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Chavez v. Montes

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

February 23, 2015

ZULEMA CHAVEZ, PLAINTIFF
v.
EDGAR MONTES; JALISCO GROUP, INC. d/b/a LA HUERTA; JOHN DOES 1-5; and ABC COMPANIES 1-5, DEFENDANTS

For Zulema Chavez, Plaintiff: Annie Smith, LEAD ATTORNEY, University of Arkansas School of Law, Fayetteville, AR.

For Edgar Montes, Jalisco Group, Inc., doing business as La Huerta, Defendants: Kerri E. Kobbeman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Conner & Winters, LLP, Fayetteville, AR.

Page 1092

OPINION AND ORDER

TIMOTHY L. BROOKS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Now pending before the Court are Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10) and brief in support (Doc. 11) and Plaintiff's Response (Doc. 16). A hearing on the Motion was held on February 20, 2014, and the Court DENIED the Motion from the bench. This Order seeks to clarify the Court's rulings on the Motion. To the extent anything in this Order differs from what was announced in open Court, this Order will control.

Defendants jointly sought dismissal of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 8) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6), due to an alleged lack of federal jurisdiction. The Amended Complaint asserts that Plaintiff, a former server for Defendant La Huerta restaurant in Fayetteville, Arkansas, was denied minimum wages and overtime compensation by her employers in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ), as codified at 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., and the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act, as codified at Ark. Code Ann. § 11-4-201, et seq. Plaintiff also makes claims for unjust enrichment and conversion due to Defendants' alleged misappropriation of her tips. She maintains that as a server, she had to rely solely on customers' tips and was never paid overtime despite regularly working over 60 hours per week.

Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to plead sufficient facts to show that she may properly bring an FLSA claim either based on her individual status as an employee, due to the nature of her job functions as described in § 207(a)(1) of the statute, or based Defendants qualifying as an " enterprise" covered by the statute as per § 203(s)(1)(A).

As an initial matter, the Court finds that the question of FLSA coverage is not a jurisdictional inquiry properly brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), but is more appropriately characterized as a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Section 1331 of Title 28 provides that " [t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." As Plaintiff's claims arise under federal law pursuant to the FLSA, the minimum threshold for jurisdictional purposes has been met for purposes of Rule 12(b)(1). Plaintiff has pleaded a colorable claim arising under the laws of the United States and therefore has invoked § 1331 jurisdiction. See Arbaugh v. Y& H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 513, 126 S.Ct. 1235, 163 L.Ed.2d 1097 (2006) (finding employee-numerosity requirement in Title VII case was not a jurisdictional prerequisite but an element of the claim); Reed Elsevier, Inc. v. Muchnick, 559 U.S. 154, 160, 130 S.Ct. 1237, 176 L.Ed.2d 18 (2010) (explaining the distinction between jurisdictional conditions, which relate to a court's adjudicatory authority, and non-jurisdictional limitations on causes of action); Chao v. Hotel Oasis, Inc., 493 F.3d 26, 33 (1st Cir. 2007) (finding the dollar-restrictions explained in section 203(s)(1) of the FLSA

Page 1093

to be an element of the claim, not a jurisdictional requirement).

The Court will instead evaluate Defendants' Motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), which requires that the Court accept as true all factual allegations set forth in the Amended Complaint and construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, drawing all inferences in Plaintiff's favor. See Ashley County, Ark. v. Pfizer, Inc., 552 F.3d 659, 665 (8th Cir. 2009). 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). " 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.

Here, the Court finds that Plaintiff pleaded sufficient facts regarding both individual and enterprise liability pursuant to the FLSA to survive dismissal. Moreover, the parties have not yet engaged in discovery, and questions as to the nature and extent of Defendants' involvement with interstate commerce or their annual gross volume of sales are known, at this point, only to Defendants. Detailed facts concerning the characterization of Plaintiff's role at La Huerta restaurant, her precise job description and daily duties, as well as her employers' expectations of her in comparison to other servers may be uncovered in the course of discovery. If Defendants find, after an adequate time period for discovery has passed, that they would like to renew the instant Motion as a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56, such may be appropriate. At this time, however, dismissal of the Amended Complaint would be premature.

Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10) is DENIED. A Case Management Order setting forth a trial date, and other deadlines will issue separately.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

CASE MANAGEMENT ORDER

A Case Management Hearing was conducted on February 20, 2015. After a review of the parties' Rule 26(f) Joint Report, and based on discussions with counsel during the hearing, and pursuant to Rule 16(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:

1. TRIAL SET DURING THE COURT'S APRIL 4, 2016 TRIAL TERM

The trial of this matter is scheduled for a JURY TRIAL in FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS, at the call of the Court during a Two Week Trial Term which begins on APRIL 4, 2016, at 9:00 a.m. The case may be called up and tried at any point during the term; however, a more precise starting date will be set as the trial term approaches. If for some reason the case is " bumped" because the Court cannot accommodate all trials set for the term, then the case will be re-set and tried during the " back-up" trial date which is set for the week of MAY 16, 2016, at 9:00 a.m.

The case will be tried to an eight (8) person jury--unanimous verdict required. Counsel are directed to report to the fifth-floor Courtroom by no later than 8:30 a.m. on the first day of trial unless otherwise notified.

2. FINAL PRE-TRIAL CONFERENCE

A Final Pre-Trial Conference shall be conducted pursuant to the provisions of Rule 16(e) on MARCH 30, ...


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