Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Wright v. Waste Pro USA Inc.

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

November 12, 2019

ANTHONY WRIGHT, DANIEL HANSON and KENNETH PRIVETTE, all individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated Plaintiffs,
v.
WASTE PRO USA, INC., WASTE PRO OF FLORIDA, INC., WASTE PRO OF SOUTH CAROLINA, INC., and WASTE PRO OF NORTH CAROLINA, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER

          DAVID C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The following matter is before the court on defendants Waste Pro of South Carolina ("Waste Pro SC") and Waste Pro of North Carolina's ("Waste Pro NC") (collectively, "defendants") motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, failure to state a claim, and preemption, ECF No. 178. For the reasons discussed below, the court denies the motion, severs the lawsuit, and orders plaintiffs to file amended complaints consistent with this order.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs brought this action against defendants individually and on a collective and class-wide basis. Plaintiffs are waste disposal drivers for defendants. They claim that, due to the defendants' company-wide policies, they were deprived of wages for hours actually worked. According to plaintiffs, defendants did this in the following ways: (1) erroneously calculating their prevailing hourly rate; (2) only paying plaintiffs "half-time" for all hours worked over forty hours in a given workweek; (3) requiring them to perform pre-shift and post-shift duties while not clocked in; and (4) automatically deducting thirty minutes for lunch breaks that defendants knew plaintiffs worked through. Plaintiffs bring this action on behalf of all other similarly situated non-exempt waste disposal drivers who were paid a day rate and who have been employed by Waste Pro entities throughout the United States, at any time from September 29, 2014 through the final disposition of this matter. Plaintiffs all filed consent forms to join this collective action lawsuit against Waste Pro USA. ECF Nos. 30-3, 30-4, 30-5. However, each plaintiff specifies that they work or worked for a particular Waste Pro facility-plaintiff Anthony Wright worked at Waste Pro's facility in Florida, plaintiff Daniel Hansen in South Carolina, and plaintiff Kenneth Privette in North Carolina.

         The procedural history of this case is complex. Plaintiffs filed suit in this court on October 2, 2017 against Waste Pro SC, Waste Pro NC, Waste Pro of Florida, Inc. (“Waste Pro FL”), and Waste Pro USA, Inc. (“Waste Pro USA”). Plaintiffs filed their second amended complaint on December 5, 2017, bringing the following causes of action: (1) violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq.; (2) violation of the South Carolina Payment of Wages Act (“SCPWA”), South Carolina Code §§ 41-10-10, et seq.; and (3) violation of the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act, North Carolina General Statutes §§ 95-25.1, et seq.. ECF No. 30-2. On December 20, 2017, Waste Pro USA and Waste Pro FL filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, and failure to state a claim, and also seeking the dismissal of plaintiffs' North Carolina claim based on preemption grounds. ECF Nos. 37 and 38. Waste Pro S.C. and Waste Pro NC filed nearly identical motions that same day but declined to file motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. ECF Nos. 39 and 40. On January 16, 2018, plaintiffs filed virtually identical responses to all of the motions. ECF Nos. 46, 47, 48, and 49. On February 2, 2018, defendants filed a joint reply to those responses. ECF No. 54. Pursuant to the court's order to conduct jurisdictional discovery, Waste Pre USA and Waste Pro FL filed their supplemental briefing on the personal jurisdiction issue on November 30, 2018, ECF No. 124, and plaintiffs filed their supplemental briefing on February 15, 2019, ECF No. 141. Defendants filed a reply to plaintiffs' brief on February 25, 2019. ECF No. 143.

         On July 25, 2019, the court filed an order granting Waste Pro USA's and Waste Pro FL's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and dismissing those defendants from the case (the “July 25 Order”). Accordingly, the court dismissed all plaintiffs who were not employed by the remaining defendants, Waste Pro S.C. and Waste Pro NC. Because he was an employee of Waste Pro FL, Wright was dismissed from the case as a plaintiff. The July 25 Order further found that plaintiffs lacked standing to jointly assert claims against Waste Pro S.C. and Waste Pro NC and ordered plaintiffs to file an amended complaint in which the plaintiffs employed by Waste Pro NC (the “North Carolina plaintiffs”) would proceed against Waste Pro NC or the plaintiffs employed by Waste Pro S.C. (the “South Carolina plaintiffs”) would proceed against Waste Pro SC. Instead, on August 9, 2019, plaintiffs collectively filed their Third Amended Complaint, ECF No. 173, under which they proceeded jointly against Waste Pro S.C. and Waste Pro NC. On August 23, 2019, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Third Amended Complaint, ECF No. 178. On September 6, 2019, plaintiffs responded in opposition, ECF No. 181, to which the defendants replied on September 13, 2019, ECF No. 184. The court held a hearing on the matter on October 25, 2019. The matter has been fully briefed and is now ripe for the court's review.

