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Rochell Mitchell, et al v. Jcg Industries and Koch Foods

May 31, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


Plaintiffs Rochell Mitchell and Audrey Veasley, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, brought this action against Defendants JCG Industries, Inc. ("JCG") and Koch Meat Co., Inc. ("Koch"), as a putative class action for violation of the Illinois Minimum Wage Law ("IMWL"), 820 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 105 et seq. (Count I), and, individually, for violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), codified at 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (Count II). Defendants have moved to dismiss Count I of the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendants' motion to dismiss [11]. The Court sets this matter for a status hearing on June 14, 2011, at 9:00 a.m.

I. Background*fn1

Plaintiffs Rochell Mitchell and Audrey Veasley worked as poultry processors for JCG and Koch, two Illinois corporations that operate poultry processing plants. Plaintiffs seek to represent other employees who worked in similar positions for JCG and Koch and shared similar job titles, pay plans, job descriptions, job duties, uniforms and hours of work. Defendants managed Plaintiffs' work and controlled their wage and hour compensation policies. Plaintiffs were hourly, non-exempt employees and were paid hourly rates between $7.00 and $11.00 per hour.

JCG and Koch employees were required to work five to seven days per week. The first shift was scheduled from 6:00 am to 2:30 pm and the second shift was from 3:00 pm to 11:30 pm; each employee had a scheduled unpaid thirty-minute meal break. Employees were provided with time cards to keep track of time worked and were required to swipe in when they arrived at work and swipe out as they left the production floor. Instead of requiring employees to swipe in and out for meal breaks, Defendants automatically deducted thirty minutes for meal breaks, regardless of whether the entire break was taken. If employees were more than one minute late to the production floor, they were docked pay for fifteen minutes or more.

Plaintiffs allege that they regularly worked more than forty hours per week without proper overtime compensation by working before the start of their shifts, through unpaid meal breaks, and after their scheduled shifts. Defendants did not pay employees for the time spent "donning" clothes or protective equipment before the line started at the beginning of their scheduled shifts or for time spent donning or washing during lunch breaks or after the line stopped, even though employees are required to don, doff, and wash before and after scheduled shifts. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants were aware that employees routinely worked more than forty hours per week but failed to accurately record the hours or properly pay them overtime.

Plaintiffs and Defendants were subject to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"). Article V of the CBA provides for the calculation of hours worked, including overtime, and Article IX provides an approved grievance procedure.*fn2 The CBA also contains specific provisions concerning donning and doffing of work-related clothing.

This case mirrors a case brought by Plaintiffs' counsel in 2009. See Anderson v. JCG Industries, 2009 WL 3713130 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 4, 2009). That case involved the same putative class (poultry processors at Defendants' processing plant in Chicago), essentially the same time period, and the same two claims (an Illinois Minimum Wage Law ("IMWL") claim and a claim under the FLSA) based on the same conduct alleged in the present case. In Anderson v. JCG Industries, the court found that the equivalent of Count I here-i.e., a claim for alleged violation of the IMWL-was preempted by federal law because the putative class members were governed by collective bargaining agreements that would have to be interpreted to resolve the plaintiffs' claims. Id. at *4. The parties settled the FLSA claim.

II. Standard of Review

The purpose of a Rule 12(b) motion to dismiss is not to decide the merits of the case. A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of the complaint, Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990), while a Rule 12(b)(1) motion tests whether the Court has subject matter jurisdiction. Long v. Shorebank Development Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 554 (7th Cir. 1999). In reviewing a motion to dismiss under either rule, the Court takes as true all factual allegations in Plaintiff's complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in her favor. Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nevada, N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007); Long, 182 F.3d at 554.

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the claim first must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" (Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)), such that the defendant is given "fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Second, the factual allegations in the claim must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the "speculative level," assuming that all of the allegations in the complaint are true. E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "Detailed factual allegations" are not required, but the plaintiff must allege facts that, when "accepted as true, * * * 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. "[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563.

Surviving a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is more difficult. United Phosphorus, Ltd. v. Angus Chem. Co., 322 F.3d 942, 946 (7th Cir. 2003). Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction; "they have only the power that is authorized by Article III of the Constitution and the statutes enacted by Congress pursuant thereto." Transit Express, Inc. v. Ettinger, 246 F.3d 1018, 1023 (7th Cir. 2001). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, "[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that a district court has proper jurisdiction of an action. Transit Express, 246 F.3d at 1023. A defendant arguing that the plaintiff has not met this burden with respect to an action may move for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1).

III. Analysis

In Count I of the complaint, Plaintiffs allege a violation of the IMWL, claiming that Defendants "regularly and repeatedly fail[ed] to properly compensate Plaintiffs * * * for the actual time they worked each week," as well as "willfully failed to pay overtime pay and other benefits." Defendants contend that Count I relates to unpaid wages which "fall squarely within the purview of the [CBA]" and therefore is preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"). If preempted, the claim would have to be brought under the LMRA, which requires employees to exhaust grievance and arbitration ...

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