UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
June 10, 2010
SANDRA MATSUMARA, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF,
RIDEOUT MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, AND DOE 1 THROUGH 100, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Through this action Plaintiff Sandra Matsumara ("Plaintiff"), individually and on behalf of a class of persons similarly situated, alleges several violations of state and federal labor laws arising out of employment at Defendant Rideout-Memorial Hopsital ("Defendant").
Presently before the Court Defendant*fn1 moves to strike Plaintiff's proposed class, referenced as "Class A-226", pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) on the grounds that it fails to meet the class requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Alternatively, Defendant seeks to dismiss the class claims alleged by Plaintiff pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).*fn2 For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motions are granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff was employed as a pharmacist by Defendant from 2003-2008. Plaintiff alleges that during her employment she and other pharmacists were forced to work through statutorily required rest periods and meal breaks. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant was required to compensate her overtime pay for hours worked during said rest periods, and that such compensation should have occurred either at the time of her employment or as backpay upon her termination. Defendant, however, at no time paid the compensation to which Plaintiff believes she is entitled.
Plaintiff further alleges that the wage statements Defendant provided lacked statutorily required information including the legal name of the provider, total number of hours worked, and the rate at which the employee was compensated for hours worked. Plaintiff states that Defendant's failure to provide the required information has made it difficult for her and others to apply for unemployment insurance and worker's compensation, to prepare their tax returns, and to verify whether they were paid correctly.
Plaintiff subsequently filed suit under the California Labor Code, California Business and Professions Code, and Fair Labor Standards Act alleging individual and class claims for overtime, continuing wages, disgorgement of profits and injunction, meal period and rest break violations, improper wage statements, timely payment of earned wages, and for civil penalties under the California Private Attorney General Act of 2004.
Defendant moves to strike Plaintiff's proposed wage-statement class on the grounds that it is an unascertainable and improper "fail safe" class. Defendant's original 12(b)(6) Motion sought to dismiss Plaintiff's first, second, and fourth through eighth claims on the grounds that Plaintiff's class allegations fail to state a claim upon which class relief can be granted. However, parties subsequently entered into a stipulation (Docket No. 19) effectively striking the class claims of Plaintiff's First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Seventh Causes of Action.
Consequently, in addressing Defendant's present Motion to Strike and Motion to Dismiss, the Court need only discuss Plaintiff's Sixth Cause of Action for Improper Wage Statement, and Eighth Cause of Action for Civil Penalties pursuant to the California Private Attorney General Act.
1. Motion to Dismiss
On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), all allegations of material fact must be accepted as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). Rule 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the...claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). 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. Id. at 1964-65 (internal citations and quotations omitted). Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.
Id. at 1965 (citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-36 (3d ed. 2004) ("The pleading must contain something more...than...a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action")).
"Rule 8(a)(2)...requires a 'showing,' rather than a blanket assertion of entitlement to relief. A court is not required to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirements of providing not only 'fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also 'grounds' on which the claim rests." Twombly, 550 U.S. 556 n.3. A pleading must contain "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. If the "plaintiffs...have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, their complaint must be dismissed."
Id. Nevertheless, "[a] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and 'that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'" Id. at 556.
A court granting a motion to dismiss a complaint must then decide whether to grant leave to amend. A court should "freely give" leave to amend when there is no "undue delay, bad faith[,] dilatory motive on the part of the movant,...undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of...the amendment, [or] futility of the amendment...." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a); Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).
Generally, leave to amend is denied only when it is clear the deficiencies of the complaint cannot be cured by amendment. DeSoto v. Yellow Freight Sys., Inc., 957 F.2d 655, 658 (9th Cir. 1992).
2. Motion to Strike the Proposed Class
A court may only certify a class if plaintiff demonstrates that all of the prerequisites of Rule 23(a) have been met, and that at least one of the requirements of Rule 23(b) have been met. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23; see also Valentino v. Carter-Wallace, Inc., 97 F.3d 1227, 1234 (9th Cir. 1996).
Rule 23(a) provides four prerequisites that must be satisfied for class certification: (1) the class must be so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, (2) questions of law or fact exist that are common to the class, (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class, and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). Rule 23(b) requires a plaintiff to establish one of the following: (1) that there is a risk of substantial prejudice from separate actions; (2) that declaratory or injunctive relief benefitting the class as a whole would be appropriate; or (3) that common questions of law or fact predominate and the class action is superior to other available methods of adjudication. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b).
