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Williams v. Superior Hospitality Staffing, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 7, 2019

TANIZIA WILLIAMS
v.
SUPERIOR HOSPITALITY STAFFING, INC. ET AL.

         SECTION: “H” (1)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, or alternatively, Motion for More Definite Statement (Doc. 11). For the following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED IN PART.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Tanzania Williams brings both individual claims and a collective action against her former employer under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Louisiana Wage Payment Statute (LWPS). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Superior Hospitality Staffing, Inc.; Superior Hospitality Systems, Inc.; Superior Hospitality Management Systems, Inc.; and Superior Hospitality Janitorial Services, Inc. are her joint employers.

         Plaintiff alleges that she worked for Defendants as a staffing employee, such as a bartender or server, from December 2017 to March 2018 at an hourly rate of $11.00 to $16.00. She alleges that she has not been paid for her work despite repeated demands and is aware of other employees that likewise have not been paid or were paid late “as a part of Defendants' routine practice of delaying payment and withholding employee's paychecks, including final paychecks.”[1] She alleges that this practice violates the FLSA's minimum wage and overtime requirements and seeks to bring an FLSA collective action. Plaintiff also brings an individual claim under the LWPS, alleging that Defendants failed to pay her hourly rate in excess of minimum wage for each hour she worked.

         Defendant now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claims, alleging that her LWPS claim is preempted and that she has otherwise failed to state a claim for relief. In the alternative, Defendant seeks a more definite statement.

         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.”[2] 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.”[3]A court must accept the complaint's factual allegations as true and must “draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.”[4] The court need not, however, accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations.[5] To be legally sufficient, a complaint must establish more than a “sheer possibility” that the plaintiff's claims are true.[6] 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.[7] The court's review is 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

         This Court will address each of Defendants' arguments for dismissal in turn.

         I. LWPS Preemption

         Plaintiff brings an individual claim under the Louisiana Wage Payment Statute (“LWPS”), which states that an employee must be paid all of the wages owed to him within 15 days of his discharge.[9] Defendants argue that the FLSA preempts the LWPS, and Plaintiff's claim should therefore be dismissed. Plaintiff argues that her claim is not preempted because she is seeking recovery of the amount that she was not paid over and above minimum wage. She argues that because she can only seek minimum wage under FLSA, the LWPS allows her to seek the additional amount of the hourly wage that she alleges she is owed.

         The language of the LWPS “is unambiguously broad in scope; it mandates that an employer pay any amount that an employee justifiably earns under the terms of his employment.”[10] The FLSA, on the other hand, requires only that an employer pay its employees a minimum wage as set by the Act and does not address the failure to pay agreed-upon wages.[11] Defendant does not cite to any case holding that a claim for the amount owed over and above minimum wage is preempted by the FLSA, nor could this Court find any.[12]Accordingly, Plaintiff is entitled to seek the amount she is owed over and above minimum wage through the LWPS, and her claim is not preempted.[13]

         II. FLSA Claim

         Defendants next argue that Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim under the FLSA for failure to pay minimum wage or overtime. An employer violates the FLSA if it fails to pay covered employees at least one and one-half times their normal rate for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week or fails to pay covered employees a minimum wage.[14] Thus, to state a claim for unpaid overtime or minimum wages under the FLSA, a plaintiff must plead: “(1) that there existed an employer-employee relationship during the unpaid . . . periods claimed; (2) that the employee engaged in activities within the coverage of the FLSA; (3) that the employer violated the FLSA's overtime or minimum wage requirements; and (4) the amount of overtime or minimum wage compensation due.”[15] The pleading requirements are satisfied in the FLSA context when the complaint contains the “‘approximate date ranges, as well as the approximate number of hours worked' for which the plaintiff claims he was under-compensated.” Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim for failure to pay minimum wage under the FLSA where it alleges only that Plaintiff's rate of pay was $11.00 to $16.00, well above the minimum wage. This Court disagrees. Plaintiff's Complaint also alleges that she worked for Defendants from December 2017 to March 2018 and has not received any payment for her work. It is clear then from the Complaint that regardless of the agreed-upon hourly rate, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to pay her any amount for her work.[16] Accordingly, Plaintiff's allegations are sufficient to state a claim under the FLSA for failure to pay minimum wage.

         Defendants next allege that Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim for failure to pay overtime under the FLSA where it does not state the number of hours worked in excess of forty or even that her work ever exceeded forty hours in a single week. A plaintiff meets her pleading burden by alleging the amount that defendants paid, the time period during which she worked, that she worked in excess of forty hours, and that she was never paid one-and-half times their hourly rate.[17] Plaintiff alleges that she was paid between $11.00 and $16.00 an hour, that she worked for Defendants between December 2017 and March 2018, and that she was not paid overtime wages for hours worked in excess of forty. Although Plaintiff does not expressly allege that she worked in excess of forty hours in a single week, it is clear from the allegations of her Complaint that she intends to allege such. There are sufficient allegations to put Defendant on notice of Plaintiff's FLSA overtime claim, even if it lacks this express allegation. Accordingly, Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a claim for FLSA overtime payment.

         III. Collective ...


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