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Cruz Mejia v. Brothers Petroleum, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 9, 2015

DANIA GISSELL CRUZ MEJIA, et. al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BROTHERS PETROLEUM, LLC, et al., Defendants.

ORDER AND REASONS

SARAH S. VANCE, District Judge.

Defendants Lenny Motwani, LKM Convenience, and LKM Enterprises (collectively the "LKM Defendants") move the Court to dismiss plaintiffs' claims against the LKM Defendants under Rule 12(b)(6).[1] The Court grants the LKM Defendants' motion because plaintiffs fail to adequately plead individual or enterprise coverage under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

I. Background

Plaintiffs Dania Mejia, Maria Mejia, Martha Balleza, and Esther Torres filed this action on November 28, 2012 before Judge Helen Berrigan alleging that Brothers Petroleum, LLC, Brothers Food Mart, and Imad Faiez Hamdan (collectively the "Hamdan Defendants") failed to adequately compensate plaintiffs in violation of the overtime and minimum wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA").[2] 29 U.S.C. ยงยง 206 and 207. One year later, plaintiffs amended their complaint to state a collective action under the FLSA, seeking damages against the Hamdan Defendants on behalf of all individuals "similarly situated."[3]

On July 16, 2014, Judge Berrigan granted plaintiffs' motion to conditionally certify a collective action. Judge Berrigan defined the collective action class to include

[a]ll current and former non-exempt, hourly employees who have been employed by Brothers Petroleum, LLC d/b/a Brothers Food Mart or Brothers Food Mart in the State of Louisiana during the time period of November 9, 2009 through the present.[4]

Judge Berrigan further ordered the Hamdan Defendants to provide plaintiffs' counsel with a list of all potential opt-in plaintiffs' names, last known mailing addresses, and email addresses so that plaintiffs' counsel could facilitate notice to all potential members of the collective action.[5] To date, approximately 65 additional plaintiffs have opted into this action.

On August 22, 2014, after Judge Berrigan conditionally certified the collective action, plaintiffs moved for leave to file a second amended complaint seeking to add two named plaintiffs, Claudia Wilson and Dora Pimeda, as well as an additional forty-four defendants to the action.[6] The majority of the new defendants are additional Brothers Food Mart locations owned and operated by the original Hamdan Defendants. Plaintiffs, however, also sought to introduce three new Brothers Food Mart location owners to the action-Lenny Motwani, Abdel Raoyf Mousa, and Ziad Mousa. Lenny Motwani allegedly owns and operates two Brothers locations, LKM Convenience and LKM Enterprises (collectively the "LKM Defendants").[7] Abdel Raoyf Mousa allegedly owns and operates three Brothers locations, Brothers Stonebridge, Brothers Terry Parkway, and Brothers Behrman Hwy (collectively the "Raoyf Defendants").[8] Ziad Mousa allegedly owns and operates one Brothers location, Brothers Expressway, Inc. (collectively the "Ziad Defendants").[9] In the Second Amended Complaint, plaintiffs allege that all of the "Defendants worked in concert to operate and run a business that served a single common goal, and Defendants are therefore joint employers of Plaintiffs."[10] Plaintiffs further allege that "some or all" of the plaintiffs worked interchangeably for the Defendants and that all Defendants utilized the same method for paying plaintiffs.[11]

On September 11, 2014, Magistrate Judge Knowles granted plaintiffs' motion for leave to file the Second Amended Complaint, stating:

The Court's main concern is that the District Court has already ruled on the conditional collective class action, but the Court's research has revealed no impediment to filing an amended complaint after such a ruling. Indeed, there has been no permanent certification, and any defendant may move to de-certify the class at any time.[12]

Plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Complaint the same day.[13] The following day, Judge Berrigan recused herself and the case was transferred to this section of the court.[14]

The LKM Defendants now move the Court to dismiss plaintiffs' claims against the LKM Defendants under Rule 12(b)(6). The LKM Defendants argue that dismissal is warranted because (1) plaintiffs have "failed to provide sufficient factual context for the uncompensated overtime element of their FLSA claim, "[15] (2) plaintiffs failed to adequately plead interstate activity, [16] and (3) plaintiffs "have failed to identify even one plaintiff who worked at an LKM store."[17]

II. Legal Standard

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead enough facts to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible "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. A court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 239 (5th Cir. 2009). But the Court is not bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

A legally sufficient complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, but it must go beyond labels, legal conclusions, or formulaic recitations of the elements of a cause of action. Id. In other words, the face of the complaint must contain enough factual matter to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of each element of the plaintiff's claim. Lormand, 565 F.3d at 257. If there are insufficient factual allegations to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, or if it is ...


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