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Wider v. Richland County School District One

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

October 10, 2017

Beyonka Wider, Plaintiff,
v.
Richland County School District One, Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         This matter is before the court pursuant to Plaintiff Beyonka Wider's (“Plaintiff”) Motion to Remand (ECF No. 7), and Defendant Richland County School District One's (“Defendant”) Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5). For the reasons set forth below, the court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (ECF No. 7), and GRANTS Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5).

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Defendant is a public school district located in Richland County, South Carolina, organized and existing under the laws of South Carolina. (ECF No. 1-1 at ¶ 2.) Plaintiff is a citizen and resident of Richland County, South Carolina. (Id. at ¶ 1.)

         The dispute at issue in this case arises from Plaintiff's employment with Defendant. (ECF No. 5-1 at 1.) Plaintiff worked for Defendant as a High Schools That Work[1] program consultant with a ten-month contract. (Id. at ¶ 7.) Plaintiff has over fifteen (15) years of experience in the educational field and holds a Doctorate in Education Administration “for teaching and learning curriculum.” (Id. at ¶ 5.) Throughout her employment with Defendant, Plaintiff has attended professional development events during the summer months, which are outside of her contract term. (Id. at ¶ 10, 11.) Because these events took place outside of Plaintiff's contract term, Defendant did not pay Plaintiff any wages or overtime payments for her attendance at these events. (Id. at ¶ 13, 14.)

         On July 7, 2017, Plaintiff filed this action against Defendant in the Court of Common Pleas for the Fifth Judicial Circuit, asserting state law claims under the South Carolina Payment of Wages Act (“SCPWA”) and for quantum meruit. (ECF No. 1-1.) On August 10, 2017, Defendant removed the action to this court on the ground of federal question jurisdiction. (ECF No. 1.)

         On August 17, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss, asserting that Plaintiff's claims, alleging state law causes of action, are preempted by the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), and Plaintiff fails to assert facts sufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 5-1 at 1.)

         On August 23, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand, asserting that “Plaintiff's claims for violation of SCPWA and quantum meruit arise under South Carolina state law and must be adjudicated in state court because there is neither diversity or a federal question.” (ECF No. 7 at 1.)

         On August 23, 2017, Plaintiff filed a response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, asserting that (1) Plaintiff has stated a plausible claim for violation under the SCPWA; (2) Plaintiff has stated a plausible claim for quantum meruit; (3) Plaintiff's claims are not preempted by the FLSA; and (4) Plaintiff does not assert any rights under the FLSA. (ECF No. 8.)

         On August 30, 2017, Defendant filed a response to Plaintiff's Motion to Remand, asserting that “Defendant properly removed this case on the ground of federal question jurisdiction because Plaintiff's Complaint seeks recovery of minimum wages and overtime pay, directly implicating the FLSA, and because Plaintiff's allegations raise questions of exempt employee status and compensable time under the FLSA.” (ECF No. 9 at 1.)

         On August 30, 2017, Defendant filed a Reply to Plaintiff's response (regarding Defendant's Motion to Dismiss), largely re-asserting its position in its initial Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 10.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A party seeking to remove a case from state to federal court bears the burden of demonstrating that jurisdiction is proper at the time it files its petition for removal. Caterpillar Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 73 (1996). If federal jurisdiction is doubtful, remand is necessary. Mulchaey v. Columbia Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994); see Marshall v. Manville Sales Corp., 6 F.3d 229, 232 (4th Cir. 1993) (noting Congress's “clear intention to restrict removal and to resolve all doubts about the propriety of removal in favor of retained state court jurisdiction”).

         The right to remove a case from state to federal court derives solely from 28 U.S.C. § 1441, which provides that “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.” Id. at § 1441(a). Moreover, in a case that does not contain an allegation of diversity citizenship between the parties, the propriety of removal is based on a district court's “original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States”-stated differently, the propriety of removal is based on whether a federal question has been presented. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. As an exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule, a defendant may properly remove a case wherein a plaintiff asserts claims that Congress has so completely preempted “in a particular area that any civil complaint raising this select group of claims is necessarily federal in character.” Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 63-64 (1987). If the plaintiff's demand “necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal law, ” federal question jurisdiction is appropriate. Mulcahey v. Columbia Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994).

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted “challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint.” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted); see also Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (“A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) . . . does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.”). To be legally sufficient, a pleading ...


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