Lahens v. Le Petit Papillon Montessori Corporation et al

Filing 16

ORDER Granting 13 Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Senior Judge James Lawrence King on 9/15/2022. See attached document for full details. (jw)

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Case 1:22-cv-21038-JLK Document 16 Entered on FLSD Docket 09/15/2022 Page 1 of 9 UN ITED STA TES DISTR IC T C O U RT SO U TH ER N DISTR IC T O F FLO R ID A M IA M ID IV ISIO N CA SE NO .1:22-cv-21038-JLK M ANUELPANEQUE LAHENS, Plaintiff, LE PETIT PA PILLON M ON TESSO RI CO RPO RATION and D AM A RY S CO RSO , Defendants. O RD ER G R AN TIN G DEFEND AN TS'PA R TIA L M O TIO N TO D ISM ISS THIS CAUSE isbeforethe Coul'ton Defendants'M otion to Dism issCounts11and I11of Plaintiffs Complaint(DE 13)(the k'M otion''),filed M ay 26,2022.The Courthas carefully considered theM otion,Plaintiff'sResponse(DE 14)filed on June9,2022,Defendants'Reply (DE 15)filedonJune16,2022,andisotherwisefullyadvisedinthepremises. 1. BA CK G R O UN D On April6,2022,PlaintiffM anuelPaneque Lahensfiled hisComplaintto recoverunpaid w ages against his form er em ployer, Le Petit Papillon M ontessori and its President,D am arys Corso.See Compl.,DE 1.According to the Complaint,Plaintiffwashired asa m usic teacherby Defendants'schoolin2019,whereheworkeduntilM arch 10,2022,whenheallegedly t'wasforced to stopworkingbecauseheneededmoney andhewasnotbeingpaid.''1d.!! 11,14,15.Plaintiff alleges thathe w as not paid for w ork he perform ed from January 6,2022 to M arch 10,2022, although hecomplained to Defendants'çevel'y week hewasnotpaidg.j''ld !! 14,15,35.The Case 1:22-cv-21038-JLK Document 16 Entered on FLSD Docket 09/15/2022 Page 2 of 9 Complaintstates that Plaintiff iûbelieved the m ore he asked to be paid, the m ore D efendants enjoyedworkinghim butnotpayinghima''1d.T 15. The Com plaintbrings claim s for:failure to pay m inim um w ages in violation of the Fair LaborStandardsAct(t;FLSA'')(Count1). ,retaliationunderFLSA againstPlaintiff(Count11), .and breachofcontractforunpaidwages(Count111).DefendantshavemovedtodismissCounts11and II1 of the Com plaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).ThisopinionaddressesthatM otiontoDismiss. ll. LEG A L STA N DA R D survive a m otion to dismiss, a complaint m ust contain sufficient factual m atter, acceptedastrue,to ûstate aclaim to reliefthatisplausibleon itsface.''' Ashcroh v.Iqbal,556 U.S.662,678(2009)(quotingBellAtl.Corp.v.Twombly,550U.S.544,570 (2007)). To meet this'iplausibility''standard,a plaintiffm ustplead k'factualcontentthatallow sthe courtto draw the reasonable inference thatthe defendant is liable for the m isconduct alleged.'' lqbal,556 U 678. A complaintmustcontain Ssm ore than labelsand conclusions,and aform ulaic recitation of the elem ents ofa cause ofaction w illnotdo.''Twom bly,550 U .S.at555. 111. D ISC USSIO N D efendantshave m oved to dism iss Counts11and 111ofPlaintiff s Com plaint.A ftercareful consideration,theCourtgrantsDefendant'sM otionwithoutprejudiceforthereasonsstatedherein. A.PlaintifpsRetaliation Claim (CountIl) Defendantsargue thatCount11should be dism issed because the Com plaintfails to state a claim fOrretaliation as Plaintiffhas notalleged an adverse em ploym entaction stem m ing from a protected activity nora causallink between Plaintiffs complaints aboutunpaid wages and his resignation.M ot.at3-6.First,the D efendants argue thatno adverse em ploym entaction is alleged Case 1:22-cv-21038-JLK Document 16 Entered on FLSD Docket 09/15/2022 Page 3 of 9 because caselaw requiresa Sssubsequent''act,butthe Defendants'alleged failure to pay wages started priorto the Plaintiff s Com plaint.M ot.at5.D efendants also argue thatthe Plaintiffcould have contacted the D epartm ent of Labor,W age and Hour Division, rather than resigning,and therefore Plaintiff could not claim constructive discharge as an adverse action. M ot. at 5. M oreover, D efendants contend that