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Marcelino v. SGLC

July 23, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge


Plaintiffs in the present action, a group of 44 Mexican citizens admitted to the United States on temporary work visas ("Plaintiffs"), seek damages for unpaid wages, breach of contract, violation of California labor and housing laws, unfair competition, and fraud. Plaintiffs filed their original complaint in 2008, and now have joined in their Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") four new defendants: Greene and Hemley, Vino Farms, Inc., Van Ruiten Brothers, and Islands, Inc. ("Defendants"), agricultural growers and producers who allegedly employed Plaintiffs.

Defendants have each moved independently to dismiss Plaintiffs' SAC pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 9(b).*fn1 Additionally, three of the Defendants have moved for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e), and two have moved to strike portions of the SAC under Rule 12(f) and to sever under Rule 42.

Because these four motions are substantially similar, this Court will address them all in this Order. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss, to Strike, to Sever, and for a More Definite Statement are denied.*fn2


Plaintiffs, citizens of Mexico, were allegedly recruited to work in and around Galt and Clarksburg, California, in 2008 by SGLC, Inc. (another defendant in the present action, but not a party to the Motions to Dismiss). SGLC provided Plaintiffs and other farm workers with visas through the federal H-2 visa program, and promised them six months of work at one hundred dollars per day. According to Plaintiffs, at all times Defendants "acted in concert" with SGLC and were their joint employers.

Plaintiffs paid for their transportation and cost of living while traveling from Mexico to their work sites in California, as well as other administrative fees. Plaintiffs argue that contrary to the terms of their work contract, they were not reimbursed for these expenses.*fn4 Plaintiffs were also charged for the meals that Defendants provided. They argue that these expenses were de facto deductions from Plaintiffs' wages, and that they reduced their earnings to below the state and federal minimum wage. Plaintiffs also contend that living conditions at the various work sites did not meet the minimum standards set by state and federal laws, and that the meals provided were not adequate or nutritious.

In light of these alleged violations of state and federal law, Plaintiffs bring eight causes of action. First, for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"); second, for breach of contract; third, for failure to pay wages under California law; fourth, for failure to provide meal and rest periods mandated by California law; fifth, for failure to pay wages due upon termination; sixth, for violation of California's Employee Housing Act; seventh, for unlawful competition in violation of California law; eighth, for fraud and misrepresentation; and ninth, for solicitation of employees by misrepresentation.

Each cause of action is brought against all defendants to the present action. Defendants seek to dismiss the SAC for failure to meet the pleading requirements established by rule 8(a). Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have failed to allege facts indicating that Defendants were joint employers of Plaintiffs, that the SAC does not meet the heightened state and federal pleading requirements for fraud, and that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim for breach of contract. Van Ruiten Bros Defendants, Islands Defendants, and Vino Farms Defendants seek a more definite statement as to which claims are being brought against which defendants, and Islands Defendants and Vino Farms Defendants seek both to strike certain allegations and to sever Defendants from the present action.


A. Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)

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." 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." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations and quotations omitted). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 555 (citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216 (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"). In order to "state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face," Aschroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570), plaintiff must plead "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is ...

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