         II. STANDARD

         A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Defendants' standing argument implicates this court's subject matter jurisdiction and is governed by Rule 12(b)(1). Crumbling v. Miyabi Murrells Inlet, LLC, 192 F.Supp.3d 640, 643 (D.S.C. 2016). The determination of subject matter jurisdiction must be made at the outset before any determination on the merits. Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83 (1998). “The plaintiff bears the burden of persuasion if subject matter jurisdiction is challenged under Rule 12(b)(1).” Williams v. United States, 50 F.3d 299, 304 (4th Cir. 1995). If the plaintiff cannot overcome this burden, then the claim must be dismissed. Welch v. United States, 409 F.3d 646, 651 (4th Cir. 2005). When a party contends that “the complaint [] fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction can be based[, ] . . . all the facts alleged in the complaint are assumed to be true.” Luna-Reyes v. RFI Const., LLC, 57 F.Supp.3d 495, 499 (M.D. N.C. 2014) (quoting Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982)). “[A] trial court should dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) only when the jurisdictional allegations are ‘clearly . . . immaterial, made solely for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction or where such a claim is wholly unsubstantial and frivolous.'” Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682 (1946)).

         B. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must accept the plaintiff's factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011). But “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). On a motion to dismiss, the court's task is limited to determining whether the complaint states a “plausible claim for relief.” Id. at 679. Although Rule 8(a)(2) requires only a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendants assert five grounds for their motion to dismiss: (1) plaintiffs' consent forms are insufficient under the FLSA, (2) the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction based on the plaintiffs' lack of standing, (3) the Third Amended Complaint fails to state a claim against each defendant, (4) plaintiffs' FLSA claims are barred by the Motor Carrier Act exemption, and (5) plaintiffs' SCWPA claims are preempted by the FLSA. The court addresses each ground in turn.

         A. Sufficiency of Consents

         Defendants argue that the consent forms of Hansen and Privette are insufficient for their claims against Waste Pro S.C. and Waste Pro NC. Plaintiffs filed consent forms to join this lawsuit, as required by the FLSA, in conjunction with their previous complaint. In those forms, plaintiffs stated their consent “to participate in a collective action lawsuit against Waste Pro USA, Inc.” ECF Nos. 1-1 and 1-2. Since plaintiffs' filing of their consent forms, the court has dismissed Waste Pro USA from the case. Defendants now argue that plaintiffs' consents, which continue to support their claims against Waste Pro S.C. and Waste Pro NC, are insufficient because they name Waste Pro USA as the defendant, not Waste Pro S.C. or Waste Pro NC. Because consent forms under these circumstances provide consent for the collective action, rather than for a specific claim, the consents are sufficient.

         “No employee shall be a party plaintiff to any [collective FLSA] action unless he gives his consent in writing to become such a party and such consent is filed in the court in which such action is brought.” 29 U.S.C. § 216. Consents are to be interpreted “according to the plain meaning of their language.” Turner v. BFI Waste Servs., LLC, 292 F.Supp.3d 650, 653 (D.S.C. 2017). Plain-meaning construction, however, does not require the court to be overly formalistic in interpreting consents. This court has held that FLSA opt-in plaintiffs do not consent to join specific claims of a collective FLSA action, but rather, consent to “join the action as a whole.” Id. at 654 (citing Prickett v. DeKalb County, 349 F.3d 1297 (11th Cir. 2003)). In so holding, the court noted both the language and the spirit of the statute demanded this construction:

Section 216(b) of the FLSA, which authorizes a plaintiff to sue his or her employer for overtime or wage law violations, authorizes “[a]n action to recover the liability prescribed” by the FLSA and provides that, by consenting in writing, or “opting in, ” an employee may become a plaintiff to “any such action.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (emphasis added). The statute does not say that an employee may become a plaintiff to any such “claim.” If Congress wished to parse out that plaintiffs needed to opt in to each FLSA claim, it would have replaced the word “action” with “claim” in § 216(b). It did not do so. Therefore, the plain language of the FLSA weighs in favor of finding that plaintiffs opt-in to a FLSA action, not just a FLSA claim. Ultimately, the FLSA is a remedial statute that “has been construed liberally to apply to the furthest reaches consistent with congressional direction.” Prickett, 349 F.3d at 1296. Construing the language of § 216(b) liberally in favor of the employees, this court follows Prickett and the many courts that have interpreted it to hold that once a FLSA action has been conditionally certified, opt-in plaintiffs become parties to the FLSA action as a whole.

Id. at 652, 654.

         Therefore, plaintiffs' consent to opt into the collective FLSA action against Waste Pro USA applies to the entirety of the collective FLSA action, not just to claims against that defendant. Thus, plaintiffs' consent forms are sufficient for their claims against Waste Pro S.C. and for their claims against Waste ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.