On November 12, 2014, the Ninth Circuit held that sufficient specificity in pleading is required under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in Greg Landers v. Quality Communications Inc. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a proposed overtime class action. While this was an issue of first impression for the Ninth Circuit, the decision falls in line with similar rulings made by the First, Second and Third Circuits and disagrees with the Eleventh Circuit holding that conclusory allegations that merely recite the statutory language are adequate.
Greg Landers, a cable services installer, alleged that Quality Communications (Quality) violated the FLSA by failing to pay him and similarly situated employees minimum and overtime wages. In his complaint, Landers alleged that:
- he was employed by Quality in its cable television, phone, and internet service installation business;
- his employment was subject to the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime pay requirements;
- he was not paid at the minimum wage; and
- he was subjected to a “piecework no overtime” wage system, whereby he worked in an excess of forty hours per week without being compensated for his overtime.
Relying on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the district court held that the complaint did not make any factual allegations approximating the actual overtime hours Landers worked, his hourly wage, or the amount of overtime wages he was due. The district court concluded that the allegations were “merely consistent” with Quality’s liability, but fell “short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief” required under Twombly and Iqbal.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint holding that factual allegations that merely recite the statutory language are not adequate. To avoid dismissal of an overtime claim under the FLSA, a plaintiff must allege, at a minimum, that he worked more than forty hours in a given workweek without being compensated for the hours worked in excess of forty during that week, or was not paid minimum wage. The appellate court held that the complaint in this case did not state a plausible FLSA overtime claim because it did not allege facts that there was at least one specific workweek in which Landers was entitled to but denied minimum or overtime wages.
The other circuit cases are Pruell v. Caritas Christi, 678 F.3d 10 (1st Cir. 2012), Dejesus v. HF Management Services, LLC, 726 F.3d 85 (2d Cir. 2013) (the third of a trilogy of Second Circuit cases), Davis v. Abington Memorial Hospital, 765 F.3d 236 (3d Cir. 2014) and Sec’y of Labor v. Labbe, 319 F. App’x 761 (11th Cir. 2008 (per curium) (unpublished).