Tuesday, July 30, 2013

FLSA plaintiffs get second chance at pleading their claims

Four separate cases are resolved in this appeal alleging that hospitals in New York City were not paying their employees for work performed during meal breaks, before and after scheduled shifts and during required training sessions. The cases -- raising claims under state and federal labor law -- were dismissed in the district court for failure to state a claim under Rule 12. The Court of Appeals affirms but gives the plaintiffs a chance to replead.

The case is Nakahata v. New York-Presbyterian, decided on July 11. The Complaints did not provide enough information for the district court to know if the plaintiffs have raised plausible labor law claims. The district court said that the Complaints failed to say "(1) when unpaid wages were earned and the number of hours worked without compensation; (2) specific facts of employment including dates of employment, pay, and positions; and (3) the entity that directly employed the Plaintiffs." Under modern pleading standards, facts in the Complaint that raise the possibility that the defendants violated the law are not going to cut it. You need plausible allegations. Without this detail, the labor law violations are not yet plausible. The plaintiffs are given the green light to replead and try again, the Second Circuit (Lohier and Pogue [C.I.T.]) says.

The plaintiffs also raised common-law claims. Dismissing those claims, the district court said they are preempted by the union contract. The defendants attached the contract to the motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals says that the contract was outside the pleadings and not reviewable under Rule 12 but, instead, a summary judgment motion. The plaintiffs did not have to plead the contracts in their Complaints. Using one of my favorite phrases, the Second Circuit says the plaintiff "is master of the complaint" and in this circumstance the defendant has to move for summary judgment, not Rule 12 dismissal. "A motion addressed to the adequacy of the pleadings is not necessarily the proper place for preemption to be decided," the Court of Appeals says. Any deficiencies in how plaintiffs pleaded the common law claims can be remedied through an amended pleading in the district court.

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