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Tillman v. Louisiana Children's Medical Center

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 19, 2017

MYREAL TILLMAN
v.
LOUISIANA CHILDREN'S MEDICAL CENTER ET AL.

         SECTION: “H”

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 19). For the following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED IN PART.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Myreal Tillman, a PBX operator at New Orleans East Hospital (“NOEH”), alleges that she and others similarly situated are owed unpaid minimum wages and overtime from their employers, Defendants Louisiana Children's Medical Center (“LCMC”) and Touro Infirmary. Plaintiff alleges that a half-hour meal break was deducted from every day that she worked, despite the fact that she was not allowed a meal break. She alleges that she was retaliated against after complaining about this practice and that her hours were ultimately reduced to zero. Plaintiff brings claims for unpaid wages and retaliatory discharge under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), as well as state law whistleblower and final wage payment claims.

         Defendants have filed the instant Motion to Dismiss arguing that Plaintiff has not alleged facts upon which relief can be granted. This Court will consider each of Defendants' arguments in turn.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead enough facts “to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.”[1] A claim is “plausible on its face” when the pleaded facts allow the court to “draw reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”[2]A court must accept the complaint's factual allegations as true and must “draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs favor.”[3] The court need not, however, accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations.[4] To be legally sufficient, a complaint must establish more than a “sheer possibility” that the plaintiffs claims are true.[5] If it is apparent from the face of the complaint that an insurmountable bar to relief exists and the plaintiff is not entitled to relief, the court must dismiss the claim.[6] The court's reviewis limited to the complaint and any documents attached to the motion to dismiss that are central to the claim and referenced by the complaint.[8]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         In its Motion to Dismiss, Defendants move for the dismissal of LCMC as a defendant, all collective action allegations, and all state law claims. This Court will consider each argument in turn.

         I. LCMC as Defendant

         First, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs Complaint does not establish that LCMC was her employer. “In order to establish a claim for retaliation or failure to compensate under the FLSA, there must first be an employer-employee relationship.”[9] Plaintiffs Complaint alleges that LCMC and Touro are her joint employers and that both are liable for the FLSA violations. Defendants seek dismissal of LCMC from this matter, alleging that Plaintiffs Complaint fails to establish that LCMC was her employer.

         The parties agree that in order to prove that a party was an employer under FLSA, the plaintiff must allege facts showing that the defendant had the requisite control over aspects of her employment. An “‘[e]mployer' includes any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee.”[10] “To determine whether an individual or entity is an employer, the court considers whether the alleged employer: ‘(1) possessed the power to hire and fire the employees, (2) supervised and controlled employee work schedules or conditions of employment, (3) determined the rate and method of payment, and (4) maintained employment records.'"[11]

         Defendants allege that Plaintiffs allegations amount merely to a “status based inference” in which she alleges that LCMC and Touro jointly operated NOEH. Plaintiff rebuts that her allegations are sufficient to show that LCMC and Touro jointly exercised control over her through the implementation of policies and procedures.

         This Court holds that Plaintiffs allegations are insufficient. Plaintiffs Complaint merely alleges that LCMC managed and operated NOEH but it does not allege that LCMC had any actual control over Plaintiff. The Complaint does not allege that LCMC could hire, fire, or supervise Plaintiff. Accordingly, Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to establish that LCMC was an employer for purposes of FLSA, and she therefore cannot succeed on her FLSA claim against it.

         II. Collective Action Allegations

         Next, Defendants argue that the Complaint fails to adequately describe or identify the class of “similarly situated” persons and that Plaintiffs collective action allegations are insufficient to state a claim. Plaintiff rebuts that Defendants' argument is an improper attempt to dispute class certification before Plaintiff has moved for such.

         “There is no specific guidance from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on this issue, and opinions from district courts both in this circuit and others are inconsistent, arriving at different conclusions as to a) whether certain job descriptions and factual allegations meet the plausibility standard as established in Iqbal and Twombly; and b) whether a motion to dismiss or collective action certification is the proper stage in the proceedings to address the issue.”[12] However, this Court finds the opinion in England v. Administrators of the Tulane Education Fund instructive. In England, a court in this District stated that: “To prevail against a motion to dismiss, a plaintiffs complaint ‘must allege facts sufficient to demonstrate that [she] and potential plaintiffs were victims of a common policy or plan that violated the law. Plaintiffs need only show their positions are similar, not identical.'"[13] The court held that the complaint's allegations did ...


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