should the Court find that Plaintiff sufficiently pleads a subsequent adverse action,Plaintiffs claim still fails because there is no causal connection betw een Plaintiff s com plaintand the D efendants' alleged adverse em ploym entaction offailing to pay wages.M 5-6.Specifically,D efendants argue thatto find a causal connection the adverse action m ustfollow the protected conductand thatam ere continuation ofthe sam e conduct giving rise to Plaintiff s com plaints is insufficient.14 In response,PlaintiffarguesthateachweekDefendantsfailed topay hiswagesam ountsto an adverse em ploym entaction,so continuing to notpay am ountsto k'subsequent''adverse actions. Further, not getting paid for tw o m onths is sufficient to m eet the standard for constructive discharge and survive m otion to dism iss.Resp.at2-3.Regarding causality,Plaintiffm erely refutes the argum entthattreatm entby D efendantsdid notdifferaflerthecom plaintsw ere m ade by stating thatthe çsline ofargumentisincompatiblewith the FairLaborStandardsAct''becauseeach week should beanalyzed separate from therest.Resp.at3. kk-f' he FLSA protectspersonsagainstretaliation forasserting theirrights underthe statute.'' makeoutaprimafacieclaim ofretaliationundertheFLSA,Plaintiffmustshow:(1)heengaged inaprotectedactivity;(2)hesubsequentlysufferedanadverseemploymentaction,and(3)acausal connection existsbetween theprotected activity andtheadverseaction.1d.at1342-43. Case 1:22-cv-21038-JLK Document 16 Entered on FLSD Docket 09/15/2022 Page 4 of 9 An employee engages in protected activity when they have tsfiled any complaint or instituted orcaused to be instituted any proceeding underorrelated to this chapter,orhastestified or is aboutto testify in any such proceeding,orhas served or is aboutto serve on an industry committee.''29U.S.C.j215(a)(3).TheSupremeCourthasheldthatoralcomplaintscanconstitute protected activity.Kasten v.Saint-Gobain PerformancePlastics Corp.,563 U.S.1,14 (2011) (holding thatthephraseûûfiled any complaint''in theFLSA'Santi-retaliation provision includes both oraland written complaints.).The allegationsindicate thatPlaintiffengaged in protected activity underthe FLSA by com plaining weekly to Defendantsin January,February,and M arch 2022forunpaidwages.Compl.,!35;SeeE.E.O.C.v.WhiteandsonEnters.,881F.2d 1006,1011 (11th Cir.1989)(finding thatemployees'informalcomplaintto theirsupervisoraboutunequal wagesconstitutedl'anassertion ofrightsprotected''undertheFLSA). N ext,Plaintiffhas sufficiently plead thathe suffered an adverse em ploym entaction after he complained aboutunpaid wagesand Defendantsfailed to pay.See e.g.Traweek v.Glob.Sols. & fogisticsLLC,No.2:14-CV-00308-LSC,2015 W L 4545634,at*6(N.D.Ala.July 28,2015) (failing to pay wages can be considered an adverse em ploym entaction and could amount to constructivedischarge.).Likewise,theallegationssupportaclaim underaconstructivedischarge theory.See Gr#/n v.GTE Fla.,Inc.,182 F.3d 1279,1283 (11th Cir. 1999) ((ûTo prove a constructive discharge,a plaintiffm ustdemonstrate thatworking conditionswere so intolerable thatareasonableperson in gthatlposition would havebeen compelled to resign.'')(quotations omitted).Here,Plaintiff'sallegations,taken astrue,indicatethatPlaintiffworked on Tuesdays and Thursdays from January 6 untilM arch 10 withoutpay and com plained to D efendants weekly aboutthe failure to pay.Compl.,!! 