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HERRERA v. CORN PRODUCTS INTERNATIONAL

September 21, 2005.

JOAQUIN HERRERA, MARKO OSTOJIC, DOUGLAS ANDERSON, and JIM SHREWSBURY, individually, Plaintiffs,
v.
CORN PRODUCTS INTERNATIONAL, INC. Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: AMY ST. EVE, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On June 21, 2005, Plaintiffs Joaquin Herrera, Marko Ostojic, Douglas Anderson, and Jim Shrewsbury filed a three-count First Amended Complaint alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 200 et. seq., the Illinois Whistleblower Act ("IWA"), 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 174/1 et. seq., and a state common law claim of retaliatory discharge against Defendant Corn Products International, Inc. ("Corn Products"). Before the Court is Corn Products' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Court denies Corn Products' motion.

LEGAL STANDARD

  A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint and is not designed to resolve the merits of case. Triad Assoc., Inc. v. Chicago Hous. Auth., 892 F.2d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 1989); Berg v. B.C.S. Fin. Corp., 372 F.Supp.2d 1080, 1088 (N.D. Ill. 2005). The Court will grant a motion to dismiss only "if it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Centers v. Centennial Mortgage, Inc., 398 F.3d 930, 933 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S. Ct. 99, 102, 2 L. Ed.2d 80 (1957)). When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must assume the truth of the facts alleged in the pleadings, construe the allegations liberally, and view the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Centers, 398 F.3d at 933.

  BACKGROUND

  I. Plaintiffs' Allegations

  A. Parties

  In June 1992, Defendant Corn Products hired Plaintiff Joaquin Herrera as a Senior Operations Manager. (R. 1-1; Am. Compl. ¶ 4.) In June 1982, Corn Products hired Plaintiff Marko Ostojic as an Operations Manager. (Id. ¶ 5.) Corn Products hired Plaintiff Douglas Anderson in January of 1991 as an Operations Manager. (Id. ¶ 6.) In addition, Corn Products hired Plaintiff Jim Shrewsbury as an Operations Manager in May of 2002. (Id. ¶ 7.)

  Corn Products is an Illinois corporation authorized to do business in the State of Illinois. (Id. ¶ 8.) Corn Products produces corn-refined and starch-based ingredients. (Id.) Its corporate headquarters are located in Westchester, Illinois, and it has a facility in Bedford Park, Illinois ("Archer Facility"). (Id.)

  B. Corn Products' Relationship with Total Facility Maintenance

  Corn Products subcontracted the janitorial work for its Archer Facility to Total Facility Maintenance, Inc. ("TFM"). (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiffs allege that TFM was an agent of Corn Products, because Corn Products "derived benefit from its relationship" with TFM, and Corn Products "substantially controlled the manner in which TFM employees performed their work." (Id.) Through this agency relationship, Plaintiffs allege that Corn Products agreed to pay the janitorial employees at its Archer Facility. (Id. ¶ 11.)

  B. Janitorial Employees

  The janitorial employees complained on several occasions to Plaintiffs, as Operations Managers at Corn Products, that TFM was not paying them their proper wages. (Id. ¶ 13.) Specifically, the janitorial employees complained that TFM was not paying them time and one-half for the hours they worked in excess of the normal forty hour work week. (Id. ¶ 12). Initially, Herrera advised the employees to speak directly to their manager about their wage problems. (Id. ¶ 13). In addition, TFM's owner told the employees to stop complaining to Plaintiffs about their wages or they would be fired. (Id. ¶ 17.)

  Plaintiffs voiced concerns to Corn Products' management about the janitorial employees' wages on several occasions. (Id. ¶ 15.) Specifically, Plaintiffs told Corn Products' management that "a violation of law was occurring by not paying the janitorial employees the agreed upon wages." (Id.) Ostojic sent an e-mail to Accounting Manager Judy Cox in April 2003 concerning the janitorial employees, as well. (Id.) Plaintiffs also complained to Purchasing Manager John Fitzsimmons that Corn Products, through TFM, failed to properly pay the janitorial employees. (Id.) ...


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