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Taylor v. PP&G, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 2, 2014

TANAE TAYLOR
v.
PP&G, INC., et al.

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM M. NICKERSON, Sr., District Judge.

Pending before the Court are a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim or for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Lisa Ireland, ECF No. 4, and a Motion to Dismiss Defendant PP&G, Inc.'s counterclaims for lack of jurisdiction filed by Plaintiff Tanae Taylor, ECF No. 8. For the reasons stated herein, the Court determines that no hearing is necessary, Local Rule 105.6, Lisa Ireland's Motion to Dismiss will be denied, and Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss will be denied.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Tanae Taylor ("Taylor") worked as an exotic dancer at Norma Jean's Nite Club from approximately December 2010 through December 2013. Norma Jean's Nite Club is owned and operated by Defendant PP&G, Inc. ("PP&G"), which in turn is owned by Defendant Lisa Ireland ("Ireland"). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants improperly classified her as an independent contractor, rather than an employee, and thus failed to pay her a minimum hourly wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. ("FLSA"). Additionally, Plaintiff contends that she worked in excess of 40 hours per week without receiving overtime compensation.

Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendants, alleging the following two counts: (I) Violation of Federal Fair Labor Standards Act - Minimum Wage; and (II) Violation of Federal Fair Labor Standards Act - Overtime. Defendant PP&G filed a counterclaim, alleging that it had entered into a "contractual relationship" with Plaintiff under which she "agreed to provide entertainment services... solely as an independent contractor[], " agreed in consideration to permit Plaintiff to dance at Norma Jean's and accept gratuities from customers, and "reasonably relied on in good faith, and to their own detriment, the representations and the promises of... [Plaintiff's], to provide entertainment services as an independent contractor[]." ECF No. 3 ¶¶ 33-36. Based on those allegations, PP&G asserts claims for breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

Defendant Lisa Ireland filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that she is not an employer within the meaning of the FLSA. Plaintiff filed a Motion to Dismiss Defendant PP&G's Counterclaim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), arguing that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over PP&G's counterclaims.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

Generally, in considering the sufficiency of a complaint to survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court considers first whether the complaint contains "factual allegations in addition to legal conclusions." Robertson v. Sea Pines Real Estate Cos. , 679 F.3d 278, 288 (4th Cir. 2012). Specifically, a complaint must contain "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, " without "further factual enhancement, " is not enough. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007). Secondly, the complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570). In order to state a plausible claim for relief, the factual allegations must "be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true." Robertson , 679 F.3d at 288 (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555).

Although a Court is limited to the allegations in a Complaint in ruling on a motion to dismiss, if matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the Court, it may treat the motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). The purpose of summary judgment is to dismiss claims and defenses that lack evidentiary support. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Accordingly, the Court will grant a motion for summary judgment if "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, all facts and inferences will be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co. , 80 F.3d 954, 958 (4th Cir. 1996).

In ruling on a motion to dismiss a counterclaim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), the burden rests on the defendant/counterplaintiff to establish jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Adams v. Bain , 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). Where the factual basis for subject matter jurisdiction is challenged, "the district court should apply the standard applicable to a motion for summary judgment, under which the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts beyond the pleadings to show that a genuine dispute of material fact exists." Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States , 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991) (citing Trentacosta v. Frontier Pacific Aircraft Indus. , 813 F.2d 1553, 1558 (9th Cir. 1987)).

II. ANALYSIS

A. Ireland's Motion to Dismiss

Defendant Ireland seeks dismissal of the Complaint in its entirety, or, in the alternative, summary judgment in her favor. She asserts that, because she does not control day to day operations at Norma Jean's and does not play a role in hiring or firing employees, [1] she is not an "employer" as that term is defined in the FLSA.

The FLSA defines an employer, in relevant part, as "any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee...." 29 U.S.C. § 203(d). The definition of "employer" is "very broadly cast, " and, as a result, courts have "found an employment relationship for purposes of the Act far more readily than would be dictated by ...


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