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Allen v. Express Courier International, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

July 25, 2018

NORRIS ALLEN, RODNEY MILLER, JANICE SUGGS, RON ROLLINS, JERRY DIXON, and ERIC HOLMBERG, Plaintiffs,
v.
EXPRESS COURIER INTERNATIONAL, INC. and EMP LSO HOLDING CORPORATION, Defendants.

          ORDER

          MAX O. COGBURN JR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the court on defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (#15) and plaintiffs' Related Conditional Motion for Leave to File Second Amended and Substituted Complaint (#23). Having considered defendants' motion and reviewed the pleadings, the court enters the following Order.

         I. Background

         LSO is a third-party logistics company providing various supply-chain management services to help businesses reduce transportation costs, increase efficiency in product movement, and allow customer to focus on their core business. Plaintiffs entered into federally regulated Owner Operator Agreements (“OOA”) with LSO.

         On January 18, 2018, plaintiffs filed their Original Complaint (#1), and on April 12, 2018, filed their First Amended and Substituted Complaint (#4), alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §201, et seq. Plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment, monetary damages, liquidated damages, prejudgment interest, and reasonable attorney's fees and costs, as a result of defendant's alleged failure to pay plaintiffs minimum and overtime wages as required by law.

         On June 13, 2018, defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (#15), and on July 16, 2016, plaintiffs filed a Response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (#21). On July 23, 2018, defendants filed a Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (#22). Also on July 23, 2018, plaintiffs filed a Conditional Motion for Leave to File Second Amended and Substituted Complaint (#23).

         II. Legal Standard

         A motion to dismiss “challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint.” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). To survive such motion, “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, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The plausibility standard requires “more than a sheer possibility.” Id.; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 547 (complaints fail when plaintiffs “have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible”); Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 391 (4th Cir. 2011).

         Only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” is required. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Such statement does not require “specific facts, ” but need only give defendants “fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 544). For purposes of the motion, the factual allegations in the complaint are accepted as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals, 6266 F.3d 187, 189 (4th Cir. 2010), though the court need not accept “unwarranted inferences” or “unreasonable arguments, ” Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008). The court also notes that “[a] Rule 12(b)(6) motion ‘does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.'” Pisgah Laboratories, Inc. v. Mikart, Inc., 2015 WL 996609, at *2 (W.D. N.C. Mar. 5, 2015) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999)).

         III. Discussion

         Defendants argue that plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently allege any wage violations occurred, have not alleged sufficient facts to demonstrate that they were misclassified as independent agents, rather than employees, and have not stated a claim against EMP LSO Holding. The court will consider each of these arguments below.

         A. Wage Violations

         First, defendants claim that plaintiffs failed to sufficiently allege any wage violations occurred. Specifically, defendants argue that plaintiffs allege nothing that, if true, would establish an overtime or minimum wage violation. Instead, defendants contend that plaintiffs only allude to facts that might give rise to a wage violation.

         To state “a plausible overtime claim, a plaintiff must provide sufficient factual allegations to support a reasonable inference that he or she worked more than forty hours in at least one workweek and this his or her employer failed to pay the requisite overtime premium for those overtime hours.” Hall v. DIRECTV, LLC, 846 F.3d 757, 777 (4th Cir. 2017). This standard “does not require plaintiffs to identify a particular week in which they worked uncompensated overtime hours.” Id. (emphasis omitted). “Rather, this ...


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