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Brut v. Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

September 12, 2018

MEGAN BRUT, et al. PLAINTIFFS
v.
MISSISSIPPI FARM BUREAU CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         Plaintiffs in this case allege that Defendants, three separate insurance companies, failed to provide them overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Defendants filed motions to dismiss the claims [Docket Nos. 22, 24, 26]. Plaintiffs have responded and the matter is now ripe for review. Having considered the matter, the Court finds the motions should be granted in part and denied in part.

         Background

         Plaintiffs are current and former insurance agents who each sold insurance products offered by the three Defendants: Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company ("SFB Life"), Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company ("SFB Casualty"); and Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Company ("Mississippi Farm Bureau"). Plaintiffs allege that Defendants, acting as joint employers, misclassified each of them as independent contractors rather than employees. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants denied them overtime pay for certain weeks in which they worked over 40 hours per week in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants failed to withhold taxes from their paychecks in violation of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act ("FICA"). Defendants seek to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim.

         Standard of Review

         When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court is limited to the allegations set forth in the complaint and any documents attached to the complaint. Walker v. Webco Indus., Inc., 562 Fed.Appx. 215, 216-17 (5th Cir. 2014) (citing Kennedy v. Chase Manhattan Bank USA, NA, 369 F.3d 833, 839 (5th Cir. 2004)). "[A plaintiffs] complaint therefore 'must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Phillips v. City of Dallas, Tex., 781 F.3d 772, 775-76 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)).

         A claim is facially plausible when the pleaded factual content "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (citing Bell Atl Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). "[P]laintiffs must allege facts that support the elements of the cause of action in order to make out a valid claim." Webb v. Morella, 522 Fed.Appx. 238, 241 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting City of Clinton, Ark. v. Pilgrim's Pride Corp., 632 F.3d 148, 152-53 (5th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted)). "[C]onclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss." Id. (quoting Fernandez-Montes v. Allied Pilots Ass'n, 987 F.2d 278, 284 (5th Cir. 1993) (internal quotation marks omitted)). "Dismissal is appropriate when the plaintiff has not alleged 'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face' and has failed to 'raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" Emesowum v. Hous. Police Dep't, 561 Fed.Appx. 372, 372 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955).

         Analysis

         Plaintiffs allege four causes of action against Defendants: a failure to pay overtime wages (count 1); a failure to keep time records (count 2); a failure to pay FICA taxes (count 3); and a failure to withhold FICA taxes from Plaintiffs' pay (count 4).

         Defendants argue that there are no private causes of actions for a failure to keep time records under FLSA or a failure to pay and withhold FICA taxes. Plaintiffs' agree. Therefore counts 2, 3, and 4 of the complaint will be dismissed.

         Turning to the failure to pay overtime wages claim, Defendants object to Plaintiffs' grouping of all three Defendants under the single moniker of "Farm Bureau". They each argue that Plaintiffs' grouping of the Defendants under a single name prevents Plaintiff from alleging an employment relationship with each Defendant, and that Plaintiffs have not successfully pleaded they are jointly employed by Defendants. Defendants further argue that that Plaintiffs have failed to allege facts about their hours worked necessary to support their claim.

         FLSA requires employers to compensate employees who work more than 40 hours a week with overtime pay on those excess hours. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a). If more than one person or entity controls an individual, they may be considered "joint employers":

[I]f the facts establish that the employee is employed jointly by two or more employers, i.e., that employment by one employer is not completely disassociated from employment by the other employer(s), all of the employee's work for all of the joint employers during the workweek is considered as one employment for purposes of the [FLSA].

29 C.F.R. § 791.2. Joint employers "are responsible, both individually and jointly, for compliance with all of the applicable provisions of the act, including the overtime provisions, with respect to the entire employment for the particular workweek." Id.

         Defendants must first each be "employers" of the Plaintiffs, before they can be "joint employers". See Joaquin v. Coliseum Inc., No. A-15-CV-787-LY, 2016 WL 3906820, at *7 (W.D. Tex. July 13, 2016), report and recommendation approved sub nom. Joaquin v. Hinojosa, No. A-15-CV-787-LY, 2016 WL 7647630 (W.D. Tex. Aug. 2, 2016) (rejecting plaintiffs' joint employment theory against entities where plaintiffs failed to allege employment with each ...


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