping at night. (Id. ¶¶ 113-117).

         III. Relevant Procedural History

         On January 12, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against Defendants. (ECF 1). On February 13, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (ECF 3), to which Plaintiffs filed a response (ECF 4) before availing themselves of their leave to amend as of right and filing an Amended Complaint on March 2, 2018 (ECF 5). Defendants timely filed a subsequent Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on March 16, 2018 (ECF 7, “MTD”), to which Plaintiffs responded on March 19, 2018 (ECF 8).

         Plaintiffs' allegations against Defendants are as follows:

Count I: Unlawful Retaliation (Plaintiff Bedolla)
Count II: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Plaintiff Bedolla)
Count III: Violation of FLSA Unpaid Overtime Wages (Both Plaintiffs)
Count IV: Violation of PMWA Unpaid Overtime Wages (Both Plaintiffs)
Count V: Violation of FLSA Unpaid Minimum Wages (Plaintiff Bedolla)
Count VI: Violation of PMWA Unpaid Minimum Wages (Plaintiff Bedolla)

         IV. Legal Standard

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “we accept all factual allegations as true [and] construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Warren Gen. Hosp. v. Amgen, Inc., 643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its fact.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

         On a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), this Court may consider 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).[3]

         V. The Motion to Dismiss

         Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursues a single argument with respect to a single Defendant. Specifically, Defendant BC seeks dismissal on the grounds that Plaintiff has not adequately alleged a joint employment relationship with respect to BC. Defendants do not seek dismissal of any of the six counts against Defendant Brandolini.[4] Therefore, this Court is tasked with determining only one question: Does the Amended Complaint adequately allege that Defendant BC was a joint employer of Plaintiffs?

         VI. ...

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