The First Circuit's Application of the "Plausibility" Pleading Standard to an FLSA Claim

The First Circuit's Application of the "Plausibility" Pleading Standard to an FLSA Claim

by Allen Ides

Excerpt:

In Pruell v. Caritas Christi, 678 F.3d 10, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 7859 (1st Cir. Apr. 18, 2012) [an enhanced version of this opinion is available to lexis.com subscribers], the First Circuit ruled that a complaint asserting violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lacked the factual specificity necessary to state a plausible claim for relief, but further held that the plaintiffs were entitled to file an amended complaint.

Background. Two individuals filed a putative class action against hospitals and health care providers in a hospital network. They complained of systematic under-compensation--in particular, a failure to compensate them for work performed during their meal breaks, for work performed before and after shifts, and for time spent attending training sessions. They alleged that the defendants violated the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) [29 U.S.C. §§ 206-207] [an annotated version of this statute is available to lexis.com subscribers]  , as well as violations of ERISA and RICO.

The district court granted a motion to dismiss the original complaint, finding that the FLSA claim was not sufficiently pleaded, and that the ERISA and RICO claims were also insufficient because they were derivative of the FLSA claim. The court found that the plaintiffs had failed to plead one element of the FLSA claim, specifically, that they had performed work for which they were under-compensated, because the complaint lacked any information on the plaintiffs' approximate weekly wages and hours worked, or even an allegation that they had worked in excess of 40 hours in any week.

The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, adding only a general allegation that they, and the 12,000 putative class members, "regularly worked" over 40 hours a week and were not compensated for this time. The district court found that the complaint was still deficient because it provided no specific information about the named plaintiffs' specific employers or positions. This time, the district court refused to allow further amendment and dismissed with prejudice.

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Allan Ides is the Christopher N. May Professor of Law at Loyola Law School Los Angeles. Professor Ides clerked for Chief Judge Clement Haynsworth of the Fourth Circuit and Associate Justice Byron White of the United States Supreme Court. He has published extensively in the areas of constitutional law and federal procedure. See, e.g., A Critical Appraisal of the Supreme Court's Decision in J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro, 45 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 341 (2012); The Standard for Measuring the Validity of a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure: The Shady Grove Debate between Justices Scalia and Stevens, 86 Notre Dame Law Review 1041 (2011). His civil procedure casebook, co-authored with Christopher N. May-Civil Procedure: Cases and Problems (Aspen 2012)-is in its fourth edition.