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Cook v. Warrior Energy Services, Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

April 11, 2017





         Before the Court is Defendant Warrior Energy Services, Corporation d/b/a SPC Rentals' (“SPC Rentals”) Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss. See Record Document 21. Plaintiffs have opposed the motion. See Record Document 27. For the reasons set forth below, SPC Rentals' Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (Record Document 21) is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.


         Plaintiffs Gregory Todd Cook, Cody Hollier, William McEachern, Dillon Robbins, Frankie Pyles, John Frasier, Brad Nix, Duane Meeks, Vernon Casey Jones, Blake Isgitt, Landon Russell, Jonathan Romine, Brian Jones, John Matassa, Jeremy Evans, and Onolet Ontrell Rhodes filed the instant civil action in 2015 against SPC Rentals asserting claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”) and Louisiana law. See Record Document 1. They amended their complaint twice in August 2015 and a third time in January 2016. See Record Documents 3, 4 & 20. Thus, the instant motion is addressed to Plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint. See Record Document 20.

         SPC Rentals is in the business of performing labor and furnishing services and materials, machinery and supplies in connection with oil and gas drilling, completion and workover operations. See id. at ¶ 7. Under the name Superior Pressure Control, SPC Rentals also provides labor, services, and equipment for oil and gas well pressure control. See id. at ¶ 8. Plaintiffs were employed by SPC Rentals and assigned to the Minden, Louisiana location. See id. at ¶ 1.[1] Plaintiffs operated machinery, tools, and equipment - primarily well pressure control equipment used in connection with oil and gas drilling, well completion, and workover operations. See id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiffs were either pump operators or grease operators. See id. at ¶ 11.

         Plaintiffs were salaried. See id. at ¶ 21. In addition to salary, they were paid a day rate for each day worked at a well site. See id. Plaintiffs were assigned 12 hour-shifts, but allege that they actually worked for a longer period of time each shift. See id. at ¶ 15. Plaintiffs allege that “to perform their duties as required, [they] regularly worked 13 to 14 hours each shift and not infrequently worked 16, 18 and 24 hours when assigned to operate equipment and perform other labor at well site locations.” Id. at ¶ 19. Plaintiffs allege that SPC Rentals knew they worked more than 40 hours in a workweek at well site locations. See id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiffs allege that SPC Rentals “assigned [them] to work more than 40 hours in the workweek, ” yet they were not paid for overtime work. Id. at ¶ 23. Plaintiffs assert that SPC Rentals labeled them as “supervisors” to avoid paying overtime compensation. Id. at ¶ 25. Plaintiffs maintain they were not supervisors. See id. at ¶ 26.

         Based upon the above facts, Plaintiffs assert FLSA claims for failure to pay overtime. They also assert a “failure to pay wages timely” claim under La. R.S. 23:633. This Louisiana state law claim is based on SPC Rentals' “failure to make timely payment of [Plaintiffs'] salaries and day rates.” Id. at ¶¶ 37, 40-43.

         A group of Plaintiffs were subjected to “en masse” drug testing in July 2015. Id. at ¶¶ 44-45. These Plaintiffs “were corralled with approximately 40 of their co-workers in a room at the Minden, Louisiana office, where the Defendant had arranged for collection from the Plaintiffs[‘] hair, urine and breath samples . . . for substance abuse testing.” Id. at ¶ 45. “Some of the . . . Plaintiffs were ordered to report to collection sites elsewhere for the collection of the same type of samples.” Id. The drug testing was carried out under the direct supervision of SPC Rentals' Safety Director. See id. at ¶ 46. Plaintiffs allege that “as a direct result of the manner in which the Safety Director conducted the drug testing . . ., they were defamed and suffered invasions of privacy.” Id. at ¶ 50.

         This Court has reviewed the Third Amended Complaint and finds that the incorporation by reference clause is sufficient. The adoption contains sufficient specificity and clarity for this Court to determine the nature and extent of the incorporation. Thus, this Court will be guided by the Third Amended Complaint.

         SPC Rentals has now moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims in their entirety. See Record Document 21. Alternatively, SPC Rentals asks the Court to require Plaintiffs to provide a more definite statement pursuant to Rule 12(e).[2] See id. SPC Rentals argues “that this should be Plaintiffs' last opportunity to state their claims.” Id. This alternative request under Rule 12(e) is DENIED, as the Court holds the Third Amended Complaint is not so vague or ambiguous that SPC Rentals cannot reasonably prepare a response. Moreover, motions for more definite statement are disfavored because discovery is generally the correct vehicle to obtain information necessary for trial. See Bazal v. Belford Trucking Company, 442 F.Supp. 1089 (S.D.Fla.1977); Erickson v. Hunter, 932 F.Supp. 1380, 1384 (M.D. Fla. 1996).


         I. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard.

         Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs the requirements for pleadings that state a claim for relief, requiring that a pleading contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” The standard for the adequacy of complaints under Rule 8(a)(2) changed from the old, more plaintiff-friendly “no set of facts” standard to a “plausibility” standard found in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly and its progeny. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007). Under this standard, “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level ... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965. If a pleading only contains “labels and conclusions” and “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” the pleading does not meet the standards of Rule 8(a)(2). Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citation omitted).

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court generally “may not go outside the pleadings.” Colle v. Brazos County, Texas, 981 F.2d 237, 243 (5th Cir. 1993). Courts must also accept all allegations in a complaint as true. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. However, courts do not have to accept legal conclusions as facts. See Id. Courts considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) are only obligated to allow those complaints that are facially plausible under the Iqbal and Twombly standard to survive such a motion. See id. at 678-679, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-1950. If the complaint does not meet this standard, it can be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See id. Such a dismissal ends the case “at the point of minimum expenditure of time and money by the parties and the court.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 558, 127 S.Ct. at 1966.

         II. FLSA Claims.

         In its first Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss, SPC Rentals argued that Plaintiffs failed to plead specific factual allegations, such as dates of employment, rates of pay, or hours of overtime worked in support of their FLSA claims. See Record Document 10-1 at 10-12. SPC Rentals also maintained in its first motion that Plaintiffs failed to allege sufficient facts to support willfulness. See Record Document 10-1 at 12-13.

         In February 2017, this Court denied as moot SPC Rentals' first Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss in light of the Third Amended Complaint. See Record Document 29. The Court's review of the Third Amended Complaint reveals that the aforementioned deficiencies have been cured. Plaintiffs allege dates of employment, salary plus day rate pay structure, hours of overtime work, and established workweek schedules. Plaintiffs also make factual allegations relating to willfulness, namely that SPC Rentals (1) knew that Plaintiffs worked more than 40 hours in a workweek at well site locations; (2) regularly assigned Plaintiffs to work shifts “8 overtime hours to more than 55 overtime hours in a workweek”; (3) intentionally misclassified Plaintiffs as supervisors to avoid paying overtime; and (4) was sued for similar overtime violations in other various jurisdictions. Record Document 20 at ¶¶ 20-36. At this stage, these factual allegations must be accepted as true and raise a right to relief above the speculative level. ...

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