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Lorenzo Victoria, Jose M. Perez, and Javier Gutierrez, On Behalf v. Alex Car

March 29, 2012

LORENZO VICTORIA, JOSE M. PEREZ, AND JAVIER GUTIERREZ, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND OTHER PERSONS SIMILARLY SITUATED, KNOWN AND UNKNOWN PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ALEX CAR, INC., D/B/A/ CARNICERIA RICARDO AND RICARDO RODRIGUEZ, INDIVIDUALLY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, Chief Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court is "Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) & (6)" (Dkt. No. 7). For the reasons stated herein, the motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

On Dec. 28, 2011, Plaintiffs Lorenzo Victoria, Jose M. Perez, and Javier Gutierrez (collectively, "Plaintiffs") brought this putative collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. ("FLSA"). They contend that Defendants Alex Car, Inc., d/b/a Carniceria Ricardo, and Ricardo Rodriguez, individually (collectively, "Defendants") failed to pay minimum wages and overtime as required under federal and state law. (Dkt. No. 1 (Pls.' Compl. ¶ 1.).) Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants retaliated against them because of their participation in a Department of Labor investigation of Defendants' pay practices. (Id.)

Plaintiff's complaint, the allegations of which will be accepted as true for the purposes of this motion, alleges that Victoria, Perez, and Gutierrez are current and former employees of Defendant Alex Car, Inc. (Pls.' Compl. ¶¶ 5,7.) Rodriguez is the president of Alex Car, and has authority to hire and fire employees, supervise their work, and sign company checks. (Id. at ¶ 8.)

Defendants operate a combined butcher shop, grocery store, and restaurant under the name Carniceria Ricardo in one location at 4419 W. Diversey Ave. (Id. at ¶¶ 11--12.) These businesses share employees, materials, and supplies. (Id. at ¶ 12.) Plaintiffs worked as stockers and butchers, and were also assigned other tasks, such as cutting vegetables in the restaurant. (Id. at ¶ 13.) During their employment, Defendants refused to pay Plaintiffs and other similarly situated employees minimum wages and overtime. (Id.) Defendants failed to keep accurate and complete time records as required by Department of Labor ("DOL") regulations. (Id. at ¶¶ 14--15.)*fn1

In 2011, the DOL conducted an investigation into Defendants' practices in regard to pay, and interviewed Plaintiffs about their wages. (Id. at ¶¶ 17--18.) After that investigation, the Plaintiffs' hours were cut, one was fired, they were denied breaks, and the company's managers told other employees that Plaintiffs had sued the company in order to ostracize them. (Id. at ¶19.)

Plaintiffs' five-count complaint alleges: violations of the FLSA on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated as to minimum wages and overtime pay (Counts I and III); violations of the Illinois Minimum Wage Law, 820 ILCS 105/1, et seq. ("IMWL") as to minimum wages and overtime pay (Count II and IV); and violations of the anti-retaliation provisions of the FLSA (Count V).

Defendants seek to dismiss the complaint in its entirety, arguing that certain claims should be dismissed under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) because the Plaintiffs signed waiver forms under the supervision of the DOL, and as such their claims for back wages are moot. Additionally, Defendants argue that the complaint is insufficiently pleaded and subject to dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 8 (Defs.' Mem. in Supp. 1--2.)).

LEGAL STANDARD

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint need contain only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 (a)(2). The complaint must "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) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While "detailed factual allegations" are not required, "labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The complaint must "include sufficient facts 'to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Cole v. Milwaukee Area Tech. Coll. Dist., 634 F.3d 901, 903 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)). "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." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court "construe[s] the . . . [c]omplaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff[s], accepting as true all well-pleaded facts and drawing all possible inferences in [their] favor." Cole, 634 F.3d at 903 (internal citations omitted).

A Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss contends that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear the claims, in this case because the DOL waivers allegedly mooted Plaintiffs' claims. In ruling on such a motion, the court accepts as true all the allegations in the complaint, but the movant may support its motion with affidavits and other material. United Phosphorus, Ltd. v. Angus Chemical Co., 322 F.3d 942, 946 (7th Cir. 2003). The burden of proof is on the party asserting jurisdiction. Id.

ANALYSIS

The court will first address Defendants' waiver argument. It is undisputed that Plaintiffs signed what are known as WH-58 waiver forms from the DOL. (Defs' Mem. in Supp., Ex. B.) The forms were signed by the plaintiffs on Nov. 29 and Nov. 30, 2011, and explicitly cover wages beginning with the workweek ending Dec. 11, 2010, and ending with the workweek ending Sept. 17, 2011. (Id.) The forms contain this notice: NOTICE TO EMPLOYEE UNDER THE FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT (FLSA): Your acceptance of this payment of wages and other compensation due under the FLSA based on the findings of the Wage and Hour Division means that you have given up the right you have to bring suit on your own behalf for the payment of such unpaid wages or unpaid overtime compensation for the period of time indicated above and an equal amount in liquidated damages, plus attorney's fees and court costs under Section 16(b) of the FLSA. Generally, a 2-year statute of limitations applies to the recovery of back wages. Do not sign this receipt unless you have actually received this payment in the amount indicated above of the wages and other compensation due you. (Id.) The ...


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