District courts must make determinations that each requirement of Rule 23 is actually met. While plaintiffs need not make more than allegations as to their substantive claims, whether the suit is appropriate for class resolution must actually be demonstrated, not just alleged. Dukes v. Wal-Mart, Inc., 603 F.3d 571, 590 (9th Cir. 2010).
The Ninth Circuit recently advised that the text of Rule 23(a) as compared to Rule 23(b) may require the district court to determine more or different facts in deciphering whether the plaintiffs have met their Rule 23 burden. Id. at 594. For example, what must be satisfied for the commonality inquiry under Rule 23(a)(2) is that plaintiffs establish common questions of law and fact. Id. at 594. Conversely, the predominance test under Rule 23(b)(3) "tests whether proposed classes are sufficiently cohesive to warrant adjudication by representation," a standard "far more demanding" than the commonality requirement of Rule 23(a). Id. at 593 (citing Amchem Prods., Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 623-24 (1997)).
A. Proper Wage Statement Sixth Cause of Action for failure to Pay Wages with
Plaintiff brings her Sixth Cause of Action on behalf of herself and Class A-226 Members, alleging that Defendant failed to provide proper wage statements in violation of California Labor Code § 226.
Plaintiff defines Class A-226 as "all natural persons who were tendered a paycheck by one or more of the Defendants in California during the one year before the filing of this Complaint through the date of the filing of a Motion for Class Certification." Plaintiff argues that this class, as defined, consists of persons who received defective wage statements. Plaintiff provides one of her own pay stubs as example.
Assuming arguendo that Plaintiff's broadly defined class does meet Rule 23 requirements, the claim alleged must still adhere to the pleading standard of Rule 12(b)(6) by stating a claim that surpasses mere speculation. However, Plaintiff has failed to allege any basis for her belief that members of Class A-226 all received defective pay stubs similar to her own. To the extent that Plaintiff simply assumes that all employees within the defined class received similar pay stubs, she fails to identify any facts or circumstances that led to her to arrive at such a conclusion. At best, Plaintiff's Opposition states that "all employees received pay stubs in the same format, regardless of the employee's position or status." However, statements in the Opposition may not supplant insufficiencies of the Complaint.
Regardless, even if Plaintiff's assumption was articulated within the Complaint, it still would be an insufficient allegation to push her claim beyond the mere speculative level as necessary to survive a motion to dismiss. The class Plaintiff as defined includes employees outside of her department, employees outside of her position, and both salaried and hourly workers.
Without further factual support, the Court cannot adopt the tenuous assumption that every employee in every department of the Defendant Hospital received defective pay stubs within the past year.
For these reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the class claims of Plaintiff's Sixth Cause of Action is GRANTED. Accordingly, Defendant's Motion to Strike Plaintiff's proposed Class A-226 is denied as moot.
B. Eighth Cause of Action for Civil Penalties Pursuant to the California Private Attorney General Act of 2004
Defendant's Motion includes Plaintiff's Eighth Cause of Action in the list of class claims it seeks to dismiss. However Plaintiff does not specifically allege her Eighth Cause of Action as a class claim but rather brings said claim against Defendant on behalf of the State of California for the violations alleged in the Complaint. The California Private Attorney General Act ("PAGA"), Cal. Lab. Code § 2699(a), permits qui tam actions by private individuals for various infractions of the California Labor Code. Under California Law, Plaintiff need not obtain class certification to bring a PAGA claim.
Because Plaintiff's Eighth Cause of Action does not fall within the scope of Defendant's intent to dismiss class claims, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Eighth Cause of Action, is DENIED.
For the reasons stated above, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the class claims of Plaintiff's Sixth Cause of Action (Docket No. 12) is GRANTED with leave to amend. Defendant's Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Proposed Class A-226 is DENIED as moot. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Eighth Cause of Action is also DENIED.*fn4
Plaintiff may file an amended complaint not later than twenty (20) days after the date this Memorandum and Order is filed electronically. If no amended complaint is filed within said twenty (20)-day period, without further notice, Plaintiff's class claims will be dismissed without leave to amend.
IT IS SO ORDERED.