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Aguilar v. Mega Lighting

April 6, 2009

NAZARIO AGUILAR; GREGORIO NICANOR; HUGO SANDOVAL; JOSE SOLANO; OSCAR URBINA; LUIS ALVAREZ; SERGIO ALVAREZ; LOUIS AGUILAR; JOSE AMARO; ARMANDO CARLOS, ALEJANDRO CASILLAS, OLEGARIO DURAN, JOSE LUIS HERRERA, ANTONIO HINOJOSA, GILBERTO HINOJOSA, FERMIN MENDOZA, DOLORES MEZA; ERIC NICANOR, FRANCISCO NICANOR, MAGDALENO NICANOR, MANUEL SOLANO, JORGE D. RIVAS, JOSE GUADALUPE TORRES AND MIGUEL ZAMORE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MEGA LIGHTING, INC., D/B/A MEGA WAY ENTERPRISES, A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION; PIERRE SALIM SAAD, AN INDIVIDUAL; SAM KASBAR, AN INDIVIDUAL; CHARBEL RAMEH, AN INDIVIDUAL; AND HECTOR ZAVALA, AN INDIVIDUAL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dean D. Pregerson United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS; DENYING PLAINTIFFS' REQUEST FOR DISCOVERY

[Motions filed on February 11 and 22, 2009, Dkt. Nos. 39, 50]

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are 25 former employees of Defendants Mega Lighting, Pierre Saad, and Sam Kasbar (collectively, "Mega Employer"*fn1 ). Defendants Charbel Rameh and Hector Zavala worked for the Mega Employer in a managerial capacity (collectively, "Mega Defendants"; the persons sued - Saad, Kasbar, Rameh, and Zavala -will be referred to as the "Individual Mega Defendants").*fn2

Mega Lighting is a California corporation licensed by California to perform landscaping. (FAC ¶ 40.) Mega Lighting's business is the construction and maintenance of landscaping for public and private gardens, including on "public works" projects as defined by California Labor Code § 1720. (FAC ¶ 41.) On public works projects, a "prevailing wage" must be paid to all workers, pursuant to California Labor Code § 1771.*fn3 (FAC ¶ 41.) Additionally, on public works projects an employer is required to submit to the contracting public agency a certified payroll record, under penalty of perjury, listing the employees on a project, the hours worked each day, and wages (among other things). Cal. Lab. Code § 1776(a).

Plaintiffs list seventeen individual public works projects performed by Mega Lighting, including for the Cities of Brea, Huntington Beach, Riverside, Fontana, West Covina, Pomona, Chino, Montebellow, Fullerton, Rancho Cucamonga, Maywood, Paramount, Perris, Rialto, and Newport Beach. (FAC ¶ 41.) Plaintiffs allege that the Mega Employer violated various labor laws, including deliberately failing to pay them the prevailing wage on these public works projects by refusing to compensate them for all hours worked. (FAC at 11-12.) Plaintiffs further allege that the Mega Employer reported fraudulently reduced hours to public agencies of the above cities, in order to receive payment from the agencies without penalty. (FAC ¶ 59.)

In addition, Plaintiffs allege that when they sought advice of counsel regarding legal action, the Individual Mega Defendants retaliated against them by, among other things, delaying paychecks, threatening Plaintiffs with bodily harm and termination, and actually terminating Plaintiffs' employment. (FAC ¶ 72.) Plaintiffs also allege that the Individual Mega Defendants used "extortion" to obtain Plaintiffs' waivers of their right to legal remedies. (FAC at 14-17.)

Plaintiffs allege fourteen different claims in their First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), three of which are federal. The Mega Defendants now move to dismiss Plaintiffs' three federal claims:

1) against the Individual Mega Defendants - mail and wire fraud, extortion, and racketeering, in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq.;

2) against the Mega Employer - failure to pay overtime and minimum wage, under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 216(b);

3) against the Mega Employer - retaliation for exercising protected rights, under the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3).

(FAC 17-23.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Rule 12(b)(6)

Under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint is dismissed when a plaintiff's allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). When considering a 12(b)(6) motion, "all allegations of material fact are accepted as true and should be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000). A court properly dismisses a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), based upon the "lack of a cognizable legal theory" or "the absence of sufficient facts alleged under the cognizable legal theory." Baliesteri v. Pacifica Police Dept., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). The plaintiff's obligation requires more than "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (internal quotation omitted). However, the complaint must state "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 1974. A well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears "that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Id. at 1964 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)).

B. Evidentiary Issues and Application for Discovery

Generally, a district court "may not consider any material beyond the pleadings" (e.g., facts presented in briefs, affidavits, or discovery materials) on a motion to dismiss. Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1555 n.10 (9th Cir. 1989). Plaintiffs present a declaration with contracts signed by Mega Lighting and various public agencies, which is relevant to prove jurisdictional requirements under the FLSA and RICO. The Court declines to consider this evidence on this motion.

The Mega Defendants also ask the Court to consider exhibits outside the pleadings, in particular Mega Lighting's contractor's license and the notice of related cases filed in the instant action by Plaintiffs. The Court declines to take judicial notice of the Mega Defendants' exhibits.

Lastly, Plaintiffs have also filed a request for limited discovery under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f) in order to fix any jurisdictional or other pleading deficiencies in their complaint. As discussed below, the Court denies Defendants' motion to dismiss and, accordingly, ...


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