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Barnes v. ELS Educational Services, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

February 19, 2015

TRUDY BARNES, HANNA GESHELIN, and RICHARD McOMBER, individually and on behalf of the class of ELS employees that are similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
ELS EDUCATIONAL SERVICES, INC., dba and aka ELS LANGUAGE CENTERS, and their parent and associated entities, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM ORDER

EDWARD J. LODGE, District Judge.

Pending before the Court in the above-entitled matter is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Alternative Motion for More Definite Statement (Dkt. 5). Having fully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, this matter shall be decided on the record before this Court without oral argument.

BACKGROUND

On May 14, 2014, Plaintiffs Trudy Barnes, Hanna Geshelin and Richard McOmber filed a verified Complaint for Both Individual and Class Action (Dkt. 1). Plaintiffs were employed by ELS Educational Services, Inc. (ELS). Plaintiffs taught English to students who did not speak English as their primary language. Plaintiffs allege they were paid for a 30 hour workweek, but at a "minimum" should have been paid for a 40 hour workweek. Plaintiffs filed their action pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 206 and 207. Plaintiffs claim their unpaid time included class preparation time, grading and entering grades, staff meetings, graduation lunch and discussion of grading reports.

Specifically, Ms. Barnes claims she worked for 51 sessions (without defining what constitutes a "session:) resulting in 378 hours at an average wage of $18 per hour for a total of $6, 804 in unpaid wages. Ms. Geshelin alleges she taught 28 sessions and has unpaid wages for 1, 216 hours at an average wage of $18 per hour for a total of $21, 888 in unpaid wages. Mr. McOmber avers he taught 23 sessions of 56 total classes resulting in 1, 373 hours at an average wage of $18.00 for a total of $24, 714 in unpaid wages.

The Complaint does not state how the unpaid hours were calculated for each individual. It is also unclear from the Complaint what specific dates theses alleged unpaid hours were worked. These are critical missing facts as the FLSA has a two year statute of limitations unless a lawsuit can demonstrate that the employer "willfully" violated the law in which case the statute of limitations is extended to three years. 29 U.S.C. § 255. The Complaint does not allege ELS acted willfully. It is also unclear how many extra hours per workweek were worked by each Plaintiff. If the hours did not exceed 40 hours in one workweek, the extra time alleged may not be recoverable under the FLSA since Plaintiffs were paid a wage significantly exceeding the minimum wage in effect of $7.25 per hour. Plaintiffs' Complaint also sets forth the general requirements for a class action pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23, without specific facts satisfying Rule 23's requirements.

Defendants claim in their motion to dismiss that Plaintiffs cannot circumvent the FLSA by couching their cause of action as a class action and the FLSA does not recognize a claim for "gap time" unpaid wages for employees working up to 40 hours per week unless plaintiffs were paid less than the minimum wage for 40 hours of work $290 (40 hours * $7.25). Here, using the average hourly wage of $18 for 30 hours of work per week, it appears undisputed Plaintiffs earned at least $540 per workweek. Alternatively, Defendants argue Plaintiffs should be required to comply with the requirements imposed by Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and plead more than a mere recitation of Rule 23 as a basis for the relief requested.

Plaintiffs argue it is premature for the Court to address the motion to dismiss as discovery has not begun and these matters should be raised in a motion for summary judgment.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) "tests the legal sufficiency of a claim." Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). In deciding whether to grant a motion to dismiss, the court "accept [s] all factual allegations of the complaint as true and draw[s] all reasonable inferences" in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Rodriguez v. Panayiotou, 314 F.3d 979, 983 (9th Cir. 2002). To survive a motion to dismiss, 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, 674 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (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. The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement, " but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. 556-57).

Dismissal also can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Nevertheless, the court "need not assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations." United States ex rel. Chunie v. Ringrose, 788 F.2d 638, 643 n.2 (9th Cir. 1986).

While Rule 8(a) does not require detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677. A pleading is insufficient if it offers mere "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Iqbal, 556 U.S. 675 ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice."). Moreover, it is inappropriate to assume that the plaintiff "can prove facts which it has not alleged or that the defendants have ...


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