Ramnarine v. Rainbow Child Development Center, Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 35 Second MOTION to Amend/Correct Complaint. Signed by Judge Roger W Titus on 3/9/2018. (aos, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
* Civil Case No.: RWT 17-2261
RAINBOW CHILD DEVELOPMENT *
CENTER, INC., et al.,
RENA ANNE RAMNARINE,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
On August 9, 2017, Plaintiff Rena Anne Ramnarine (“Ramnarine”) filed a Complaint
against Defendants Rainbow Child Development Center, Inc., Rainbow Academy, Inc., and
Kim Terese Mitchell, alleging, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, that
Defendants failed to pay proper regular and overtime wages, in violation of the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 207, 216 (2012), the Maryland Wage and Hour Law
(“MWHL”), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-415 (West 2017), and the Maryland Wage
Payment and Collection Law (“MWPCL”), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. Art. §§ 3-501–509
(West 2017). ECF No. 1. On September 28, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the
Complaint. ECF No. 13. On October 10, 2017, Ramnarine timely filed an Amended Complaint
as a matter of course pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1). ECF No. 18. The
Court subsequently denied Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss as moot. ECF No. 20.
The parties proceeded to discovery, which was scheduled to end on March 30, 2018
according to the original Scheduling Order.1 ECF No. 25. On January 29, 2018, Ramnarine
filed a Motion and Memorandum for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint (“Motion for
Leave to Amend”). ECF No. 35. Defendants timely filed their Opposition. ECF No. 41.
Ramnarine then timely filed her Reply. ECF No. 45. For the reasons discussed below, the Court
will deny Ramnarine’s Motion for Leave to Amend.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) provides that the Court “should freely give
leave [to amend pleadings] when justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). “In fact, such
leave ‘should be denied only when the amendment would be prejudicial to the opposing party,
there has been bad faith on the part of the moving party, or the amendment would be futile.’”
Franks v. Ross, 313 F.3d 184, 193 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro,
178 F.3d 231, 242 (4th Cir. 1999)). The decision whether to grant leave to amend rests “within
the sound discretion of the district court.” Davis v. Va. Commonwealth Univ., 180 F.3d 626, 628
(4th Cir.1999) (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178 (1962)).
In support of her Motion for Leave to Amend, Ramnarine asserts that leave should be
granted because the proposed Second Amended Complaint (“PSAC”) does not “materially
chang[e] the facts of the case or add any new claims.” ECF No. 35 at 1. In particular,
Ramnarine states that she seeks to leave to (1) correct typographical errors, (2) eliminate any
discussion of Kim T. Mitchell LLC (“KTM”) as part of the enterprise, and (3) “make minor
adjustments to the allegations regarding the collective under the FLSA and to redefine the
Rule 23 class to bring it in line with the FLSA collective . . . .” Id.
On March 8, 2018, Magistrate Judge Gina L. Simms granted Plaintiff’s Motion to Extend Discovery
(ECF No. 53), and the parties now have until May 15, 2018 to complete discovery. ECF No. 55.
Defendants’ Opposition focuses on the third category of proposed amendments, i.e., the
allegedly “minor adjustments” to the purported class. Ramnarine seeks to add three employee
categories to those that she alleges are similarly situated to her in her capacity as a Preschool
Teacher (“PT”): Infant and Toddler Teachers (“ITTs”), Assistants to Preschool Teachers
(“APTs”), and Infant Toddler Teacher Assistants (“ITTAs”). ECF No. 35-3 at 3–4. Defendants
argue that the addition of these categories to the purported class is not a minor adjustment at all
but in fact expands the scope of the class such that prejudice to Defendants would result.
ECF No. 41 at 4–7.
Even if the Court were to find that the amendments would not be
prejudicial, Defendants argue that the proposed changes would be futile because the PSAC fails
to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Id. at 7–9. The Court agrees
with both arguments.
A court determines whether a proposed amendment will be prejudicial to the opposing
party by considering “the nature of the amendment and its timing.” Cappetta v. GC Servs. Ltd.
P’ship, No. 3:08CV288, 2009 WL 482474, at *6 (E.D. Va. Feb. 24, 2009). If the opposing party
“has notice of the events giving rise to the action at the outset,” then amendments “under the
same theory of the case” should be allowed, even if they “add an additional theory of recovery
to the facts already pled.” Id. (citing Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 427 (4th Cir. 2006); Davis
v. Piper Aircraft Corp., 615 F.2d 606, 613 (4th Cir. 1980)). The closer a case progresses toward
trial, the more likely the amendment will prejudice the defendant. Laber, 438 F.3d at 427.
