In Landers v. Quality Communications, Inc., ___ F.3d ___ (9th Cir. November 12, 2014), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada (Judge Mahan), dismissing plaintiff’s putative class action for failure to pay minimum and overtime wages.
Plaintiff was a cable services installer for defendant employer who was paid on a “piecework” basis. Plaintiff claimed that this system deprived him and other similarly-situated employees of minimum and overtime wages – even when they worked more than forty hours per week – and, accordingly, filed a putative class action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The district court granted defendant’s motion to dismiss, however, on the ground that plaintiff failed to state a plausible claim for unpaid overtime wages. Specifically, the “district court determined that 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. . . .’ [Thus], the district court concluded that the allegations asserted in the complaint . . . fell ‘short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief . . . .’” Plaintiff appealed.
The appellate court agreed with the district court, holding that under Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), it is not enough for a complaint under the FLSA for unpaid overtime wages merely to allege that an employer failed to pay the employee overtime wages, as conclusory allegations that merely recite the statutory language are not adequate. Rather, the allegations in the complaint must state that plaintiff worked more than forty hours in a given workweek without being adequately compensated for the excess hours. “Notably absent from the allegations in [plaintiff]’s complaint, however, was any detail regarding a specific workweek when [plaintiff] worked in excess of forty hours and was not paid overtime for that specific workweek and/or was not paid minimum wages.” The court was careful to note that a plaintiff is not “expected to allege ‘with mathematical precision,’ the amount of overtime compensation owed by the employer . . . .” Nor does the plaintiff need to “approximate the number of hours worked without compensation. However, at a minimum the plaintiff must allege at least one workweek when he worked in excess of forty hours and was not paid for the excess hours in that workweek, or was not paid minimum wages.”