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Chavez v. Don Stoltzner Mason Contractor

April 5, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arvin E. Aspen, District Judge


Plaintiffs Jose Manuel Chavez, et al., filed a two-count complaint against Defendants Don Stoltzner Mason Contractor, Inc. ("Don Stoltzner Mason"), et al., in Illinois state court, alleging violations of the Illinois Minimum Wage Law, 820 ILCS § 105/1 et seq. ("IMWL") and the Fair Labor Standards Act, 28 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. ("FLSA"). Defendants removed the case to federal court. Presently before us is Defendants' motion to dismiss or compel arbitration. For the reasons discussed below, we deny the motion.


Plaintiffs are hourly construction workers who performed work for Defendant Don Stoltzner Mason, a masonry contractor; the remaining defendants are officers of Don Stoltzner Mason. (Resp. at 2.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendants failed to pay Plaintiffs time-and-a-half overtime for each hour over forty worked per week, as required by the IMWL and FLSA. (See Compl.) According to the complaint, after Plaintiffs submitted timesheets to Defendants, Defendants billed clients based on the hours listed on the timesheets but did not pay Plaintiffs for all those hours. (Compl. ¶ 11.) Plaintiffs state, essentially, that their claims can be resolved simply by comparing their timesheets, presumably in Defendants' records, with their pay stubs. (See Resp. at 6.)

Defendants argue that this case is preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 185 ("LMRA"), because the employment relationships between Plaintiffs and Defendants are governed by collective bargaining agreements ("CBAs"). (Mem. at 5--9.) As discussed below, the LMRA provides for federal jurisdiction over labor disputes governed by CBAs and has been interpreted as preempting state law claims that arise from or require interpretation of a CBA. Defendants argue that although Plaintiffs' claims are based on the IMWL and FLSA and the complaint does not reference the governing CBAs, resolving the claims necessarily involves interpreting the CBAs and thus the claims are preempted by the LMRA. According to Defendants, Plaintiffs must go through the arbitration process outlined in the CBAs to resolve their grievances. In addition, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' claims are time-barred. (Mem. at 9--10; Reply at 7--8.)


Defendants appear to proceed under either Rule 12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6). The purpose of a motion to dismiss under either rule is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits of the case. Rule 12(b)(1) requires dismissal of claims over which the federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. In reviewing a 12(b)(1) motion, the court may look beyond the complaint to pertinent evidence submitted by the parties. See United Transp. Union v. Gateway W. Ry. Co., 78 F.3d 1208, 1210 (7th Cir. 1996). A court may grant a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) only if a complaint lacks "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007); see Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618--19 (7th Cir. 2007); EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776--77 (7th Cir. 2007). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, we must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Thompson v. Ill. Dep't of Prof'l Reg., 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002).


Defendants raise two arguments in support of their motion. First, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' IMWL and FLSA claims are preempted by the LMRA and the governing CBAs.*fn1

Second, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' FLSA claim is barred or at least limited by the applicable statute of limitations. We address each argument.

A. Preemption

1. Illinois Minimum Wage Law Claim

Section 301(a) of the LMRA states: "Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees..., may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties...." 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). This provision has been interpreted as having a preemptive effect on certain state claims brought by individual employees against their employers. The Seventh Circuit, en banc, explained the history of this preemptive effect:

The preemptive effect of § 301 was first explored in Teamsters v. Lucas Flour Co., 369 U.S. 95, 82 S.Ct. 571 (1962), a case involving a claim for violating a collective bargaining agreement. The guiding principle behind ยง 301 preemption was that a contract should not have different meanings under federal law and the laws of various states. Today, it is well-understood that a claim for breach of a collective bargaining agreement is preempted. But in other cases, not based directly on a CBA, the scope of preemption continues to cause some bewilderment.... What has become clear is that ...

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