Ninth Circuit: Plaintiffs need to identify 40-plus hour work weeks in FLSA cases

By Kyla Asbury | Nov 18, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) - A federal appeals court has ruled Quality Communications did not fail to pay minimum wages and overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The three-judge panel held that a plaintiff asserting a claim to overtime payments must allege that he worked more than 40 hours in a given workweek without being compensated for the hours worked in excess of 40 during that week, according to an opinion issued Nov. 12 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The panel held that the complaint did not state a plausible claim because it did not allege facts showing that there was a specific week in which the plaintiff was entitled to but denied minimum wages or overtime wages.

Circuit judges Andrew J. Kleinfeld, Johnnie B. Rawlinson and Ronald Lee Gilman voted in the majority, with Rawlinson authoring the opinion.

"Under the post-Twombly and Iqbal standard, [Greg] Landers failed to state a plausible claim for relief under the FLSA," the opinion states. "Landers expressly declined to amend his complaint, electing to stand on his claims as alleged. Therefore, we do not remand to the district court for amendment of the complaint."

The panel declined to impose a requirement that a plaintiff alleging failure to pay minimum wages or overtime wages must approximate the number of hours worked without compensation, according to the opinion.

"However, at a minimum the plaintiff must allege at least one workweek when he worked in excess of forty hours and was not paid for the excess hours in that workweek, or was not paid minimum wages," the opinion states. "Landers’s allegations fell short of this standard, and the district court properly dismissed his complaint for failure to state a plausible claim."

Landers filed his complaint in the on Dec. 1, 2011, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada against Quality Communications Inc., Brady E. Wells and Robert J. Huber.

The district court dismissed Landers' claim on April 6, 2012. Landers appealed the decision on April 16, 2012.

Landers presented generalized allegations asserting violations of the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the FLSA by the defendants, according to the opinion.

"Notably absent from the allegations in Landers’s complaint, however, was any detail regarding a specific workweek when Landers worked in excess of forty hours and was not paid overtime for that specific workweek and/or was not paid minimum wages," the opinion states. "Although plaintiffs in these types of cases cannot be expected to allege 'with mathematical precision,' the amount of overtime compensation owed by the employer, they should be able to specify at least one workweek in which they worked in excess of forty hours and were not paid overtime wages."

Landers' allegations failed to provide "sufficient detail about the length and frequency of [his] unpaid work to support a reasonable inference that [he] worked more than forty hours in a given week," according to the opinion.

Although Landers' allegations "raise the possibility" of under-compensation in violation of the FLSA, a possibility is not the same as plausibility, according to the opinion. Landers' comparable allegations fail to state a plausible claim under Rule 8 of the FLSA.

Landers and the class are represented by Christian James Gabroy of Gabroy Law Offices in Henderson, Nev.; and Leon Greenberg and Dana Sniegocki of Leon Greenberg Professional Corporation in Las Vegas.

The defendant is represented by Malani L. Kotchka and Steven C. Anderson of Lionel, Sawyer & Collins in Las Vegas.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit case number: 12-15890

From Legal Newsline: Kyla Asbury can be reached at classactions@legalnewsline.com.

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