12,30,35. Aftertwo months withoutpay,Plaintiffwas essentiallySiforcedtoresign.''Compl.,!36.W hethertheallegedconductamountstoconstructive 4 Case 1:22-cv-21038-JLK Document 16 Entered on FLSD Docket 09/15/2022 Page 5 of 9 dischargeisaquestionnotaddressed atthistime.SeePoolev.Country Club ofcolumbus,lnc., 129F.3d551,553(11thCir.1997).Atthisstage,Plaintiffhassufficientlypleadthiselement. Finally, however, in dem onstrating causation Plaintiff s retaliation claim fails. To dem onstrate a causalconnection,the plaintiff m ustprove thatthe adverse action would nothave beentakentlbutfor''theassertionofFLSA rights.SeeReichv.Davis,50F.3d962,965-66(11th Cir.1995).Causationisnotdemonstratedwheretheemployerlearnsoftheprotectedactivityonly aftertheadverseaction.Grfhnv.GTE Fla.,lnc.,182F.3d 1279,1284 (11thCir.1999);seeBaker v.AlabamaDep' tofpub.Safety,296F.Supp.2d 1299,1307(M .D.Ala.2003)(û$TheDefendants' actionsthatoccurred beforethe statutorily protected activities,asa m atterof1aw and logic,calm ot beretaliatory.'').Asalleged,Defendantscould notbeawareofPlaintiffsprotected expressions when they took adverse action in withholding Plaintiffspay to begin with,because Plaintiffhad yetto com plain.Thereafter,Plaintifffailsto plead sufficientfactsindicating a connection betw een hisweeklycomplaintsand thecontinued withholdingofpay,such asaworsening orintensification ofD efendants'actions,orrem arksby Defendantsindicating thatthe failure to pay w asretaliatory in nature.The Complaintlacks factsto suggestthatDefendantsindicated orim plied to Plaintiff thathewould notbepaid.To the contrary,the ComplaintstatesthatDefendantstold Plaintiffhe wouldbepaidifhekeptworking.Compl.!36.Plaintiff'sconclusoryallegationthatiçDefendants m ade itclearthathiscom plaints forw agesonly resulted in m ore lack ofpaym ent,''failsto tellthe Courthow so.SeeCompl.!36.Thus,Plaintiffhasnotplead aclaim forretaliation and Count11 willbe dism issed forfailureto statea claim with leaveforPlaintiffto am end. B.Breach ofContract(Count111) a. Plaintiff sufficientlv pleads a claim 5 Case 1:22-cv-21038-JLK Document 16 Entered on FLSD Docket 09/15/2022 Page 6 of 9 Defendants also move to dism issCount111,which allegesbreach ofcontractforunpaid wages underFlorida 1aw because Plaintifffailsto state factsto supportsuch claim and Plaintiff's claim is preem pted'by the FLSA .M ot.at7,9,In arguing thatPlaintiff s Com plaintis deficient, Defendantscitefalicv.CG RYC,LLC,No.l8-20118-Civ,2018U.S.Dist.LEXIS 137279 (S.D. Fla.Aug.13,2018),and contendthatitislûinformative and instructive''asthecourtultimately dism issed a breach oforalcontractclaim because the plaintiffalleged no factsto show a m eeting of the m inds as to certain m aterialterm s.M 7-8.H ere,as in Lilac,Plaintiff likew ise only allegesan oralem ploym entagreem ent.In response,Plaintiff arguesthatal1the essentialterm s to thecontracthave been plead and areevidentasthe Partieshave been perform ing underthe contract since 2019.Resp.at3-4.PlaintiffarguesthatDefendantsbreached the contractwhen they failed to pay forovertw o m onths.R esp.at4.ln reply,D efendants again pointto the lack ofspecificity inPlaintiff'sallegationsandargueittobefatalto Plaintiff'sclaim.Reply!5. To state a claim forbreach ofcontractunderFlorida law,Plaintiffmustshow (1)the existenceofacontract;(2)amaterialbreach ofthatcontract;and (3)damages.falic,2018U.S. Dist.LEXIS 137279,at*18.Toprovetheexistenceofacontract,aplaintiffmustplead:(1)offer; (2)acceptance' ,(3)consideration;and(4)sufficientspeciticationoftheessentialterms.Vegav.TM obile USA,lnc.,564 F.3d 1256,1272 (11th Cir.2009).Specifically,ûûforbreach ofan oral contract,a plaintiffis required to allege facts that,iftaken astrue,demonstrate thatthe parties m utually assented to 'a certain and definite proposition'and leftno essential term s wide open.'' IILR.Townsend Contracting,Inc.v.JensenCivilConstr,lnc.,728So.2d297,299(F1a.Dist.Ct. App.1999). The Courtagrees with D efendants thatLalic is instructive,although notfor D efendants' proposition thattheallegationshereare analogousand failto establish a m eeting ofthem indson 6 Case 1:22-cv-21038-JLK Document 16 Entered on FLSD Docket 09/15/2022 Page 7 of 9 allthe essentialterm s of the contract.M ot.,at8-9.In falic,plaintiff s breach of contract claim alleged thatthe parties agreed that plaintiffw ould perform hospitality services for defendantin exchangefor$5.50perhourplusearned tips.Lalic,2018U.S.Dist.LEXIS 137279,at*18-19.ln rulingonamotiontodismiss,theeourtstated,SlgilfPlaintiffstoppedthere,thatwouldbesuffcient to statea claim forthe $5.50 plustipsthathe allegedly did notreceive.''