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Harding v. Time Warner

August 18, 2009

SEAN HARDING, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF OTHER MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TIME WARNER, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION; AND DOES 1-50, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William Q. Hayes United States District Judge

ORDER

HAYES, Judge

The matter before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss, filed by Defendant Time Warner, Inc. ("Time Warner") on June 30, 2009. (Doc. # 6).

I. Background

On June 4, 2009, Plaintiff filed the Complaint, alleging federal question jurisdiction pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (Doc. # 1 ¶ 6). The Complaint has three Counts, each a purported collective or class action.

Count I is a FLSA claim, brought on behalf of Plaintiff and the following: "all current and former non-exempt employees of Time Warner who have worked in the United States at any time during the last three years." (Doc. # 1 ¶ 8). Count I alleges: "Time Warner violated the FLSA by failing to pay and properly calculate overtime. In the course of perpetrating these unlawful practices, Time Warner also willfully failed to keep accurate records of all hours worked by its employees." (Doc. # 1 ¶ 26). "As a result of the ... willful violations of the FLSA's overtime pay provisions," Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, liquidated damages, interest, attorney's fees and cost. (Doc. # 1 ¶ 31).

Count II is a claim for violation of the California Labor Code, brought on behalf of Plaintiff and "all current and former non-exempt employees of Time Warner who have worked in the state of California within the last three years." (Doc. # 1 ¶ 9). Count II alleges:

Time Warner maintained (and maintains) a practice of paying employees without regard to the number of hours actually worked. Time Warner's practice included the 'rounding' of reported time worked--to the nearest 15 minutes--without ensuring that the employees were paid for all of the time actually worked. In doing so, Time Warner inaccurately under-reported the amount of time worked by Plaintiff, and subsequently underpaid the Class. (Doc. # 1 ¶ 33). Count II further alleges that Time Warner violated the California Labor Code by failing to: "keep accurate 'Time records'"; "provide 'all wages' in a compliant manner"; "provide Overtime Compensation in a compliant manner"; "provide uninterrupted Meal Periods"; "provide accurate Itemized Wage Statements"; and "comply with California Labor Code § 203 with respect to former employee[s] who were discharged, or who quit, employment." (Doc. # 1 ¶ 33 (quoting Cal. Labor Code § 204)). As a result of Time Warner's alleged violations of the California Labor Code, Plaintiff seeks "to recover wages due to Plaintiff ..., as well as recovery of interest, reasonable attorneys' fees, and costs." (Doc. # 1 ¶ 35).

Count III is a claim for violation of the California Business and Professions Code, brought on behalf of Plaintiff and "all current and former non-exempt employees of Time Warner who have worked in the state of California within the last four years." (Doc. # 1 ¶ 9). Count III alleges that "Time Warner's actions, including but not limited to the failure to maintain accurate employee time records, the failure to pay all wages earned, and the failure to pay overtime compensation, constitute fraudulent and/or unlawful and/or unfair business practices in violation of California Business and Professions Code §§ 17200, et seq." (Doc. # 1 ¶ 37). As a result of the violations alleged in Count III, Plaintiff seeks restitution, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, attorneys' fees and costs. (Doc. # 1 ¶¶ 40-42).

On June 30, 2009, Time Warner filed the Motion to Dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), contending that "Plaintiff's Complaint is composed of boilerplate recitations of legal elements and conclusory assertions of liability, but is devoid of the facts required to show an entitlement to relief," and therefore fails to conform to the pleading standards required by Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. # 6-2 at 4). Time Warner contends that "the Complaint's lone allegation of fact" is that "'Time Warner's practices included 'rounding' of reported time worked--to the nearest 15 minutes--without ensuring that the employees were paid for all time actually worked.'" (Doc. # 6-2 at 11 (quoting Compl. ¶ 33)). Time Warner contends that "the practice of rounding time entries to the nearest 15 minutes is permissible in California. Moreover, Plaintiff's Complaint is devoid of any facts that would explain how this rounding practice failed to compensate Plaintiff for all hours actually worked." (Doc. # 6-2 at 12 (citing the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement's Enforcement Policies and Interpretations Manual ("DLSE Manual")).

On July 27, 2009, Plaintiff filed an opposition to the Motion to Dismiss, contending that the Complaint complies with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, and "the purpose of the discovery process is to flesh out the claims that are made in the Complaint." (Doc. # 7 at 7). According to Plaintiff, "this case centers around allegations of illegal 'rounding' of employees['] time worked by [Time Warner]." (Doc. # 7 at 4). Plaintiff contends that "the California Supreme Court has expressly rejected the assertion that a DLSE Manual is precedential authority." (Doc. # 7 at 3). Plaintiff also contends that the "rounding" allegation sufficiently alleges that employees were not "paid for all the time they have actually worked." (Doc. # 7 at 3-4).

On August 3, 2009, Time Warner filed a reply brief in support of the Motion to Dismiss, contending that "Plaintiff abandons all claims but his rounding claim," because Plaintiff only addressed the "rounding" claim in his brief. (Doc. # 9 at 2). Time Warner maintains that "rounding" is allowed by federal and state law, and Plaintiff's allegations related to the "rounding" claim fail to satisfy the pleading standards of Rule 8. (Doc. # 9 at 6-7).

II. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Since 1957, courts addressing Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss have applied the standard announced in Conley v. Gibson, "that a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). In 2007, the Supreme Court held that the Conley standard had "earned its retirement," and implemented a new standard for addressing whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief may be granted. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. ...


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