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Wonderly v. Youngblood

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 19, 2017

DARREN WONDERLY, individually and on behalf of those similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
SHERIFF DONNY YOUNGBLOOD, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS (DOC. 34)

          JENNIFER L. THURSTON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Darren Wonderly asserts Defendants-including Sheriff Donny Youngblood; County Supervisors Mick Gleason, Zack Scrivner, Mike Maggard, David Couch, and Leticia Perez; Jordan Kauffman[1], Treasurer for the County of Kern; Mary Bedard, Auditor Controller; and the County of Kern- are liable for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. (Doc. 1) Defendants seek judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, asserting the factual allegations fail to establish the individuals were employers of Plaintiff or state a claim for a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. (Doc. 34) Plaintiff opposes the motion, arguing the factual allegations, assumed as true, are sufficient to support his claim. (Doc. 35)

         Because the facts alleged in the complaint are insufficient to support Plaintiff's claim for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the motion for judgment on the pleadings is GRANTED in part and the complaint is DISMISSED with leave to amend.

         I. Procedural History

         Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint on October 26, 2017. (Doc. 1) He alleges that he “was employed by the County of Kern (‘County'), holding the position of Deputy Sheriff.” (Id. at 2, ¶ 3) Plaintiff asserted that he is bringing this action for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act “on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated Deputy Sheriffs.” (Id.) The County of Kern filed its answer to the Complaint on November 21, 2016. (Doc. 6) The individual defendants filed their answers on December 1, 2016. (Docs. 16-18)

         On April 14, 2017, Defendants filed the motion for judgment on the pleadings now pending before the Court. (Doc. 34) Plaintiff filed his opposition on June 6, 2017 (Doc. 37), to which the defendants filed a reply on June 12, 2017 (Doc. 39).

         II. Legal Standards

         “After the pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay trial - a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A motion pursuant to Rule 12(c) is “functionally identical” to a motion under Rule 12(b). Dworkin v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 867 F.2d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir. 1989). Consequently, when considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(c), the court “must accept all factual allegations in the [pleadings] as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Fleming v. Pickard, 581 F.3d 922, 925 (9th Cir. 2009).

         To prevail on a Rule 12(c) motion, the moving party bears the burden to demonstrate that (1) “no material issue of fact remains to be resolved” and (2) “he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Doleman v. Meiji Mut. Life Ins. Co., 727 F.2d 1480, 1482 (9th Cir. 1984). Judgment on the pleadings is improper if the Court is required to go “beyond the pleadings to resolve an issue.” Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir. 1990). Rather, when “matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); see also Hal Roach Studios, 896 F.2d at 1150.

         The Court retains the discretion to grant a Rule 12(c) motion with leave to amend, or to grant dismissal rather than enter judgment. See Pacific W. Grp. v. Real Time Solutions, 321 Fed.Appx. 566, 569 (9th Cir. 2008); see also Lonberg v. City of Riverside, 300 F.Supp.2d 942, 945 (C.D. Cal. 2004) (“although Rule 12(c) does not mention leave to amend, courts have discretion both to grant a Rule 12(c) motion with leave to amend . . . and to simply grant dismissal of the action instead of entry of judgment”). Similarly, “[a]lthough Rule 12(c) does not expressly authorize ‘partial' judgments, neither does it bar them, and it is common practice to apply Rule 12(c) to individual causes of action.” Carmen v. San Francisco Unified School Dist., 982 F.Supp. 1396, 1401 (N.D. Cal. 1997)).

         III. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff asserts he “was employed as a peace officer, ” in the position of Deputy Sheriff. (Doc. 1 at 2, ¶ 3) According to Plaintiff, “peace officers holding the title Deputy Sheriff are not paid for their actual hours worked, ” in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). (Id. at 4, ¶ 13)

         Plaintiff alleges Sheriff Youngblood “was one of the elected officials responsible to insure the proper payment of wages to the plaintiff and all others similarly situated and employed by his office.” (Doc. 1 at 2, ¶ 4) Likewise, Plaintiff asserts members of the County Board of Supervisors-including Mick Gleason, Zack Scrivner, Mike Maggard, David Couch, and Leticia Perez-were each “one of the elected officials responsible to insure the proper payment of wages to the plaintiff and all others similarly situated and employed by the County of Kern at the discretion of the elected Sheriff.” (Id. at 2-3, ¶¶ 5-9) Further, Plaintiff contends Mary Bedard, Auditor Controller for the County, is also “responsible to ensure the proper payment of wages.” (Id. at 3, ¶ 10) However, Plaintiff asserts each of these individuals has failed to comply with the FLSA through failing to pay wages owed to the Deputy Sheriffs. (See Id. at 4-6)

