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Kenny v. Seminole Wind Restaurant of Bainbridge, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division

December 23, 2014

WILLIAM KENNY, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
SEMINOLE WIND RESTAURANT OF BAINBRIDGE, LLC, SEMINOLE WIND RESTAURANT OF THOMASVILLE, LLC, SEMINOLE WIND RESTAURANT OF CAIRO, LLC, and THOMAS BRYANT, Defendants.

ORDER

HUGH LAWSON, Senior District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant Thomas Bryant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 12) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Motion to Dismiss Standard

To avoid dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). A claim is plausible if its factual allegations allow "the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id . The plausibility standard "calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence" of the defendant's liability. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must accept "all well-pleaded facts... as true, and the reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Bryant v. Avado Brands, Inc., 187 F.3d 1271, 1273 n. 1 (11th Cir. 1999). However, this tenet does not apply to legal conclusions in the complaint. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. "[C]onclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of fact, or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal." Oxford Asset Mgmt., Ltd. v. Jaharis, 297 F.3d 1182, 1188 (11th Cir. 2002). A court must dismiss the complaint if, "on the basis of a dispositive issue of law, no construction of the factual allegations will support the cause of action." Marshall Cnty. Bd. of Educ. v. Marshall Cnty. Gas Dist., 992 F.2d 1171, 1174 (11th Cir. 1993) (citing Executive 100, Inc. v. Martin County, 992 F.2d 1536, 1539 (11th Cir. 1991) and Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682, 66 S.Ct. 773, 90 L.Ed.2d 939 (1946)).

II. Factual Summary

Construing the Complaint's factual allegations in favor of Plaintiff William Kenny ("Kenny"), Defendant Thomas Bryant ("Bryant") is the owner and managing member of Defendants Seminole Wind Restaurant of Bainbridge, LLC; Seminole Wind Restaurant of Thomasville, LLC; and Seminole Wind Restaurant of Cairo, LLC (collectively "Defendants"). Defendants operate various restaurants. From approximately July 2009 until June 2013, Plaintiff was employed by Defendants, primarily at the Bainbridge location, where he was the general manager. From time to time, Plaintiff filled in for other workers at the restaurant in Cairo and, prior to its closing, the restaurant in Tallahassee, Florida. (Complaint, Doc. 1, pp. 2-3, ¶¶5-12).

While employed by Defendants, Plaintiff regularly worked more than forty hours a week, but for these overtime hours Defendants did not pay him at a rate that was one and a half times his normal pay rate. Defendants engaged in a practice of paying their employees the standard rates even when the employees were working overtime. As the owner and managing member of the corporate Defendants, Bryant regularly hired and fired employees of the corporate entities, set the employees' compensation, and controlled the operations and finances of the corporate Defendants. (Id. at p. 3, ¶¶10, 13).

On his own behalf and on behalf of all other similarly-situated employees, Plaintiff sued Defendants in this Court on June 23, 2014. He alleges that Defendants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., by failing to pay employees for overtime work at a rate that was at least one and a half times their normal pay rate. Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that these violations were willful. (Id. at pp. 4-5, ¶¶1-9). Defendant Bryant now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against him, contending that he is not a proper party to this action, that the Complaint fails to state a claim against him, and that the collective action allegations in the Complaint fail to meet the pleading standards set forth in Twombly and Iqbal.

III. Legal Analysis

A. Defendant Bryant as Plaintiff's Employer

The Court is unconvinced by Bryant's argument that he was not Plaintiff's employer and, consequently, is not a proper party to this action. While it is true "that individuals are ordinarily shielded from personal liability when they do business in a corporate form'... the FLSA contemplates at least some individual liability...." Lamonica v. Safe Hurricane Shutters, Inc., 711 F.3d 1299, 1313 (11th Cir. 2013) (quoting Baystate Alt. Staffing, Inc. v. Herman, 163 F.3d 668, 677 (1st Cir. 1998)). The FLSA's definition of "employer" is broad and includes "both the employer for whom the employee directly works as well as any person acting directly or indirectly in the interests of an employer in relation to an employee.'" Josendis v. Wall to Wall Residence Repairs, Inc., 662 F.3d 1292, 1298 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 203(d)). The Eleventh Circuit has interpreted this statutory language to mean that there could be individual liability for someone who controls "a corporation's financial affairs and can cause the corporation to compensate (or not to compensate) employees in accordance with the FLSA." Lamonica, 711 F.3d at 1313 (internal quotation omitted). An individual's ownership interest in the business and control over its day-to-day activities are indicative of whether the individual caused the alleged FLSA violation. Id.

The Complaint's allegations are sufficient to establish Bryant's liability under this test.[1] According to the Complaint, Bryant was the owner and managing member of the various limited liability companies that employed Plaintiff. Bryant hired and fired the companies' employees, determined their compensation, and controlled the companies' operations and finances. These allegations state a sufficient nexus between Bryant's activities and the failure to pay Plaintiff appropriate wages for his overtime labor as to allow Plaintiff to move forward with his claim that Bryant ...


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