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Gardner v. Country Club Inc

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

June 3, 2016

Jacinda Gardner, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
Country Club, Inc. d/b/a Masters Gentlemen’s Club, Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          Bruce Howe Hendricks United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant’s motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. (ECF No. 87). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff Jacinda Gardner is a former dancer at Defendant, the Country Club, Inc. d/b/a Master’s Gentlemen’s Club, a strip club in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (the “Club"). On December 4, 2013, Plaintiff filed this civil action on behalf of herself and “all similarly situated employees" at the Club for overtime compensation and other relief against Defendant. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq. and the South Carolina Payment of Wages Act (“SCPWA"), SC Code Ann. §§ 41-10-10, et seq.

         On September 8, 2014, Plaintiff moved for conditional class certification and judicial notice pursuant to 216(b) of the FLSA, class certification under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23, and summary judgment. Defendant moved for summary judgment on September 15, 2014. On September 30, 2015, this Court issued a text order denying in substantial part Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, partially granting Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, granting Plaintiff’s motion for class certification and judicial notice, and denying Plaintiff’s motion for class certification under Rule 23 with leave to refile. Relevant to this motion, the Court found that Plaintiff’s SCPWA claims were largely preempted by federal law, but that Plaintiff’s SCPWA claim for deductions from tips was not preempted. Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration on October 8, 2015, which the Court denied on December 3, 2015.

         On October 29, 2015, Defendant moved for dismissal and/or summary judgment on Plaintiff’s remaining SCPWA claim for improper deductions. (ECF No. 87.) Defendant argues the claim should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and that summary judgment is proper because there is no genuine issue of material fact that Defendant did not pay Plaintiff any wages. Because the Court finds that the issue presented is purely a question of law, consideration of summary judgment is inappropriate here. Accordingly, the Court will only consider Defendant’s motion under Rule 12(b)(6).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A plaintiff’s complaint should set forth “a short and plain statement . . . showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 8 “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ’ but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To show that the plaintiff is “entitled to relief, " the complaint must provide “more than labels and conclusions, " and “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court “accepts all well-pled facts as true and construes these facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff . . . ." Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009).

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must state “a plausible claim for relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with’ a defendant’s liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.’" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Stated differently, “where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]’-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.’" Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)). Still, Rule 12(b)(6) “does not countenance . . . dismissals based on a judge’s disbelief of a complaint’s factual allegations." Colon Health Centers of Am., LLC v. Hazel, 733 F.3d 535, 545 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)). “A plausible but inconclusive inference from pleaded facts will survive a motion to dismiss . . . ." Sepulveda-Villarini v. Dep’t of Educ. of Puerto Rico, 628 F.3d 25, 30 (1st Cir. 2010) (Souter, J.).

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff brings a claim for improper deduction of wages under the SCPWA, alleging that:

Due to Defendant’s policy of deducting amounts from the tips of Plaintiff and the S.C. Class to offset business expenses, Plaintiff and the S.C. Class were subject to improper deductions from their compensation. Specifically, Defendant unlawfully withheld and diverted monies from the compensation earned by Plaintiff and the S.C. Class for business expenses of Defendant, including, but not limited to, the cost of employing other workers, in direct violation of the [SC]PWA.
Defendant has set, reduced, withheld and/or diverted the wages of Plaintiff and the S.C. Class Members without providing advance notice of such amounts, and absent any ...

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