In Landers v. Quality Communications, Inc. et al., the Ninth Circuit held that, in a complaint under the FLSA for minimum or overtime wages, a plaintiff must allege at least a specific week that he or she was entitled to, but denied, minimum or overtime wages. Relying on the US Supreme Court decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) the Court found that, while detailed factual allegations are not required, a plaintiff cannot merely state conclusory allegations that simply recite the statutory language.
In Landers, the plaintiff alleged that he and similarly situated employees were not paid overtime for work in excess of 40 hours per week and that the failure to pay overtime and/or minimum wages was willful, but failed to allege any details regarding a specific workweek when he allegedly worked in excess of forty hours and was not paid overtime for that specific workweek and/or was not paid minimum wages.
The Court said that, at a minimum, a plaintiff must allege at least one workweek when s/he worked in excess of forty hours and was not paid for the excess hours in that workweek, or was not paid minimum wages. Because Landers failed to meet this standard and refused to amend his complaint, the Court held that the dismissal of his case by the district court was proper.
Planning Tip: This case is good news for employers when faced with an individual or collective FLSA complaint. Employers now have another defense against baseless or perfunctory FLSA wage complaints, or those brought by employees who may not have suffered actual harm. This heightened pleading requirement also helps employers to identify and remedy any underpayments early on in litigation.