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Taylor v. West Marine Products, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 3, 2014

KAREN TAYLOR, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, and PAULISA FIELDS, Plaintiffs,
v.
WEST MARINE PRODUCTS, INC., Defendant.

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS AND STRIKING CERTAIN ALLEGATIONS FROM COMPLAINT

WILLIAM ALSUP, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Former employees bring this putative class action on behalf of themselves and other former employees alleging that employer violated California wage and overtime laws and committed unfair business practices. Employer moves to dismiss the third amended complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The motion to dismiss is DENIED.

STATEMENT

The background of this action is set forth in a prior order (Dkt. No. 41). In brief, defendant West Marine Products, Inc., is a boating supply retailer. Plaintiffs are Karen Taylor and Paulisa Fields, two former employees of West Marine. Among other things, plaintiffs claim that West Marine failed to provide its employees with sufficient breaks at work and adequate compensation for off-the-clock tasks, thereby committing unfair business practices and violations of California wage and overtime laws.

On October 23, 2013, plaintiffs commenced this action, filing a first amended complaint nearly two months later. On February 7, 2014, an order dismissed plaintiffs' claims for (1) the timely payment of earned wages, (2) the reimbursement of expenses, and (3) two non-payment of overtime claims. Plaintiffs' claims for meal- and rest-period violations, failure to provide information on pay stubs, continuing wages, and unfair competition survived the motion. Plaintiffs were given until February 27 to file a motion for leave to amend the complaint.

On March 6, both sides stipulated to a second amended complaint so long as (1) the second amended complaint would omit plaintiffs' proposed new claim under the California Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act ("PAGA"), Cal. Lab. Code Section 2698 et seq.; and (2) West Marine could file a Rule 12 motion as to the other claims alleged in the second amended complaint, within ten days of the stipulation's approval.

On March 14, West Marine filed the current motion to dismiss the second amended complaint. The motion challenges several claims, including: (1) California Labor Code Section 204 for the timely payment of earned wages; (2) California Labor Code Sections 510 and 1194 for the non-payment of overtime; (3) Title 29 of the United States Code Sections 207 and 216 for the non-payment of overtime; and (4) California Labor Code Section 2802 for reimbursement of expenses.

Following West Marine's motion to dismiss, plaintiffs moved for leave to file a third amended complaint, seeking one change: the addition of a PAGA claim.

The motion was granted in part and denied in part. Critically, that order stated:

[West Marine]'s motion to dismiss will still proceed on May 1. Although directed at dismissing claims 2, 3, 4 and 5 from the second amended complaint, [West Marine]'s motion will be construed as challenging the same claims under the third amended complaint, given that those claims remain unchanged from the second amended complaint. ... Please note that there will be no more motions to amend after March 31, 2014, absent a showing of good cause under Rule 16.

(Dkt. No. 57) (emphasis added).

On March 28, plaintiffs filed their third amended complaint and their opposition to West Marine's motion to dismiss. The third amended complaint not only added a PAGA claim, but, in contravention of the Court's order, added new factual allegations (and two exhibits) intended to bolster their other claims that were the subject of West Marine's pending motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 59, Exhs. 5, 6). These additional allegations included:

A copy of Defendant's documents detailing the off-the-clock duties is attached hereto as Exhibit 5 and Exhibit 6.
* * *
This off-the-clock work was further extended because customers often lingered in the store after closing time, preventing Plaintiffs from commencing the bulk of their off-the-clock duties until customers left the store.
* * *
Ultimately, after requests directed to Defendant's managers, Plaintiff Fields was granted modest extensions to the fifteen-minute allotment, but the extensions were insufficient to fully compensate her for the time worked, and no effort was made to pay her at all for the work done prior to the institution of the extensions. Defendant's managers made it clear that Plaintiffs would not be compensated for any off-the-clock work in excess of the allotted time, no matter how long the off-the-clock duties took to complete. Further, Defendant's managers made it clear that Plaintiffs would not be paid for any time recorded on the timecard correction sheet in excess of the allotted time, no matter how long the off-the-clock duties took to compete. Therefore, Plaintiffs had no adequate system in place to allow them to secure compensation for the additional time spent in their off-the-clock closing duties in excess of the allotted time.
* * *
Plaintiff Fields specifically requested reimbursement of her bus fare expense, and it was denied. She was instructed to walk to the bank. Defendant never reimbursed Plaintiffs for any bus fare or other expenses incurred in connection with the bank trips. Because Plaintiffs, again, only had fifteen minutes to complete their tasks, Defendant knew that Plaintiffs and class members would use personal vehicles or the bus to travel to the bank.

(Third Amd. Compl. ΒΆΒΆ 14, 15).

Following the filing of the third amended complaint, West Marine's counsel emailed plaintiffs' counsel accusing him of an "improper attempt at a slight-of-hand [sic] with the Court and your adversary" (Dkt. No. 63). West Marine's counsel demanded that plaintiffs "file a document striking and withdrawing all references in [plaintiffs'] opposition to [West Marine's] motion to dismiss [] to the new allegations found in [the third amended complaint] that do not also appear in [the second amended complaint]" ( ibid. ). Plaintiffs refused to strike such material, arguing that "[a]ll of the changes' between the Second Amended Complaint [] and the Third Amended Complaint [] merely ...


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