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Acosta v. Ararat Import & Export Co., LLC

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

May 3, 2019

R. ALEXANDER ACOSTA, Plaintiff,
v.
ARARAT IMPORT & EXPORT CO., LLC and HEATHER EBERHARDT, Defendants.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and motion for judgment on the pleadings. (DE 15). The issues raised have been fully briefed, and in this posture are ripe for ruling. For the reasons that follow, the court grants defendants' motion to dismiss.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         On September 12, 2018, R. Alexander Acosta, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor (“plaintiff”), initiated this action by filing complaint alleging defendants have repeatedly and willfully violation the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. (“FLSA”), based on defendants alleged failure to pay the applicable minimum hourly rate to their employees (“minimum wage claim”) and for failure to properly maintain employee records (“record-keeping claim”). In an appendix to his complaint, plaintiff lists the names of six employees of defendants allegedly due an award of back wages and liquidated damages. (See Compl. (DE 3) at 4; DE 2).

         On November 20, 2018, defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and motion for judgment on the pleadings, attaching in support “statute of limitations tolling agreement, ” (“tolling agreement”), entered into by the parties effective December 21, 2017. The tolling agreement provides for a tolling period of the applicable statute of limitations from the effective date up to and including April 16, 2018. (DE 15-1). Defendants argue the court should dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under the applicable pleading standards and, in the alternative, the court should dismiss claims predating September 12, 2016, as barred by the applicable statute of limitations. On December 7, 2018, plaintiff filed its response in opposition to which no reply was made.

         STATEMENT OF THE FACTS

         The facts alleged in complaint may be summarized as follows.

         A. Alleged FLSA Violations

         Defendant Ararat Import and Export Company, LLC (“Ararat”), engaged in the import and export of international wine and beer, does business in Raleigh, North Carolina. Defendant Heather Eberhart (“Eberhardt”) is part-owner of defendant Ararat. Eberhardt is involved in the day-to-day operations, including making decisions regarding employees' pay. Plaintiff alleges defendant Eberhardt is an employer, and defendants constitute an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce within the meaning of FLSA.

         Plaintiff further alleges as follows:

Since July 18, 2015, Defendants repeatedly and willfully violated the [FLSA], by failing to pay employees, including employees classified as drivers and helpers, who are employed in an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, the applicable minimum hourly rate.
Since July 18, 2015, Defendants, an employer subject to the provisions of the Act, repeatedly and willfully violated the [FLSA and associated regulations] by failing to make, keep and preserve adequate and accurate records of the persons employed as drivers and helpers and of the wages, hours and other conditions and practices of employment maintained by Defendant, as prescribed in the aforesaid Regulations.

(Compl. (DE 3) at 3).

         B. Tolling Agreement

         Plaintiff alleges that the parties entered into a tolling agreement whereby the parties agreed that the applicable statute of limitations would be tolled in this matter beginning on the date the tolling agreement was signed and that the “tolling agreement was signed by both parties on January 19, 2018 and January 23, 2018.” (Compl. (DE 3) at 3). The effective ...


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