The Ninth Circuit Applies Twombly and Iqbal to FLSA Actions

December 11, 2014 by Malani L. Kotchka

On November 12, 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed Landers’ Fair Labor Standards Act complaint alleging that Quality Communications, Inc. failed to pay Landers and other similarly situated employees minimum wage and overtime. Landers was employed by Quality as a cable services installer. In his complaint he alleged that he was not paid at the minimum wage and he was subjected to a “piecework no overtime” wage system. Landers also alleged that Quality failed to compensate him for all of the overtime hours he worked.

Quality had moved to dismiss the complaint and the district court had granted the motion because the complaint did not make any factual allegations providing an approximation of the overtime hours worked, plaintiff’s hourly wage or the amount of unpaid overtime wages. The district court found that the allegations in the complaint fell “short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief,” under Rule 8, as construed in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).

The Ninth Circuit addressed the First Circuit’s Pruell decision, a trilogy of cases decided by the Second Circuit, an unpublished Eleventh Circuit decision and a Third Circuit decision. The Ninth Circuit concluded, “We are persuaded by the rationale espoused in the First, Second and Third Circuit cases. Although we agree with the Eleventh Circuit that detailed factual allegations regarding the number of overtime hours worked are not required to state a plausible claim, we do not agree that conclusory allegations that merely recite the statutory language are adequate.” The Court adopted the standard that in order to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff asserting a claim to overtime payments must allege that she worked more than 40 hours in a given workweek without being compensated for the overtime hours worked during that workweek. Landers did not allege facts showing that there was a specific week in which he was entitled to, but denied, minimum wage or overtime.

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