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Cea v. Cobb-Vantress, Inc.

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

April 15, 2019

MARTHA CEA PLAINTIFF
v.
COBB-VANTRESS, INC. DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TIMOTHY L. BROOKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Now before the Court are Defendant Cobb-Vantress, Inc.'s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to Plaintiff's overtime claims (Doc. 16), to which Plaintiff Martha Cea filed a Response in Opposition five days out of time (Doc. 21), and Cea's Second Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 22). On April 10, 2019, the Court held a hearing on the Motions, and the parties presented oral argument. The Court determined that even though Cea's response to the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings was filed out of time, the Court would still consider the merits of her response. After oral argument concluded, the Court ruled from the bench that the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings was GRANTED, and the Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint was DENIED due to futility. The following Order memorializes the Court's rulings and explains the reasons for the decisions in greater detail. To the extent anything in this Order conflicts with what was said from the bench, this Order will control.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Cea filed this employment discrimination lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Benton County, Arkansas, on November 26, 2018. (Doc. 3). Her former employer, Defendant Cobb-Vantress, removed the case to this Court on February 7, 2019, due to the presence of one or more federal questions in the Complaint. (Doc. 1). Cobb-Vantress answered the Complaint on February 7 (Doc. 4) and then filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings (Doc. 8) on March 1. The motion for judgment on the pleadings requested dismissal of Cea's overtime compensation claims, due to an exemption that applies for poultry/agricultural workers. Cea filed a response in opposition to the motion, and then a few days later, on March 19, filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 14). The effect of filing the Amended Complaint was that the motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the original complaint was moot. See Doc. 15.

         On March 20, Cobb-Vantress filed another Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 16) as to Cea's claims made in her Amended Complaint, once again, with respect to Cea's overtime compensation claims made pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act ("AMWA"). Cea filed an untimely response to the Motion on April 8 (Doc. 21), which the Court, nonetheless, decided to consider. Also on April 8, Cea filed a Second Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 22). The proposed second amended complaint contains the overtime claims that Cobb-Vantress argues are subject to dismissal in its Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. The only substantive difference between the Amended Complaint and the proposed second amended complaint is the addition of a couple of sentences describing the nature of Cea's job duties at Cobb-Vantress. Both the Amended Complaint and proposed second amended complaint describe Cobb-Vantress as follows:

Defendant Cobb is a foreign for-profit Corporation with its headquarters and principal place of business in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Cobb is a poultry research and development company in the business of development, production and sale of broiler breeder stock. Cobb operates a poultry hatchery in Siloam Springs, Benton County, Arkansas.

(Doc. 14at1; Doc. 22-1 at1).

         The Amended Complaint and proposed second amended complaint also describe Cea as having been "employed by Cobb as a worker on the production line in the Siloam Springs hatchery." (Doc. 14 at 1; Doc. 22-1 at 1).

         The only substantive difference between the Amended Complaint and the proposed second amended complaint is in how both documents describe Cea's job duties at Paragraph 8. The Amended Complaint states at Paragraph 8:

Plaintiff's job duties included grading and vaccinating baby chicks as they moved along a conveyor belt. The hatchery is a factory-type setting. Thousands of eggs are hatched, and the chicks are then vaccinated and graded, on a daily basis.

(Doc. 14 at 2). The proposed second amended complaint states at Paragraph 8:

Plaintiff's job duties included grading and vaccinating baby chicks as they moved along a conveyor belt. Plaintiff's job duties also included janitorial and cleaning services. Approximately half of Plaintiff's work week was not related vaccinating [sic] or grading chicks but rather to cleaning duties.

(Doc. 22-1 at 2).

         In every other respect, aside from the factual differences in Paragraph 8, the Amended Complaint and the proposed second amended complaint are identical. Clearly, Cea has added some facts to Paragraph 8 in her proposed amended pleading in an attempt to save her overtime claims from dismissal. As will be explained ...


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