United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
R. ALEXANDER ACOSTA, Secretary Of Labor, U.S. Department of Labor, Plaintiff,
RAUL PEREGRINO, an individual, and RAUL PEREGRINO d/b/a RAUL PEREGRINO DRYWALL, a/k/a PEREGRINO'S DRYWALL Defendants.
ORDER AND MEMORANDUM OPINION
WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Raul Peregrino and Raul Peregrino d/b/a/
Raul Peregrino Drywall, a/k/a Peregrino's Drywall
(“Defendants”), Motion to Dismiss and Supporting
Memorandum of Law. (Doc. Nos. 16, 17). Plaintiff filed a
response in opposition (Doc. No. 24), and Defendant has
replied. (Doc. No. 27). For the reasons discussed below,
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is DENIED,
and Defendant's request for a more definite statement is
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
originally brought this action pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §
201 et seq., against Defendants on October 18, 2017.
(Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff alleges under the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”), Defendants are employers
within the meaning of Section 203(d) of the FLSA and engage
in the business of construction and drywall work in
Tennessee. (Id. at II). Plaintiff further alleges
Defendants intentionally misclassified employees as
“independent contractors” and permitted them to
work as construction workers, translators, and clerical
workers. (Id. at II-III). According to the
Complaint, Defendants failed to pay employees overtime for
working over forty hours in a workweek in violation of the
FLSA. (Id. at III-IV). Since December 2014,
Defendants have alleged willfully and repeatedly violated the
FLSA, by failing to preserve records indicating the hours
worked by each employee, as required by the FLSA.
(Id. at V). Plaintiff requests the Defendants be
permanently enjoined from violating the FLSA and restrain
Defendants from withholding payment of wages due to employees
named in “Exhibit A”. (Id. at VII).
Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss on January 17, 2018,
under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. (Doc. No. 16). In the alternative, Defendants
request Plaintiff be required to provide a more definite
statement under Rule 12(e).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), permits dismissal of a
complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted. For purposes of a motion to dismiss, a court must
take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). To survive a
motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient
factual allegations, accepted as true, to state a claim for
relief that is plausible on its face. Id. A claim
has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads facts that
allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id.
Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action,
supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.
Id. When a complaint includes well-pleaded factual
allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
of relief. Id. at 1.
Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 12(e) provides that a
“party may move for a more definite statement of a
pleading to which a responsive pleading is allowed but which
is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably
prepare a response.” Federal courts generally disfavor
motions for more definite statements. E.E.O.C. v. FPM
Group, Ltd., 657 F.Supp.2d 957, 966 (E.D. Tenn. Sept.
28, 2009) (citing Federal Ins. Co. v. Webne, 513
F.Supp.2d 921, 924 (N.D. Ohio 2007). Thus, in view of the
notice pleading standards of Rule 8(a)(2) and the opportunity
for extensive pretrial discovery, courts rarely grant such
motions. A motion under Rule 12(e) should not be granted
unless the complaint is “so excessively vague and
ambiguous as to be unintelligible and as to prejudice the
defendant seriously in attempting to answer it.”
E.E.O.C. v. FPM Group, Ltd., 657 F.Supp.2d 957, 966
(E.D. Tenn. Sept. 28, 2009) (quoting Shirk v. Fifth Third
Bancorp, 2008 WL 4449024 at *8 (S.D. Ohio 2008)).
Accordingly, if the complaint meets the notice pleading
requirements of Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, the motion should be denied. Shirk, 2008
WL 4449024 at *8.
argue Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed because
Plaintiff fails to plead with particularity facts to support
its allegations and the Complaint is replete with conclusory
allegations that parrot the elements of the FLSA. (Doc. No.
