United States District Court, E.D. California
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
(ECF Nos. 9, 10, 13, 14)
STANLEY A. BOONE, Magistrate Judge.
On February 3, 2014, Plaintiffs Rafael Marquez Amaro and Jesus Alarcon Urzua brought this action on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated against Defendants Gerawan Farming, Inc. and Gerawan Farming Partners, Inc. On March 6, 2014, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. (ECF Nos. 9, 10.) The action was referred to the undersigned on March 7, 2014. (ECF No. 11.) On March 26, 2014, Plaintiffs filed an opposition to the motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 13.) Defendants filed a reply on April 2, 2014. (ECF No. 14.)
The Court heard oral arguments on Defendants' motion to dismiss on April 9, 2014. (ECF No. 15.) Counsel Mario Martinez appeared for Plaintiffs and Counsel Ronald Barsamian and Patrick Moody appeared for Defendants. (Id.) Having considered the moving, opposition and reply papers, arguments presented at the April 9, 2014 hearing, as well as the Court's file, the Court issues the following findings and recommendations.
Defendants are engaged in the business of growing table grapes and other agricultural commodities and grow and ship table grapes and tree fruit. (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 14.) Plaintiffs Amaro and Urzua are seasonal farm workers who have worked in Defendants' table grape fields and/or tree orchards at various times during the four years prior to filing this action. (Id. at ¶¶ 3, 7.) Plaintiff Amaro worked for Defendants as a field worker since approximately October 2011. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Plaintiff Amaro would begin work at the beginning of the pruning season, around December and be laid off around November at the end of the grape harvest. (Id. at ¶ 8.)
Plaintiff Urzua worked for Defendants as a field worker since approximately April 2012 and was laid off at the end of the grape season around November. (Id. at ¶ 9.) Both Plaintiffs were laid off and rehired from time to time between grape seasons (for example pruning, tying and harvesting) and during tree fruit seasons. (Id. at ¶¶ 8, 9.)
Plaintiffs are non-exempt employees and during the relevant time period, Defendants have hired thousands of seasonal agricultural workers for its agricultural operations. (Id. at ¶¶ 13, 15.) Plaintiffs have entered into oral contracts with Defendants to receive an hourly rate for certain services performed and a piece rate based on production for other services. Defendants posted the applicable California IWC Wage order at the place of employment which communicated to employees that Defendants would follow California's wage orders and laws. (Id. at ¶ 19.)
During the relevant time periods, Plaintiffs allege they worked over ten hours per day and were not paid overtime for piece work at premium wages and worked over three and one half hours per day and were not provided with rest breaks when paid by the piece. (Id. at ¶¶ 22-23.) Plaintiffs contend that when paid by the piece they received sub-minimum wages. (Id. at ¶ 24.) Plaintiffs state they were not paid all wages when they were laid off. (Id. at ¶¶ 52, 62(d).)
Plaintiffs allege violations of the Migrant Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act ("AWPA"); failure to pay minimum wages and overtime and compensate for rest breaks in violation of the California Labor Code and the California Business and Professions Code.
Defendants bring this motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Under Rule 12(b)(6), a party may file a motion to dismiss on the grounds that a complaint "fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In assessing the sufficiency of a complaint, all well-pleaded factual allegations must be accepted as true. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678-79. However, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 678.
Defendants contend that Plaintiffs have done nothing more than recite legal conclusions without any grounding in fact and have pled no basic identifying information or facts to state a claim. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 3,  ECF No. 9.) Plaintiffs counter that the complaint includes more than enough facts to meet the pleading requirements. (Pls.' Opp. to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 6, ECF No. 13.)
Initially, Defendants contend that Plaintiffs have not provided sufficient information for them to identify the group of field workers that Plaintiffs purport to represent. Plaintiffs do not respond to this argument and in the reply Defendants state that Plaintiffs have waived the argument. However, in the complaint, Plaintiffs allege that they were seasonal farm workers engaged in pruning, tying, and harvesting in Defendants grape fields and tree orchards within four years of the filing of this action. The Court finds the complaint sufficient to identify the class as those seasonal farm laborers, employed within four years of the filing of the complaint, engaged in pruning, tying and harvesting.
Defendants further argue that Plaintiffs have done no more than state legal conclusions and the complaint is devoid of facts to state a plausible claim. A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is properly granted where the complaint lacks "a cognizable legal theory" or "sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Conservation Force v. Salazar , 646 F.3d 1240, 1241-42 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't. , 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988)). In deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court is to accept factual allegations in the complaint as true, however, the court is not required to accept legal conclusions as true, and the factual allegations must state a plausible claim for relief. Maya v. Centex Corp. , 658 F.3d 1060, 1067 (9th Cir. 2011). This requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service , 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009).
In this instance, as discussed below, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have provided sufficient factual allegations to ...