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Robles v. Sunview Vineyards of California

March 31, 2009

CATALINA ROBLES, ET AL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SUNVIEW VINEYARDS OF CALIFORNIA, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anthony W. Ishii Chief United States District Judge

ORDER RE: MOTION TO DISMISS

I. History

Defendant Sunview Vineyards is a commercial table grape grower based in Kern County. Plaintiffs Cataline Robles, Juan Montes, Benito Espino, and Guillermina Perez are former employees of Defendant. The operative complaint is the first amended complaint, ("FAC"). Doc. 43. Plaintiffs' claims are divided into nine causes of action: (1) violations of the federal Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Protection Act, 29 U.S.C. §1801 et seq. ("AWPA"); (2) breach of contract; (3) failure to pay overtime wages; (4) failure to reimburse work expenses; (5) failure to provide required meal periods as required by the Industrial Welfare Commission Work Order 14 ("IWC Order 14-2001") and Cal. Labor Code §226.7; (6) failure to provide required rest periods as required by the Industrial Welfare Commission Work Order 14 ("IWC Order 14-2001") and Cal. Labor Code §226.7; (7) failure to keep accurate employee wage statements; (8) failure to pay wages in a timely manner at the termination of employment; and (9) violation of the Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §17200 et seq. ("UCL") through the above described activities.

Defendant has made a motion to dismiss, urging the court to decline supplemental jurisdiction over the state law causes of action or, in the alternative, to dismiss the fifth and sixth causes of action based on Cal. Labor Code §226.7.

II. Legal Standards

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a claim may be dismissed because of the plaintiff's "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." A dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or on the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007), citations omitted. The court is not required "to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). The court must also assume that "general allegations embrace those specific facts that are necessary to support the claim." Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 889 (1990), citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957), overruled on other grounds at 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1969. Thus, the determinative question is whether there is any set of "facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations of the complaint" that would entitle plaintiff to some relief. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002). At the other bound, courts will not assume that plaintiffs "can prove facts which [they have] not alleged, or that the defendants have violated...laws in ways that have not been alleged." Associated General Contractors of California, Inc. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983).

In deciding whether to dismiss a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court is generally limited to reviewing only the complaint. "There are, however, two exceptions....First, a court may consider material which is properly submitted as part of the complaint on a motion to dismiss...If the documents are not physically attached to the complaint, they may be considered if the documents' authenticity is not contested and the plaintiff's complaint necessarily relies on them. Second, under Fed. R. Evid. 201, a court may take judicial notice of matters of public record." Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688-89 (9th Cir. 2001), citations omitted. The Ninth Circuit later gave a separate definition of "the 'incorporation by reference' doctrine, which permits us to take into account documents whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the plaintiff's pleading." Knievel v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1076 (9th Cir. 2005), citations omitted. "[A] court may not look beyond the complaint to a plaintiff's moving papers, such as a memorandum in opposition to a defendant's motion to dismiss. Facts raised for the first time in opposition papers should be considered by the court in determining whether to grant leave to amend or to dismiss the complaint with or without prejudice." Broam v. Bogan, 320 F.3d 1023, 1026 n.2 (9th Cir. 2003), citations omitted.

If a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is granted, claims may be dismissed with or without prejudice, and with or without leave to amend. "[A] district court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts." Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc), quoting Doe v. United States, 58 F.3d 494, 497 (9th Cir. 1995). In other words, leave to amend need not be granted when amendment would be futile. Gompper v. VISX, Inc., 298 F.3d 893, 898 (9th Cir. 2002).

III. Discussion

A. AWPA and Jurisdiction

In the prior motion to dismiss, the court set out the bounds of AWPA causes of action. AWPA allows seasonal and migrant agricultural employees to bring suit in federal court if employers fail to pay them wages owed or violate a working arrangement. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant posted IWC Order 14-2001 at job sites. IWC Order 14-2001 sets out state regulations which provide a number of protections to agricultural employees. Posting IWC Order 14-2001 for employees to read creates a working arrangement. See Wales v. Jack M. Berry, Inc., 192 F. Supp. 2d 1269, 1287 (M.D. Fla. 1999) (The defendants created a 'working arrangement' within the meaning of 29 U.S.C. 1822(c) and 1832(c) by posting an official Department of Labor poster that notified workers of their right to receive at least $4.25 for each hour worked in the workweek"). Since, the AWPA requirement to pay wages due and the alleged working arrangement incorporate much of the substance of California law regulating agricultural workers, violations of these regulations constitute AWPA claims over which the court has federal question jurisdiction. Many, if not most, of Plaintiff's claims are thus AWPA claims. For the other claims for which AWPA does not provide for a federal cause of action, the court assumes supplemental jurisdiction as the issues appear to be closely interrelated. See 28 U.S.C. §1367(a).

B. Meal and Rest Periods*fn1

Plaintiffs' fifth and sixth causes of action allege "Defendants failed to provide plaintiffs and others with timely meal breaks of not less than thirty (30) minutes as required by the Labor Code" and "Defendants failed to provide plaintiffs and others with rest breaks of not less than ten (10) minutes as required by the Labor Code." Doc. 43, FAC, at 16:23-24 and 17:12-14. Plaintiffs allege a violation of Cal. Labor. Code §226.7 while Defendant asserts that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim under Section 226.7.

1. Substantive Meal and Rest Period Requirements

The Industrial Welfare Commission ("IWC") is "the state agency empowered to formulate regulations (known as wage orders) governing employment in the State of California [while the] Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE)...is the state agency empowered to enforce California's labor laws, including IWC wage orders." Tidewater Marine Western, Inc. v. Bradshaw, 14 Cal. 4th 557, 561-62 (Cal. 1996). There are seventeen Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders ("IWC Orders") which cover different fields of employment; the IWC Order 14-2001 applies to "all persons employed in an agricultural occupation." Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8, §11140 (2009). These IWC Orders supplement the California Labor Code and "may provide more restrictive provisions than are provided by the general statutes adopted by the Legislature." Industrial Welfare Com. v. Superior Court of Kern County, 27 Cal. 3d 690, 733 (Cal. 1980), citations omitted.

Relevant to the present discussion, all of the IWC Orders were amended in 1980 and 2001. Under longstanding California law, the IWC "shall prepare a statement as to the basis upon which an adopted or amended order is predicated." Cal. Lab. Code §1177(b). "Labor Code sections 61 and 1193.5 specifically empower the DLSE to interpret and enforce IWC Orders with the primary objective of protecting workers. IWC orders must be liberally construed to accomplish this primary objective." Bono Enterprises, Inc. v. Bradshaw, 32 Cal. App. 4th 968, 974 (Cal. Ct. App. 1995), citing Industrial Welfare Com. v. Superior Court, 27 Cal. 3d 690, 724 (Cal. 1980). The DLSE issues advice letters which state DLSE's interpretation of various issues arising from the IWC Orders. An older opinion states, "DLSE's interpretation of an IWC order is entitled to great weight and, unless it is clearly unreasonable, it will be upheld." Monzon v. Schaefer Ambulance Service, Inc., 224 Cal. App. 3d 16, 30 (Cal. Ct. App. 1990), quotations omitted. The California Supreme Court has consulted DLSE advice letters in interpreting IWC Orders. Morillion v. Royal Packing Co., 22 Cal. 4th 575, 584 (Cal. 2000), ("Unlike interpretive policies contained in the DLSE's 1989 Operations and Procedures Manual, advice letters are not subject to the rulemaking provisions of the APA. Although Royal correctly observes that the factual situations these ...


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