Ramnarine’s proposed changes to the purported class are not minor, notwithstanding her
assertions otherwise. She seeks to add three employee classifications, the result of which would
materially alter the nature of the case.
The Amended Complaint establishes clearly and
concisely that the employees allegedly similarly situated to Ramnarine are those “employed by
Defendants as Preschool Teachers,” who “primarily engaged in child care duties for two year
olds.” ECF No. 18, ¶ 7. Ramnarine reiterates the narrow scope of the purported class—PTs—
under the MWHL and MWPCL class allegations, defining the class as “[a]ll individuals
employed directly by Defendants as Preschool Teachers from July 27, 2014 to the present.”
Id. ¶ 16. To add three employee positions with different job descriptions and responsibilities,
see ECF No. 41 at 6, would go well beyond merely clarifying the FLSA collective and bringing
the Rule 23 class in line, as Ramnarine argues it does, see ECF No. 45 at 1–2. It would in effect
expand the clearly-stated narrow scope identified in the Amended Complaint in a significant
way, thereby forcing the Defendants to defend against whole new sets of facts of which they had
no notice until Ramnarine filed her Motion for Leave to Amend.2 To do so, moreover, at such a
late hour when discovery is supposed to be winding down would only exacerbate the prejudicial
impact on the Defendants.
The parties have already completed a significant amount of
discovery, including the production of written discovery responses and the deposition of key
witnesses. See ECF No. 41 at 7. The proposed amendments would require the Defendants to
incur additional expenses and expend resources in order to address the new set of facts related to
each new employee category. To permit the amendments, then, would result in prejudice to the
Defendants. Accordingly, the Court will deny Ramnarine’s requested leave.
Even if the Defendants would not be prejudiced by the proposed amendments, however,
the Court would still deny leave to amend based on futility. Futile amendments are those that
cannot survive a motion to dismiss.
See Perkins v. United States, 55 F.3d 910, 917
(4th Cir. 1995). “Leave to amend should be denied on the ground of futility only when the
The Court makes no determination as to whether PTs would be exempt from overtime compensation under the
FLSA as the Defendants assert. See ECF No. 41 at 6. The Court only notes that the three proposed additional
employee positions have different job responsibilities than those of PTs such that the Defendants would have had no
notice of their inclusion in the purported class based on the Amended Complaint.
proposed amendment is clearly insufficient or frivolous on its face.” Cappetta, 2009 WL 482474,
at *4 (citing Davis, 615 F.2d at 613). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must 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). On a motion to dismiss,
courts must consider “all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint as true,” Albright v. Oliver,
510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994), and “must construe all factual allegations in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff.”
See Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783
(4th Cir. 1999). However, courts “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as
a factual allegation.” Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). A complaint must put forth
“plausible claim[s] for relief.” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). “But
where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of
misconduct, the complaint has alleged—but it has not ‘show[n]’—‘that the pleader is entitled to
relief.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)).
In determining whether a plaintiff successfully states a plausible overtime claim under the
FLSA, MWHL, and MWPCL, the Fourth Circuit has held that plaintiffs must “provide factual
allegations to support a reasonable inference that he or she worked more than forty hours in at
least one workweek and that his or her employer failed to pay the requisite overtime premium for
those overtime hours.” Hall v. DIRECTV, LLC, 846 F.3d 757, 777 (4th Cir. 2017). This means
that plaintiffs “must do more than merely allege that they regularly worked in excess of forty
hours per week without receiving overtime pay,” but it does not require that plaintiffs “identify a
particular week.” Id. (emphasis in original). Plaintiffs need only to “provide some factual
context that will ‘nudge’ their claims ‘from conceivable to plausible.’” Id. (quoting Dejesus v.
HF Mgmt. Servs. LLC, 726 F.3d 85, 90 (2d Cir. 2013)). To accomplish this, plaintiffs “must
provide detail about the length and frequency of their unpaid work,” such that the court can make
a reasonable inference “that they worked more than forty hours in a given week.” Id. (quoting
Nakahata v. N.Y. Presbyterian Healthcare Sys., Inc., 723 F.3d 192, 201 (2d Cir. 2013)); see also
Davis v. Abington Mem’l Hosp., 765 F.3d 236, 243 (3d Cir. 2014) (finding plaintiffs’ pleadings
failed to state overtime wage claim because “[n]one of the named plaintiffs ha[d] alleged a single
workweek in which he or she worked at least forty hours and also worked uncompensated time
in excess of forty hours”).
