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Swamy v. Title Source, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 17, 2017

SOM SWAMY, on behalf of himself and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
TITLE SOURCE, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS AND MOTION TO STRIKE

          WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         In this action for unpaid wages, defendant moves to dismiss plaintiff's FLSA and California state law claims pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1). In the alternative, defendant moves to strike a portion of plaintiff's factual allegations. For the reasons set forth herein, defendant's motion is Denied.

         STATEMENT

         Defendant Title Source, Inc., is a national real estate valuation company that works with lenders to evaluate properties and refinance loans. To complete property valuations, defendant hires appraisers who work remotely and choose properties to inspect in their geographic region through an online portal (Dkt. No. 29 ¶¶ 26-27). Appraisers work remotely, driving to assigned properties in their own vehicles and using their personal computers to communicate with their Title Source managers.

         From May 2013 to May 2017, plaintiff Som Swamy worked as a Title Source appraiser, driving to various locations in the San Francisco Bay Area in his personal vehicle to conduct physical inspections of his assigned properties and write reports on them, which he forwarded to his manager electronically. Plaintiff worked at least eight hours each day from Monday through Friday and worked approximately five to ten hours each weekend to keep up with the workload. Thus, the amended complaint alleges, plaintiff worked approximately fifty hours a week on average during his employment with defendant, except during weeks when he was not working due to sick leave or vacation. Defendant paid plaintiff, and other former appraisers, no overtime wages and kept no records of their work hours. Moreover, defendant did not reimburse appraisers for any costs - namely travel and computer expenses - they incurred in completing their reports (id. ¶¶ 28-33).

         The amended complaint alleges that defendant misclassifies appraisers as exempt from overtime and therefore its failure to pay plaintiff, as well as putative class and collective members, overtime wages for work done in excess of forty hours a week violates (1) the FLSA, and (2) the California Labor Code. In addition to the state and federal overtime claims, the complaint alleges that defendant violates California labor laws and the California Business and Professions Code by (3) failing to reimburse plaintiff, and putative class members, for necessary job-related expenditures; (4) failing to provide statements accurately reflecting appraisers' work hours and wages; (5) reaping profits at the expense of appraisers, and, therefore, engaging in unfair business practices (Dkt. No. ¶¶ 75-110).

         Defendant brought a motion to transfer this action to the Eastern District of Michigan, which the undersigned judge denied after full briefing, venue discovery, and oral argument (Dkt. No. 61). Defendant also brought a motion to dismiss, to which plaintiff responded with an amended complaint, specifying that he worked approximately fifty hours a week on average and alleging that he is owed reimbursements for business expenses under the FLSA as well as California law (Dkt. No. 29 ¶¶ 32, 82). Defendant now brings a new motion to dismiss. This order follows full briefing and oral argument.

         ANALYSIS

         First, defendant moves to dismiss plaintiff's claims for overtime wages and unfair competition pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6). Second, defendant argues in the alternative that plaintiff's factual allegations regarding unreimbursed business expenses should be stricken from the FLSA claim. Third, defendant contends that plaintiff's state law claim for accurate wage statements and unpaid business expenses should be dismissed for lack of supplemental jurisdiction. This order addresses these arguments in turn.

         1. Motion to Dismiss.

         A complaint must plead “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 its factual allegations, rather than mere conclusory statements, create the reasonable inference that defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         A. State and Federal Overtime Claims.

         Defendant moves to dismiss plaintiff's state and federal claims for unpaid overtime, contending that plaintiff's allegations fall short of pleading a plausible claim for overtime under Landers v. Quality Communications, Inc., 771 F.3d 638 (9th Cir. 2014). Landers held that an employee need not allege the overtime compensation owed with mathematical precision, but must provide “sufficient detail about the length and frequency of [his] unpaid work to support a reasonable inference that [he] worked more than forty hours in a given week.” 771 F.3d at 646. Thus, the plaintiff's general allegations that he worked more than forty hours a week and was not paid ...


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