Cartwright v. Senior Helpers Home Care Services LLC
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER- The deft's Motion to Dismiss (Doc 16 ) is DENIED; Because the Motion to Dismiss is no longer pending the Clerk is DIRECTED to TERM the motion to stay, which was premised on the pendency of the Motion to Dismiss; The parties are ORDERED to file a report under Rule 26(f) within thirty (30) calendar days. Signed by Magistrate Judge Staci G Cornelius on 6/8/16. (MRR, )
2016 Jun-08 AM 08:57
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
M2R, INC., d/b/a Senior Helpers,
Case No.: 5:14-cv-02213-SGC
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Clyessia Cartwright, alleges violations of the Fair Labor Standards
Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. ("FLSA"). Defendant, M2R, Inc., has moved
to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims. (Doc. 16). For the reasons that follow, Defendant’s
Motion to Dismiss will be denied.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff must plead
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief” and “a demand for the relief sought.” FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(1). As explained
by the Supreme Court, “a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss
does not need detailed factual allegations” but must include more than “labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action’s elements will not do.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). To survive a motion to
dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Whether a complaint states a
plausible claim for relief is a fact-specific determination for the court, drawing on
judicial experience as well as common sense. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Twombly
instructs courts faced with a motion to dismiss to accept the complaint’s purely
factual allegations as true and determine whether those facts state a claim. Id.
The FLSA requires employers to pay employees an overtime wage of one
and one-half times the normal hourly rate for all hours worked in excess of forty
hours per week. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(2)(C). If an employee covered by the FLSA's
overtime provisions is not paid the statutory wage, “the FLSA creates for that
employee a private cause of action against his employer for the recovery of unpaid
overtime wages and backpay.” Josendis v. Wall to Wall Residence Repairs Inc.,
662 F.3d 1292, 1298 (11th Cir. 2011).
Here, Plaintiff alleges she worked more than forty hours per week as a
certified nursing assistant and that Defendant failed to pay overtime compensation.
(Doc. 15 at 3). Accepting these allegations as true, Plaintiff has successfully met
the pleading standard laid out in Twombly and Iqbal.
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss invokes the so-called "companionship
exemption" to the FLSA.
Under the companionship exemption, employees
“employed in domestic service employment to provide companionship services for
individuals who (because of age or infirmity) are unable to care for themselves”
are exempt from FLSA overtime protections. 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(15). Defendant
contends the amended complaint1 fails to assert sufficient facts to show the
companionship exemption is inapplicable. (Doc. 16 at 4). As explained below,
under the circumstances of this case, Defendant's arguments regarding the
companionship exemption are premature at the motion to dismiss phase.
The Supreme Court has noted the “general rule that the application of an
exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act is a matter of affirmative defense on
which the employer has the burden of proof." Corning Glass Works v. Brennan,
417 U.S. 188, 196-97 (1974). As the Second Circuit has stated, "the employer
invoking the exemption bears the burden of proving that its employees fall within
the exemption." Reiseck v. Universal Commc’ns of Miami, Inc., 591 F.3d 101, 104
(2d Cir. 2010); see also Herman v. Cont’l Grain Co., 80 F. Supp. 2d 1290, 1297
(M.D. Ala. 2000) ("the law has placed the burden of proving that an exemption
applies on the employer claiming the exemption"). Accordingly, as expressed in
More precisely, Defendant's arguments are aimed at the original complaint, despite the fact that
Plaintiff had already filed an amended complaint. Functionally, because the only change in the
amended complaint was the name of the defendant, Defendant's reference to the original
complaint does not affect the substance of the analysis.
Herman, requiring a plaintiff to “plead sufficient facts in a judicial complaint under
the FLSA to show that the employees were not exempt would effectively shift the
burden on the issue of exemption from the employer to the [plaintiff].” Herman,
80 F. Supp. 2d at 1297; see also DeJesus v. HF Mgmt. Servs., LLC, 726 F.3d 85,
91 n.7 (2d Cir. 2013) (FLSA plaintiff was "not required to plead facts at this stage
of the proceedings to support her position that she was a non-exempt employee").
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's arguments regarding the
companionship exemption are premature at the motion to dismiss stage. This
conclusion is supported by the fact that all but two of the opinions Defendant cites
arose in the context of motions for summary judgment—not motions to dismiss.2
In the two pre-summary judgment cases cited by Defendant, the respective courts
concluded the factual allegations in the complaints established that the
companionship exception plainly applied. See Torres v. Ridgewood Bushwick
Senior Citizens Homecare Council, Inc., No. 08-3678, 2009 WL 1086935
(E.D.N.Y. Apr. 22, 2009); Stubbs v. A-1 Nursing Care of Cleveland, Inc., No. 091264, 2009 WL 2045398 (N.D. Ohio July 8, 2009). Here, the amended complaint
alleges Plaintiff performed some tasks falling under the companionship exception
but also states the "majority of her work" involved non-exempt tasks. (Doc. 15 at
See Cox v. Acme Health Servs., 55 F.3d 1304, 1305 (7th Cir. 1995) (affirming grant of
summary judgment); Anglin v. Maxim Healthcare Servs., Inc., No. 08-869, 2009 WL 2473685
(M.D. Fla. Aug. 11, 2009) (denying summary judgment due to issues of fact regarding amount of
exempt work performed by plaintiff); McCune v. Or. Senior Services Division, 894 F.2d 1107,
1110-111 (9th Cir. 1990) (affirming grant of summary judgment).
2). To the extent the pre-summary judgment cases cited by Defendant could apply
here, the undersigned finds these two extra-circuit district court opinions
unpersuasive in light of the authority discussed in the preceding paragraph.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 16) is
DENIED. Also pending is the joint motion to stay (Doc. 23), which is premised
on the pendency of the Motion to Dismiss. Because the Motion to Dismiss is no
longer pending, the Clerk is DIRECTED to TERM the motion to stay. The
parties are ORDERED to file a report under Rule 26(f) within thirty (30) calendar
DONE this 8th day of June, 2016.
STACI G. CORNELIUS
U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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