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Amador v. City of Ceres

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 13, 2017

JULIO AMADOR, Plaintiffs,
CITY OF CERES, Defendant.


         This matter comes before the court on defendant's motion to strike portions of plaintiffs' complaint, or in the alternative, motion to dismiss or motion for judgment on the pleadings. A hearing on this motion was held on June 20, 2017. Attorney Gary Goyette appeared on behalf of plaintiffs, and attorney Jesse Maddox appeared on behalf of defendant. Having considered the parties' briefs and oral arguments, and for the reasons stated below, the court will grant in part and deny in part defendant's motion.


         Thirty-four plaintiffs bring this action against defendant City of Ceres (“City”). According to the complaint, each of the plaintiffs (1) is or was employed by the City within the last three years; and (2) has received certain compensation from the City, including cash in lieu of City-sponsored medical benefits and lump sum payment for unused holidays. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 2.) Plaintiffs allege that for the three years prior to commencement of this action, the City failed to properly calculate payment of overtime compensation, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (“FLSA”). Specifically, plaintiffs advance three independent bases for liability under a single FLSA claim for failure to properly compensate employees for overtime work: (1) the City's alleged failure to include cash-in-lieu payments for medical benefits in its calculation of the regular rate of pay for purposes of overtime compensation, in contravention of the Ninth Circuit's decision in Flores v. City of San Gabriel, 824 F.3d 890, 895 (9th Cir. 2016) (holding that cash payments in lieu of health benefits “must be included in the regular rate of pay and thus in the calculation of the overtime rate” under the FLSA); (2) the City's alleged failure to include payments for certain holiday benefits in its calculation of the regular rate of pay, as purportedly required by a district court decision in Hart v. City of Alameda, No. C-07-5845MMC, 2009 WL 1705612 (N.D. Cal. June 17, 2009); and (3) the City's calculation of a regular rate of pay based on a practice of dividing total pay by the number of hours actually worked, rather than the scheduled number of hours worked. (See Id. ¶¶ 22-27.)

         On May 11, 2017, defendant filed the instant motion to strike certain portions of plaintiffs' complaint, or in the alternative, motion to dismiss or motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Doc. No. 9.) Specifically, defendant seeks to strike or dismiss all allegations relating to latter two of plaintiffs' aforementioned claimed bases for liability. (See Doc. No. 9-2 at 2-3.) On June 6, 2017, plaintiffs filed their opposition. (Doc. No. 11.) On June 13, 2017, defendant filed its reply. (Doc. No. 12.)


         Defendant City principally styles its request as a motion to strike under Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In the alternative, defendant requests that its motion be considered as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) or a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c). (Doc. No. 9-2 at 4.)

         A. Applicability of Rule 12(f)

         Under Rule 12(f), a court may strike from a complaint “any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). “[T]he function of a 12(f) motion to strike is to avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues.” Sidney-Vinstein v. A.H. Robins Co., 697 F.2d 880, 885 (9th Cir. 1983). Here, defendant's motion cannot properly be construed as attacking plaintiffs' complaint for raising spurious issues. Rather, the City challenges whether such allegations, even if true, support legally cognizable theories of liability under the FLSA. Such a challenge is properly brought under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990) (“Dismissal can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.”); N. Star Int'l v. Ariz. Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983).

         B. Standard for Motions to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

         In determining whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, the court accepts as true the allegations in the complaint and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). A plaintiff is required to allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Moreover, it is inappropriate to assume that the plaintiff “can prove facts which it has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the . . . laws in ways that have not been alleged.” Associated Gen. Contractors of California, Inc. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). In ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court is permitted to consider material which is properly submitted as part of the complaint, documents that are not physically attached to the complaint if their authenticity is not contested and the plaintiffs' complaint necessarily relies on them, and matters of public record. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688-89 (9th Cir. 2001).


         A. Fair Labor Standards Act Overview

         Pursuant to the FLSA, an employer must pay its employees overtime compensation at the rate of one and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of forty in a seven-day workweek. Flores, 824 F.3d at 895 (citing Cleveland v. City of Los Angeles, 420 F.3d 981, 984-85 (9th Cir. 2005)); 29 U.S.C. § 207(a). The FLSA provides “a limited exemption” to this overtime rule to public agencies employing firefighters or law enforcement personnel. Adair v. City of Kirkland, 185 F.3d 1055, 1059 (9th Cir. 1999); accord Flores, 824 F.3d at 895; see also 29 U.S.C. § 207(k).

         An employee's “regular rate” of pay is defined to include “all remuneration for employment paid to, or on behalf of, the employee, ” with certain enumerated exceptions. 29 U.S.C. § 207(e). One such exception, relevant to this case, excludes from the regular rate of pay “payments made for occasional periods when no work is performed due to vacation, holiday, illness . . . and other similar payments to an employee which are not made as compensation for his hours of employment” § 207(e)(2). The employer ultimately bears the burden of proving that specific types of compensation fall within one of the FLSA's enumerated exceptions. See, e.g., O'Brien v. Town of Agawam, 350 F.3d 279, 294 (1st Cir. 2003) (citing Idaho Sheet Metal Works, Inc. v. Wirtz, 383 U.S. 190, 209 (1966)); Dietrick v. Securitas Sec. Servs. USA, Inc., 50 F.Supp.3d 1265, 1270 (N.D. Cal. 2014); Alonzo v. Maximus, Inc., 832 F.Supp.2d 1122, 1130 (C.D. Cal. 2011); see also ...

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