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Vernon v. Go Ventures, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

May 12, 2017

Kimberly Vernon, Plaintiff,
Go Ventures, LLC, ET AL., Defendants.

          Elizabeth A. Stafford, United States Magistrate Judge


          Hon. Gershwin A. Drain, United States District Court Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Kimberly Vernon initiated this action, on behalf of herself and other similarly situated employees, against Defendants GO Ventures, LLC, GO Ventures-Holly, LLC, Tangaroo Creek, Drake Enterprises, LLC, Drake Enterprises-Holly, LLC, Greg Taylor, and Wynn Taylor (collectively “Defendants”) on October 26, 2016. Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., the Michigan Workforce Opportunity Wage Act, Mich. Comp. Laws § 408.411, et seq., the Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act, Mich. Comp. Laws § 15.361, et seq., the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, Mich. Comp. Laws § 37.2101, et seq., and Michigan public policy. Id. Plaintiff's complaint alleges that Defendants failed to pay her and other similarly situated employees of Defendants' camping and lodging facilities the appropriate minimum wages and overtime pay, and that Defendants retaliated against Plaintiff after she notified them about the violations. Id.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 9. Upon review of the pleadings, the Court finds that oral argument will not aid in the disposition of this matter. Accordingly, the Court will decide the matter on the pleadings. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2). For the reasons stated more fully below, this Court will grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion [9].

         II. Background

         Defendants own and operate numerous campgrounds and lodging facilities in states including Michigan, Tennessee, New York, Alabama, and Missouri. Dkt. No. 1, p. 5 (Pg. ID 5). Plaintiff asserts that these businesses operate more than seven months of the year. Id. at 6.

         Plaintiff began working for Defendants' campground in Holly, Michigan in or about April 2013. Id. In her initial position as Activities Director, Plaintiff's starting pay was $7.25 per hour. Id. Plaintiff's hours exceeded 40 hours per week and would include “off the clock” work that Defendants did not include on her time records. Id.

         Plaintiff states that she became a General Manager for Defendants in or about December 2015. Id. at 7. In April 2016, Defendants began to pay Plaintiff $350.00 per week. Id. Plaintiff regularly worked over 40 hours per week, including, “off the clock” work that Defendants did not record on Plaintiff's time records. Id.

         Plaintiff reported concerns to Defendants, including concerns that she was paid lower wages and received fewer benefits than male employees, that non-immigrant workers were mistreated, that J-1 Visa requirements were violated, that there were child labor issues, and that employees were not compensated in accordance with state and federal law. Id. Defendants did not respond to Plaintiff's reports and concerns. Id. at 8.

         Plaintiff sought legal counsel after growing concerned of possible retaliation. Id. Plaintiff's legal counsel sent Defendants a letter on July 25, 2016, notifying them of his representation of Plaintiff and requesting Defendants direct all further communications concerning Plaintiff's employment to him. Id. at 8, 29. That same day, after receiving the letter, Defendants suspended Plaintiff, directed her to return all company property, and escorted her off Defendants' premises. Id. at 8. On July 27, 2016, Defendants sent Plaintiff a letter informing her that she was being “terminated” from the managerial program, but could be considered for her prior position. Id. at 8, 35.

         On July 28, 2016, Defendants sent a letter to Plaintiff and her counsel. Id. at 8, 38-40. Defendants maintained that Plaintiff could no longer work as a manager, but could possibly still work as a clerk. Id.

         III. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” To withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must comply with the pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Rule 8(a)(2) requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quotation marks omitted) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). To meet this standard, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-80 (2009) (applying the plausibility standard articulated in Twombly).

         When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept all of his or her factual allegations as true. Lambert v. Hartman, 517 F.3d 433, 439 (6th Cir. 2008). However, the Court need not accept mere conclusory statements or legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court usually cannot consider matters outside of the pleadings. Weiner v. Klais & Co., Inc., 108 F.3d 86, 89 (6th Cir. 1997). There are limited exceptions to this general rule. For instance, the Court may consider “the Complaint and any exhibits attached thereto, public records, items appearing in the record of the case and exhibits attached to defendant's motion to dismiss so long as they are referred to in the Complaint and are central to the claims contained therein.” Bassett v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008). The Court may also consider “documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007).

         IV. Discussion

         A. Adequacy of Pleading

         Defendants first argue that Plaintiff has not properly pled her wage and hour claims, relying on cases from district courts outside the Sixth Circuit to contend that wage and overtime claims have strict pleading requirements. The Court did not find binding precedent in which the Sixth Circuit adopted this approach. See Pope v. Walgreen Co., No. 3:14-CV-439, 2015 WL 471006, at *2-3 (E.D. Tenn. Feb. 4, 2015) (noting that the “level of detail necessary to plead a FLSA overtime claim . . . has divided courts around the country” and “district courts within the Sixth Circuit have applied a less strict approach.”).

         The Supreme Court has recognized that “the pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' ” but instead “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Although the complaint is far from detailed, the Court finds it sufficiently provides factual allegations and is not merely parroting the relevant statutes. For instance, Plaintiff provides the dates of her employment, the positions in which she worked, and the rate at which she was compensated for each position. She alleges that the relevant statutes apply to the Defendants and that she was employed by Defendants during the relevant time periods. Plaintiff alleges that in one position, she was not paid for her work exceeding forty hours per week, and that in another position, her fixed ...

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