Ramnarine’s PSAC fails to meet this lenient standard. The PSAC states in conclusory
fashion that, in the relevant time period, “Plaintiff and others similarly situated worked in excess
of 40 hours per week and Defendants failed to compensate them for all hours worked and failed
to pay them one and one-half times their regular hourly rate for each hour over 40 that they
worked.” ECF No. 35-3, ¶ 7. It goes on to state Ramnarine’s regular hourly rate of pay as well
as her overtime rate, but fails to do so for the ITTs, APTs, and ITTAs. Id. The PSAC then
alleges that Ramnarine and others similarly situated, naming explicitly only the PTs and the
APTs, were required by Defendants to attend mandatory meetings on Wednesdays, for which
they were not properly compensated. Id. ¶ 8. Additionally, Ramnarine and the others similarly
situated, this time not naming explicitly any of the positions, were required to attend other
mandatory meetings for which they were also not properly compensated. Id. The PSAC lists
specific weeks that Ramnarine attended these mandatory weekly meetings and weeks that she
worked more than forty hours and was not compensated for her overtime, but it does not provide
any specific weeks in which the other identified positions worked more than forty hours and
were not paid for that overtime. Id. ¶¶ 9, 10.
These allegations fail to meet the required pleading standard because they provide no
“factual context that” would “‘nudge’ the claims ‘from conceivable to plausible.’” Hall,
846 F.3d at 777. Unlike for Ramnarine, the PSAC does not put forth any facts for the Court to
reasonably infer that the ITTs, APTs, and ITTAs worked more than forty hours in any given
week. It does state that APTs were required to attend mandatory meetings on Wednesdays, but it
does not allege that attendance at those meetings required the APTs to work more than forty
hours during those weeks.
For the other two positions, it provides no factual allegations
whatsoever that the Court could use to conclude that they too worked more than the forty hours
expected for a given week. The PSAC merely alleges that ITTs, APTs, and ITTAs worked in
excess of forty hours per week without receiving overtime pay, a conclusory statement that the
Fourth Circuit has made clear does not pass Rule 12(b)(6) muster. See Hall, 846 F.3d at 777.
The pleadings have to allege something more, which they fail to do in this instance. Id.
This case is similar to that of Davis v. Abington Memorial Hospital, which the Fourth
Circuit favorably cites in Hall v. DIRECTV, LLC in its explanation of the pleading standard for
FLSA overtime cases. See Hall, 846 F.3d at 777. In Davis, the Third Circuit found that the
plaintiffs’ pleadings failed to state a claim for overtime because “[n]one of the named plaintiffs
ha[d] alleged a single workweek in which he or she worked at least forty hours and also worked
uncompensated time in excess of forty hours.” Davis, 765 F.3d 236, 243 (3d Cir. 2014). The
court explicitly stated that by concluding as such it was not holding that a plaintiff “must identify
the exact dates and times that she worked overtime.” Id. Rather an allegation that a plaintiff
“‘typically’ worked forty hours per week, worked extra hours during such a forty-hour week, and
was not compensated for extra hours beyond the forty hours he or she worked during one or
more of those forty-hour weeks” would have been enough. Id. But because the plaintiffs in that
case failed to meet even that standard, their claims were insufficient. The same is true here.
Ramnarine’s PSAC fails to state that the purported plaintiffs worked extra hours in a week in
which they were only supposed to work forty hours, and for which they were not properly
compensated. As in Davis, Ramnarine’s allegations are therefore insufficient.
Because the PSAC fails to allege any facts from which the Court could reasonably infer
that the ITTs, APTs, and ITTAs have a claim against Defendants, the proposed amendments
would be futile. Based on this futility, in addition to the prejudicial effect the PSAC would have
on the Defendants, the Court will deny Ramnarine’s Motion for Leave to Amend.
Accordingly, it is, this 9th day of March, 2018, by the United States District Court for the
District of Maryland hereby
ORDERED, that Ramnarine’s Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint
[ECF No. 35] is DENIED.
ROGER W. TITUS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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