Second Circuit Rules that a "Bare-Bones" Complaint Rephrasing the Text of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is Insufficient to State an Overtime Claim
In Dejesus v. HF Management Systems Services, LLC, No. 12-4565 (2d Cir. Aug. 5, 2013), the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff Ramona Dejesus’ (“Plaintiff”) Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and New York Labor Law (“NYLL”) overtime claims, finding that Plaintiff’s complaint lacked the factual specificity necessary to plead an overtime violation. Dejesus is the most recent in a line of Second Circuit decisions, beginning with Lundy v. Catholic Health System of Long Island(previously covered here), and Nakahata v. New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, Inc., dismissing overtime claims under the FLSA and NYLL where plaintiffs have failed to allege sufficient facts to support such claims.
In Dejesus, Plaintiff alleged in her complaint that she worked more than forty hours per week during “some or all weeks” of her employment, but that she was not properly compensated for her alleged overtime hours. Thereafter, HF Management Systems Services (“Defendant”) filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Plaintiff’s lone allegation failed to provide the factual foundation necessary to state a plausible overtime claim. In granting the Defendant’s motion, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York held that plaintiff failed to state a claim because she did not to set forth “any approximation of the number of unpaid overtime hours worked . . . or any approximation of the amount of wages due.”
On appeal, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision and, citing Lundy, reiterated that “in order to state a plausible FLSA overtime claim, a plaintiff must sufficiently allege 40 hours of work in a given workweek as well as some uncompensated time in excess of the 40 hours.” Since Plaintiff failed to estimate the number of hours she worked in any or all workweeks, or allege the number of weeks during which her overtime pay was improperly calculated, the Second Circuit held that Plaintiff’s overtime claim lacked the factual specificity necessary to raise a plausible inference of an FLSA or NYLL overtime violation. Indeed, outside of “rephrasing the FLSA’s overtime formulation,” Plaintiff’s complaint provided no additional “factual context or content,” and was “devoid of any numbers to consider beyond those plucked from the statute.” Accordingly, the Second Circuit upheld the district court’s decision to dismiss Plaintiff’s overtime claims.
Although the Second Circuit stopped short of requiring plaintiffs to “plead their hours with mathematical precision,” it explained that Dejesus, along with its decisions in Lundy and Nakahata, are intended to reflect the tension between: (1) the possible use by plaintiffs’ counsel of “standardized, bare-bones complaints” to engage in “fishing expeditions” for potential defendants “about whom they have little or no evidence of FLSA violations”; (2) plaintiffs’ lack of information about their hours and pay without access to defendants’ records; and (3) the pleading standards set forth by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal (2009) and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly (2007) which require a complaint to “contain sufficient factual matter . . . to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Accordingly, the Second Circuit’s recent decisions should assist employers in quashing similarly “bare-bones” complaints at the outset of a litigation.