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The Ninth Circuit Raises FLSA Pleading Requirements for Plaintiffs

Posted by Eric Kingsley | Dec 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

FLSA Pleading Requirements

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The Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, establishes standards such as the national minimum wage rate, the 40-hour work week, and overtime pay equivalent to one and a half times an employee's regular rate of pay. Historically, the pleading requirements for FLSA claims have been relatively relaxed, and a plaintiff only needed to make bare allegations of statutory violations to advance to the discovery phase of litigation. However, with the large number of FLSA complaints filed over the past few years, many circuit courts are now considering whether bare allegations and conclusory references to the FLSA statutory protections are sufficient to meet the FLSA pleading requirements.

Landers v. Quality Communications, Inc. et al.

A recent decision from the Ninth Circuit in Landers v. Quality Communications, Inc. highlights this increase in pleading requirements, as referenced in two other well-known cases, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). On November 12, 2014, the Ninth Circuit decided Landers v. Quality Communications, Inc. et al. which involved claims for unpaid minimum wages and unpaid overtime. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court of Nevada's granting of Defendant Quality Communications, Inc.'s motion to dismiss Plaintiff Landers' complaint for failure to state a plausible claim for unpaid wages and overtime. In reaching its decision, the Ninth Circuit adopted the heightened pleading standard in Twombly, and Iqbal, holding that the complaint “must plausibly state a claim that [the employer] failed to pay minimum wages or overtime wages” and may not simply state conclusory allegations.

Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly

In Twombly, the U.S. Supreme Court held that, to satisfy the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must offer more than “labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” The complaint must have “further factual enhancement” to sufficiently state a claim that will entitle the pleader to relief under Rule 8.5

Ashcroft v. Iqbal

The Supreme Court's decision in Iqbal further held that a complaint must show that “a claim to relief is plausible on its face.” Accordingly, a complaint must plead some amount of facts to show that a claim for relief is not just possible but that it is plausible. In other words, a connection must be shown to exist between the complainant's rights under the statute and the alleged violation that entitles the complainant to the relief requested.

Applying the Twombly and Iqbal standard raises the previously minimal pleading standard in FLSA cases. The Ninth Circuit's application of this heightened pleading standard in the Landers' case was a matter of first impression for the circuit, as it had not had an opportunity since Twombly and Iqbal,to address “the degree of specificity required to state a claim for failure to pay minimum wages or overtime under the FLSA.” The court acknowledged that there is not a complete concurrence among the circuits that the heightened pleading standard should be applied to FLSA cases. However, the Ninth Circuit now appears to be in line with the First, Second and Third Circuit courts, which also apply the heightened pleading standard in Twombly and Iqbal to claims asserted under the FLSA.

Obtain Expert Legal Advice

Jurisdictions such as the the Ninth Circuit may now rely on the Landers decision to require clearer pleadings in FLSA complaints. As such, defendants must now examine complaints more closely for basic facts that not only just allege a statutory right and some possible wrongful conduct, but also connect the wrong to a right for relief.

If you are an employer with concerns about FLSA pleading requirements, or an employee who believes you have been unfairly treated in the workplace, an experienced employment lawyer may be able to help. If you have questions or concerns about your rights, contact the experienced employment lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley by calling us toll-free at (888) 500-8469 or by clicking here to contact us via email.

About the Author

Eric Kingsley

In practice since 1996, attorney and firm co-founder Eric B. Kingsley has litigated complex cases and authored numerous appellate briefs in both state and federal court on behalf of the California law firm of Kingsley & Kingsley, including over 150 class actions. Mr. Kingsley concentrates his pra...

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