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Guon v. John Q. Cook, M.D. LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 3, 2016

Susan Guon, Plaintiff,
John Q. Cook, M.D. LLC; and Marketstaff, Inc., Defendants.


          Honorable Thomas M. Durkin United States District Judge

         Susan Guon alleges that her former employers, John Q. Cook, M.D. LLC (“Cook”) and Marketstaff, Inc., failed to compensate her for any overtime work between January 2010 and January 2016, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law. R. 1. Defendants have moved to dismiss her claims for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). R. 9. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss is denied.

         Legal Standard

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of the complaint. See, e.g., Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). A complaint must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), sufficient to provide defendant with “fair notice” of the claim and the basis for it. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This standard “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). 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 “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “‘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.'” Mann v. Vogel, 707 F.3d 872, 877 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). In applying this standard, the Court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Mann, 707 F.3d at 877.


         Cook is a private medical practice. R. 1 ¶ 4. Marketstaff is a human resources organization that provides management services to Cook and its employees. Id. ¶ 6. Guon worked as a patient care coordinator at Cook from January 2010 to January 2016. Id. ¶ 2. She alleges that “Defendants jointly participated in [her] hiring, determined [her] conditions of employment, and decided [her] compensation.” Id. ¶ 12. Guon makes no other allegations regarding her relationship with either Cook or Marketstaff.

         Guon alleges that she was entitled to time and half for any hours she worked beyond 40 in a single week. Id. ¶ 18. She alleges that she “frequently” worked beyond her scheduled shift and on weekends, resulting in her working more than 40 hours in a week. Id. ¶¶ 16-19. She alleges that Defendants failed to compensate her at one and a half times her regular hourly rate of pay for the time she worked in excess of 40 hours. Id.


         Defendants make three arguments in support of their motion to dismiss: (1) Guon has not plausibly alleged that they “jointly” employed her; (2) Guon has failed to sufficiently allege that she was improperly paid; and (3) portions of Guon's claims are time-barred.

         I. Joint Employment

         Defendants contend that “Guon offers not one distinct fact or specific action to support her conclusion and demonstrate that Dr. Cook, Marketstaff, or both exercised control over her working conditions so as to give rise to a joint-employment relationship, or that either had any role in the alleged FLSA violation.” R. 17 at 13. Under the FLSA, “employer” includes “any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee.” 29 U.S.C. § 203(d). And “employ” is defined to include “to suffer or permit to work.” 29 U.S.C. § 203(g). The Supreme Court has described this as “the broadest definition . . . ever included in any one act.” United States v. Rosenwasser, 323 U.S. 360, 363 n. 3 (1945); accord Reyes v. Remington Hybrid Seed Co., 495 F.3d 403, 408 (7th Cir. 2007).

         Federal regulations contemplate that an “employee” may have more than one “employer” for purposes of enforcement of the FLSA. See 29 C.F.R. § 791.2. Generally, “for a joint-employer relationship to exist, each alleged employer must exercise control over the working conditions of the employee, although the ultimate determination will vary depending on the specific facts of each case.” Moldenhauer v. Tazewell-Pekin Consol. Commc'ns Ctr., 536 F.3d 640, 644 (7th Cir. 2008).

         Here, Guon has sufficiently alleged that she worked for Cook and that Marketstaff was responsible for the process that lead to her hiring and for her compensation. It is entirely plausible that Cook would control when and how long Guon worked, while Marketstaff-as a human resources contractor-controlled how much she was paid. These alleged facts plausibly show that Cook and Marketstaff jointly employed Guon.

         Defendants cite a number of cases they contend require Guon to plead more specific facts. Two of these cases, however, were decided on summary judgment, and so have limited relevance to his motion. See Moldenhauer, 536 F.3d at 641; Zampos v. W & E Commc'ns, Inc., 970 F.Supp.2d 794, 795 (N.D. Ill. 2013). Another concerned the liability of a corporate executive for treatment of an employee at a retail store, see Brunner v. Liautaud, 2015 WL 1598106, at *3-4 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 8, 2015), and another concerned the liability of the plaintiff's fellow employee, see Hadad v. World Fuel Servs., Inc., 2013 WL 6498894, at *2 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 11, 2013). The facts in Brunner and Hadad are inapposite in that they involve different employment relationships than the relationship between Guon and Cook and Marketstaff. None of these cases undermine Guon's allegations that both ...

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