17). Plaintiff responds by stating the Complaint submits a
short and plain statement of facts to show entitlement to
relief for Defendants violations under the FLSA. (Doc. No.
state a claim under the FLSA, a plaintiff must state
sufficient facts to allege, “(1) the existence of an
employer-employee relationship, (2) the employees are
protected by the FLSA, and (3) employer's failure to pay
the employee overtime or a minimum wage as required for those
acts.” Busch v. Metro Pcs d/b/a Tablet Solutions,
Inc., 2016 WL 705226 (W.D. Tenn. Feb. 18, 2016) (citing
Carter v. Jackson-Madison Cnty. Hospital District,
2011 WL 1256625 at *5 (W.D. Tenn. 2011)). District Courts
within the Sixth Circuit apply a less strict approach to
pleading requirements under the FLSA, and does not require
extensive, detailed factual pleadings provided a defendant is
given sufficient notice of the claims asked to defend.
Roberts v. Corrections Corp. of America, 2015 WL
3905088 at *7 (M.D. Tenn. June 25, 2015); see also Miller
v. AT&T Corp., 2013 WL 5566698 at *2 (N.D. Ohio Oct.
9, 2013), Pope v. Walgreen Co., 2015 WL 471006 (E.D.
Tenn. Feb. 4, 2015) (finding that requiring a plaintiff to
specify in their complaint a particular week in which they
worked more than forty hour would be too rigid).
arguments contained in the briefs of both parties do not
equip the Court with sufficient measures to rule on the Rule
12(b)(6) motion. First, Defendants' motions to dismiss
relies on a defense that is outside the scope of the current
Complaint. (Doc. No. 17). Defendants requests the Court to
dismiss Plaintiff's complaint on the grounds that
Defendants' workers are “independent
contractors” instead of “employees” as
defined under the FLSA. While the Sixth Circuit distinguishes
an “employee” from an “independent
contractor, ” Defendants' assertion of a defense is
not an appropriate ground to dismiss a complaint because the
Court must only look to the allegations pleaded in the
Plaintiff's Complaint. Defendants' assertion that
workers signed an Independent Contractor Agreement that
designated the workers as independent contractors falls
outside the scope of the Complaint. (Doc. No. 17 at 2).
response, Plaintiff addresses an argument not raised by the
Defendant. (Doc. No. 24). Plaintiff focuses much of its
response on the statute of limitations and asserts Defendants
have the obligation to plead affirmative defenses. However,
when determining whether to dismiss Plaintiff's
Complaint, the Court must only look to whether the Complaint
states a claim for relief, not arguments in Plaintiff's
briefings. See Guzman v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland
Sec., 679 F.3d 425, 429 (6th Cir. 2012). The Court
certainly will not consider arguments the parties do not even
the Court must determine whether Plaintiff pleaded sufficient
facts to place Defendants on notice under the Sixth Circuits
FLSA pleading requirements. The Court determines
Plaintiff's Complaint imitates the statutory language
under the FLSA, and does not provide sufficient factual
support under the FLSA. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ III). Plaintiff
alleges merely that, “[the] misclassified employees
[worked] as construction workers, as translators, and as
clerical workers” and “Defendants' employees
worked on goods or materials…by virtue of performing
construction work, drywall work, and services related
thereto…” (Id.). These facts are not
sufficient to establish an employee-employer relationship
under the FLSA. Plaintiff further alleges,
“Employees were paid a day rate that did not provide
for time and a half when they worked over 40 hours in a
workweek.” (Id.). While the Sixth Circuit has
a less stringent requirement for pleading the exact number of
hours or the exact date and time a plaintiff
works, the Complaint is devoid of facts to show
the range of rates at which the employees were paid, that
employees were paid less than minimum wage, or allegations
that Defendants lacked timekeeping related to their basic job
functions. See Potts, 2014 WL 7180164 at *3.
Furthermore, Plaintiff has not pleaded facts to show the
employees are protected under the FLSA.
while Plaintiff's Complaint merely cites language
included in 29 U.S.C § 201 et seq., without
providing any specific facts, the Court believes the
Complaint places the Defendants on notice of the claims
against them under the Sixth Circuit FLSA pleading standard.
Accordingly, the Court DENIES
Defendant's motion to dismiss, but
GRANTS Defendant's motion for a more
definitive statement under Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 12(e). The Court
hereby orders Plaintiff to submit a more definitive complaint
within 14 days of entry of this order. Failure to do so will
be viewed by the Court ...