         Plaintiff alleges specific examples of the defendants' failures to comply with the FLSA include: (1) failure to pay pages “during the continuous day, ” for activities such as “time spent preparing for Court, travel between differing work sites, writing reports and numerous miscellaneous tasks asked of them;” (2) failing to calculate the proper rate of pay; (3) not paying wages for time spent doffing contaminated uniforms; (4) improper use of Compensatory Time Off; and (5) threatening discipline for use of Compensatory Time Off that is authorized by 28 U.S.C. § 207(o). (Id. at 4-6, ¶ 15) Therefore, he asserts the “[p]laintiffs are entitled to liquidated damages in the amount twice that of the amount unlawfully withheld for the period of three years last past.” (Id. at 6, ¶ 16)

         IV. Discussion and Analysis

         The FLSA requires that employers pay employees a minimum hourly wage. 29 U.S.C. §§201-219. The fundamental purpose of the FLSA is “the maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being of workers.” Id. at § 202. Here, the defendants contend Plaintiff's claim for FLSA violations fails because the facts alleged are insufficient to establish that the individual defendants were employers and the plead facts do not support the alleged violations. (See Doc. 34 at 5-11)

         A. The “Continuous Day” Theory

         Plaintiff contends an example of a failure to comply with the FLSA includes “failing to calculate wages from the time of the first employment activity that the plaintiffs commence their work for the day with and continuing up to the time the plaintiffs cease performing duties for the defendants as required by law.” (Doc. 1 at 4, ¶ 15(A)) According to Plaintiff, “This includes not paying, during the continuous day, time spent preparing for Court, travel between differing work sites, writing reports and numerous miscellaneous tasks asked of them but not otherwise recorded by the defendant.” (Id. at 5) However, as Defendants argue, Plaintiff fails to allege that he was not paid for actions taken “during the continuous day, ” that he was required to travel to different work locations, go to court, or write reports without compensation or, if this occurred, when this occurred. Consequently, Plaintiff fails to allege facts supporting the conclusion that he performed compensable work for which he was not paid. If he will continue to assert this claim, Plaintiff must provide factual detail as to when this occurred and what occurred. It is insufficient to allege generalities as to the putative collection as a whole.

         B. Calculation of the Proper Rate of Pay

         In the complaint, Plaintiff contends the defendants failed “to properly calculate the proper base rate of pay for straight time hourly wages as well as FLSA overtime at 150% of the hourly base rate.” (Doc. 1 at ¶ 5(B)) Under the FLSA, plaintiffs can recover for unlawfully withheld overtime pay for two years back from the filing date of a cause of action. See Haro v. City of Los Angeles, 745 F.3d 1249, 1258 (9th Cir. 2014) citing 29 U.S.C. § 255(a). When a violation is “willful, ” however, the statute of limitations extends to three years.[2] Id.

         Significantly, Plaintiff fails to allege when the proper rate of pay or overtime wages were withheld, such that the Court may determine which statute of limitations applies to the claim. Moreover, as Defendants observe, Plaintiff fails to allege facts supporting the conclusion that he, personally, was paid an improper rate or did not receive overtime wages in compliance with the FLSA. (See Doc. 34 at 6; see also Doc. 1 at 4-5) Indeed, the complaint fails to explain why the rate paid, in Plaintiff's view was not correct. Once again, if Plaintiff chooses to pursue this claim, he must set forth detail as to what happened and when it happened. Simply announcing it happened is a legal conclusion, not a factual allegation. Because Plaintiff offers only the legal conclusion that the defendants did not calculate proper wages, the claim fails.

         C. Compensatory Time Off

         Pursuant to the FLSA, an employer that is “a political subdivision of a State” may pay its employees “in lieu of overtime compensation, compensatory time off at a rate not less than one and one-half hours for each hour of employment for which overtime compensation is required.” 29 U.S.C. § 207(o)(1). Compensatory time off may be paid only pursuant to an agreement, either pursuant to:

(i) applicable provisions of a collective bargaining agreement, memorandum of understanding, or any other agreement between the public agency and ...

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