Robbins v. XTO Energy Inc
Memorandum Opinion and Order granting 20 Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff may file a Second Amended Complaint by 8/28/2017. (Ordered by Chief Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn on 7/28/2017) (rekc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
RONNIE ROBBINS, AND ALL
SITUATED UNDER 29 U.S.C.
XTO ENERGY, INC.
Civil Action No. 3:16-cv-793-M
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the Court is the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Overbroad Class
Definition and Related Class Allegations (ECF No. 20). For the reasons stated below, the
Motion is GRANTED.
On December 27, 2016, Plaintiff Ronnie Robbins filed a collective action against
Defendant ExxonMobil, his former employer, alleging it failed to pay him and other similarly
situated employees overtime, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 28 U.S.C. § 206, et
seq. (“FLSA”). Robbins alleges he was responsible for inspecting and operating well equipment
and performing other routine duties as assigned. He defines the class as current and former
frontline oilfield workers, including, but not limited to, lease operators, automation technicians,
and other production-side workers. Robbins claims that he and other class members worked in
excess of 40 hours per week but were not paid the time and a half rate required by the FLSA.
Defendant moves to dismiss Robbins’ alleged overbroad class definition and related class
Rule 8(a) requires that a pleading contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss, a plaintiff 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 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). The plausibility standard requires more than a sheer possibility that the
defendant acted unlawfully, and a Plaintiff’s factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
In Ecoquij-Tzep v. Hawaiian Grill, No. 3:16-CV-625-M, 2016 WL 3745685 (N.D. Tex.
July 12, 2016), this Court recognized that courts disagree about whether a plaintiff purporting to
represent similarly situated individuals under § 216(b) must plead facts to support the propriety
of a collective action in order to survive a motion to dismiss:
Some have held that a “challenge on the pleadings is an end-run around the
certification process,” since the plaintiffs have not had the opportunity to develop
the record. Lang v. DirecTV, Inc., 735 F. Supp. 2d 421, 435–36 (E.D. La. 2010)
(“Defendants’ motion to dismiss is premature.”); Hoffman, 2009 WL 4825224
(S.D. Tex. Dec. 8, 2009) (“Plaintiffs need not plead facts to support the propriety
of a collective action to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Whether proceeding
collectively is appropriate will be addressed when the plaintiffs move for
conditional certification.”); Perez v. T.A.S.T.E. Food Products, Inc., 2014 WL
412327, at *6-7 (W.D. Tex. Feb. 3, 2014) (same); Craven v. Excel Staffing Serv.,
Inc., 2014 WL 345682, at *7 (S.D. Tex. Jan. 30, 2014) (same); Ambrose v.
Northstar Memorial Group, 2012 WL 3727156, at *1 (W.D. Tenn. Aug. 27, 2012)
Other courts have held that Rule 12(b)(6) requires that the complaint at least give
the defendant fair notice of the putative class, finding that a fair notice inquiry is a
much different inquiry than that made at the conditional class certification stage.
Flores v. Act Event Servs., Inc., 55 F. Supp. 3d 928, 940 (N.D. Tex. 2014) (Fish, J.)
(finding a class defined in inexact and broad terms did not give fair notice to the
defendant and could not survive a motion to dismiss); Huchingson v. Rao, 2015
WL 1655113, at *3 (W.D. Tex. Apr. 14, 2015) (same); Dyer v. Lara’s Trucks, Inc.,
2013 WL 609307, at *3 (N.D. Ga. Feb. 19, 2013) (same); Creech v. Holiday CVS,
LLC, 2012 WL 4483384, at *3 (M.D. La. Sept. 28, 2012) (same). Ecoquij-Tzep v.
Hawaiian Grill, 2016 WL 3745685, at *5.
ExxonMobil argues Robbins did not properly allege that this action can be maintained as
a collective action under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). In his First Amended Complaint, Robbins contends
that he and similarly situated workers were required to work in excess of twelve hours a day,
seven days a week, for consecutive weeks, in Defendant’s oilfields across fifteen states. Robbins
alleges he worked as a lease operator for Defendant “within the last three years and until
approximately September 2014.”1 He further claims he was responsible for inspecting and
operating well equipment and performing other route and routine duties as assigned, but simply
states class member duties were to “perform similarly non-exempt duties pursuant to
Defendant’s own common classification scheme.”2
Although the Fifth Circuit has not addressed the issue, many district courts in the Fifth
Circuit have consistently found an FLSA pleading sufficient when it “puts Defendant on notice
as to the relevant date range, as well as the approximate number of hours for which Plaintiff
claims [he or she] was under-compensated…the FLSA does not require more.” Jones v. Warren
Unilube, Inc., 5:16-CV-264-DAE, 2016 WL 4586044, at *2 (W.D. Tex. Sept. 1, 2016)
(collecting cases). In Ecoquij-Tzep, this Court held that “at the pleading stage, plaintiffs asserting
Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 17 at 3).
Id. at 4.
FLSA collective actions must make plausible allegations that there are similarly situated
employees with certain common alleged attributes that could support a collective action.” 2016
WL 3745685, at *5.
Robbins’ allegations do not cite the date range when he worked or when the FLSA
violations allegedly occurred; instead, he vaguely alleges he worked within the last three years
until September 2014. The First Amended Complaint states he worked over twelve hours a day
for seven days for weeks at a time, but does not state the number of hours for which he was
allegedly undercompensated. Robbins names fifteen states where the Defendant conducts
business, but does not state where the alleged FLSA violations occurred. Although Robbins
gives several job titles for members of the class, he does not describe their work or state the
common attributes between them, vaguely asserting that the purported class members had duties
similar to his own. Overall, the First Amended Complaint does not adequately put Defendant on
notice of the characteristics of the members of the purported class. Therefore, Robbins has not
provided Defendant fair notice of the putative class, and his “[t]hreadbare recitals” are
insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
For these reasons, Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Overbroad Class Definition
and Related Class Allegations is GRANTED. By August 28, 2017, Plaintiff may file a Second
Amended Complaint further specifying the class allegations as explained in this Order.
July 28, 2017.
BARBARA M. G. LYNN
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?