United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
GLEN WANDREY, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
CJ PROFESSIONAL SATELLITES, INC., CJ'S SATELLITE COMPANY, and JULIA ANDERSON, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
P.K. HOLMES, III, Chief District Judge.
Currently before the Court are Defendants CJ Professional Satellites, Inc.'s ("CJPS"), CJ's Satellite Company's ("CJSC"), and Julia Anderson's motion to dismiss (Doc. 11) and brief in support (Doc. 12), Plaintiff Glen Wandrey's response (Doc. 14), and Defendants' reply (Doc. 17) filed with leave of the Court. Defendants move to dismiss Wandrey's complaint with prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons explained below Defendants' motion to dismiss will be DENIED.
Wandrey alleges in his complaint that from October to December of 2013 he was a satellite installation and repair technician working for Defendants. Defendants are engaged in the business of installing satellite systems under a contract with Dish Network. CJPS and CJSC are Arkansas corporations with their principal place of business in Harrison, Arkansas and additional offices in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Tennessee. They share the same registered agent. CJPS and CJSC are owned by Anderson, who is also president of both companies.
Wandrey began working as a satellite technician for Defendants in October 2013 and quit in December 2013. During that time, Wandrey's work hours were controlled by Defendants. Wandrey alleges that he worked for Defendants between 60 and 70 hours per week and occasionally more. His jobs were assigned by Defendants, who decided the order in which assignments were to be performed. He was not allowed to turn down assignments and was required to wear a uniform provided by Defendants. The parts, equipment, and some of the tools used by Wandrey were determined, and in some cases provided by, Defendants. Wandrey was required to purchase other parts and equipment directly from Defendants. There is no allegation that any of these matters were subject to negotiation between Wandrey and Defendants.
Wandrey was usually paid on a per assignment basis. In some cases, however, Defendants required Wandrey to perform "service calls" and did not compensate him for these assignments. The rate paid per assignment was set by Defendants and was based on a skill-assessment level assigned by Defendants. Wandrey also alleges that he spent approximately two weeks in training for the job, for which he was not compensated, and that he was required to provide his own fuel, without reimbursement, to get to and from various assignments. During the time Wandrey worked for Defendants, they classified him as an independent contractor. When he quit his job, Defendants did not give him his final paycheck.
Wandrey brought this lawsuit after quitting, alleging that Defendants willfully misclassified him as an independent contractor. He claims that he should have been classified as an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"),  and was entitled under that law to compensation and protections which Defendants denied to him. In particular, Wandrey alleges that Defendants willfully refused to classify him as an employee so that they could avoid paying him minimum wage and overtime rates required by the FLSA. He claims that Defendants violated 29 U.S.C. § 206(a)(1) by failing to pay him at the appropriate minimum wage rate for the hours he worked and that Defendants willfully violated 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1) by failing to pay him time-and-a-half for overtime hours worked. Wandrey alleges that there are other similarly-situated satellite technicians who worked for Defendants, were misclassified as independent contractors, and were also denied minimum wage and overtime compensation. Wandrey also alleges on his own behalf that he is entitled to damages and interest for his unpaid wages under Arkansas law. Wandrey seeks damages; costs, expenses, and reasonable attorneys' fees; declaratory relief; a permanent injunction requiring Defendants to comply with the FLSA; and such further relief as the Court deems appropriate.
Defendants move to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). To survive dismissal under that Rule, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotation omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility 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. Those alleged facts must be specific enough "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Pleadings that contain mere "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of the cause of action will not do." Id. "The Rules of Civil Procedure do not require that a plaintiff shall plead every fact essential to his right to recover the amount which he claims." Sparks v. England, 113 F.2d 579, 581 (8th Cir. 1940). "Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure generally requires only a plausible short and plain' statement of the plaintiff's claim, not an exposition of his legal argument." Skinner v. Switzer, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S.Ct. 1289, 1296 (2011). Where the facts alleged, taken as true, "raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegal [activity], " the Court should deny a motion to dismiss. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.
Defendants raise several issues in their motion to dismiss. They argue that Wandrey has failed to adequately plead: (1) that Defendants constitute a single enterprise or are joint employers and that Anderson can be held individually liable under the FLSA; (2) that Wandrey was an "employee" of Defendants as that term is used in the FLSA, and that an employer-employee relationship existed between the parties; (3) that the FLSA applies to either Wandrey or Defendants; (4) that any violation of the FLSA was willful; and (5) that Wandrey's complaint can support a collective action. Wandrey's response argues to the contrary on all of these issues. Defendants reply that Wandrey misconstrues the law regarding an employment relationship and that allegations that Defendants intentionally misclassified Wandrey as exempt do not show willfulness.
A. Single Enterprise or Joint Employer
Defendants first argue that Wandrey has not adequately pleaded that they are a single enterprise or joint employers. As a result, they argue that Wandrey's complaint is deficient because it does not identify which particular actions were taken by any particular Defendant, does not support holding Anderson individually liable, and does not identify which Defendant allegedly employed Wandrey. Wandrey responds that he has specifically alleged that each Defendant is his employer under the FLSA, and cites to paragraphs three through seven of his complaint. He also cites to post- Twombly and Iqbal decisions denying a motion to dismiss on the issue of joint employers or single enterprises.
Under the FLSA, "enterprise' means the related activities performed (either through unified operation or common control) by any person or persons for a common business purpose, and includes all such activities whether performed in one or more establishments or by one or more corporate or other organizational units." 29 U.S.C. § 203(r). For Defendants to be a single enterprise, they must have "(1) related activities; (2) unified operation or common control; and (3) a common business purpose." Brennan v. Plaza Shoe Store, Inc., 522 F.2d 843, 846 (8th Cir. 1975). Wandrey has alleged that CJPS and CJSC are contractors for Dish Network owned and operated by Anderson, that Defendants install Dish Network residential products and services, and that they hire satellite technicians to perform the installation and service work. Considering the expansive FLSA definition of "enterprise, " Wandrey has alleged sufficient facts, taken as true, to show that Defendants are an enterprise.
Wandrey has also alleged that Anderson was a joint employer with CJPS and CJSC. The FLSA broadly defines "employer" as inclusive of "any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee." 29 U.S.C. § 203(d). "The FLSA contemplates several simultaneous employers, each responsible for compliance with the Act." Baystate Alt. Staffing, Inc. v. Herman, 163 F.3d 668, 675 (1st Cir. 1998) (citing Falk v. Brennan, 414 U.S. 190, 195 (1973)). On its face the definition of "employer" can be read to cover owners or officers of a corporation in their individual capacities. See Darby v. Bratch, 287 F.3d 673, 681 (8th Cir. 2002) ("We implicitly assumed in Rockney [ v. Blohorn, 877 F.2d 637 (8th Cir. 1989)] that individual liability does exist under the FLSA."). The Eighth Circuit has implied that a corporate officer with operational control of the corporation's day-to-day functions can be an employer within the meaning of the FLSA if the officer actually supervises the relationship between the corporation and its employees. Wirtz v. Pure Ice Co., Inc., 322 F.2d 259, 262-63 (8th Cir. 1963). It has also held that an individual who was the primary shareholder, as well as president and general manager, of a corporation, and who engaged in "active management" of the corporation-hiring supervisors and home office workforce and subjecting the wages of the corporation's employees to his control, if only in varying degrees-could be an employer under the FLSA. Chambers Constr. Co. v. Mitchell, 233 F.2d 717, ...