*19.However,in addition to the $5.50 wage plustips,plaintiffincop orated a listofotherdam agesincluding,but not lim ited to,im proper recalculation of w ages, broken or m alfunctioning tim e clocks, and a çûcommission schemeg.j''Complaintat1d.Thecourtultimately dismissed the claim becausethe plaintiffalleged no factsto show a m eeting ofthe m indsasto any ofthe otherdam age item s listed.*21-22. H ere,the only dam ages sought are w ages earned,and Plaintiff s Com plaint pleads the essentialcontractterm s.Plaintiffs Com plaintalleges thatthe Parties agreed forPlaintiffto w ork asamusicteacherfrom 9am to4pm on Tuesdaysand loam to 4pm onThursdaysfor$40perhour. Compl.!! 11-12.Additionally,Plaintiffhasplead thatthiscontracthasbeen performed under since 2019.Compl.!45.AsaresultofDefendantsalleged breach,Plaintiffseeksdamagesfor hours he w orked and w as notpaid the contracted rate.Follow ing the courtin f ilac,the Plaintiff hasplead sufficientfactsto stateaclaim . 2.Breach ofContractclaim is preem pted bv FLSA claim D efendants'argum entissuccinct- the allegationsin CountIlISsdo notseparate them from Plaintiff'sclaim undertheFLSA''asbothû6simplyseekgjpaymentofwagesowed.''M ot.at8.ln response,Plaintiff argues that the breach of contract claim is a gap-filler because Plaintiff w as supposed to bepaid $40 perhourand the FLSA only allows fortherecovery ofm inim um wage Case 1:22-cv-21038-JLK Document 16 Entered on FLSD Docket 09/15/2022 Page 8 of 9 rates.Resp.at4-5.The Courtagrees w ith D efendant and does notfind sufficient facts to take Plaintiff s claim outside the purview ofthe FLSA . ûûsection 216 ofthe FLSA is the exclusive rem edy for enforcing rights created underthe Act.''Bulev.GardaCLSE,lnc.,No.14-21898-ClV,2014 W L 3501546,at*2(S.D.Fla.July 14, 2014)(M oreno,J.).tûgpllaintiffcannotcircumventtheexclusiveremedyprescribedby Congress by asserting equivalentstate 1aw claim sin addition to a FLSA claim .''1d.Courtsgenerally dism iss duplicativestate1aw common 1aw claim swherethey rely on proofofthe same facts.M elendez v. G4S SecureSols.(USA)Inc.,No.20-24213-C1V-GRAHAM ,2020U.S.Dist.LEXIS 234679,at *8(S.D.Fla.Dec.10,2020)(dismissingaspreemptedaclaim forunpaidwagesbecauseitarises from thesamefactsastheFLSA claims).A plainreadingofPlaintiffsComplaintshowsthatboth Counts land IIIarise from the sam e setoffacts.A s plead,Plaintiff is seeking to recoverunpaid w ages in both counts,under different theories,arising from the sam e set of facts D efendants' failure to pay Plaintiff forthe w ork he perform ed.Plaintiff'sargum entthatthe breach of contract claim can recoverdistinctdam agesisnotrelevant.SeeBellv.1220 M gmt.Grp.,LL C,N o.17-CV 22479,2018 W L 3054795,at *2 (S.D.Fla.June20,2018)(Gayles,J.)(liitis immaterialthat Plaintiffs are seeking com pensation under separate claim s for separate dam ages against D efendants as the contested claim s are stillfactually duplicative ofthe FLSA counts and based upon aviolation ofrightscreated by theFLSA.'').Asplead,Count111isnotmateriallydistinct from theFLSA claim and isthus,preempted. lV . C O N CL USIO N The Courthas carefully considered the entire record and finds that Counts 11 and 111 of Plaintiff's action should be dism issed. A ccordingly, it is O R D ER ED , A DJUD G ED , and DECREED thatDefendants'MotiontoDismiss(DE 13)be,andthesameis,herebyGRANTED. 8 Case 1:22-cv-21038-JLK Document 16 Entered on FLSD Docket 09/15/2022 Page 9 of 9 Counts11and II1ofPlaintiff'sComplaint(DE 1)areherebyDISM ISSED.TheDefendantsshall fileananswerwithintwenty(20)days. D O NE A ND O RD ER ED in Cham bersatthe Jam esLawrence K ing FederalJustice Building and United StatesCourthouse,M iam i,Floridathis 15th day ofSeptember,2022. ç M ES LA W R N CE K IN G UN ITED STA TES D ISTRICT JU D G cc: A llcounselofrecord 9

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