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Chavez v. Besie's Corp.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

October 10, 2014

EVELYN CHAVEZ, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BESIE'S CORP., d/b/a DONA BESSY PUPUSERIA, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GEORGE J. HAZEL, District Judge.

This Memorandum Opinion addresses Defendant Besie's Corp.'s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law ("MWPCL") Claims, ECF NO.9, and accompanying Memorandum, ECF No. 10; Plaintiffs' Opposition, ECF No. 11; Defendant's Reply, ECF No. 12; and Defendant's Notice of Withdrawal of the First Section of Its Memorandum, ECF No. 16. After review of the filings, the Court finds a hearing is not necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the MWPCL claims is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs-Evelyn Chavez, Karla Lizama, Jerry Calderon Argueta, Dinora Melendez, Brenda Campos, and Angelica Aibizurez-filed a complaint in this Court on April 21, 2014.[1] The Complaint alleges that Defendant failed to pay each Plaintiff proper minimum wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") (29 U.S.C. § 201 el seq. ), the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law ("MWPCL") (Md. Code, Labor and Employment Article ("LE"), § 3-501 el seq. ), and the Maryland Wage and Hour Law ("MWHL") (Md. Code, LE § 3-401 el seq. ), and failed to pay each Plaintiff proper overtime wages in violation of the FLSA and the MWPCL. ECF NO.3. Defendant Besie's Corp. filed an Answer and the pending motion on May 22, 2014. ECF No. 8-10.

Accepting the facts that Plaintiffs allege in their Complaint as true, see Aziz v. Alcaac, 658 F.3d 388, 391 (4th Cir. 2011), Plaintiffs worked for Defendant at one of its three restaurants, located in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2. Defendant is an "employer" under the FLSA, MWPCL, and MWHL. Id. at ¶ 12. The following chart represents the total hours (with a separate column representing overtime hours) that each Plaintiff worked during the three years preceding this lawsuit, the minimum wages that each Plaintiff earned and should have been paid during the three years preceding this lawsuit, and the overtime wages that each Plaintiff earned and should have been paid during the three years preceding this lawsuit. Id. ¶ 5-8.

Plaintiff Total Hours Overtime Hours Minimum Overtime Wages Earned Wages Earned Melendez 2, 420 660 $17, 545.00 $2, 393.00 Albizurez 1, 440 680 $10, 440.00 $2, 465.00 Chavez 3, 075 507 $22, 294.00 $1, 838.00 Campos 4, 716 1, 890 $34, 191.00 $6, 851.00 Argueta 2, 400 400 $17, 400.00 $1, 450.00. Lizama 1, 440 160 $10, 440.00 $580.00

Defendant scheduled and authorized the above hours for each Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 6. Defendant paid some of the Plaintiffs a small amount of money during the course of the employment, but Plaintiffs believe that the amount did not collectively exceed $5, 000.00. Id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiffs did receive payment in the form of tips from customers. Id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiffs seek unpaid wages, liquidated damages, prejudgment interest, and reasonable attorney's fees and costs. Id. at ¶¶ 16-50.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint if the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To survive a motion to dismiss invoking 12(b)(6), "a 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) ( citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663. A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state "a plausible claim for relief, " as "(t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545 ("a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do.").

III. DISCUSSION

a. The Scope of Maryland's Wage and Payment Collection Law

Plaintiffs claim that Defendant failed to pay proper minimum wages in violation of federal law (the FLSA) and Maryland law (the MWHL and the MWPCL). The FLSA sets a minimum wage, requiring every employer to pay employees not less than $7.25 an hour. 29 U.S.C. § 206(a)(1)(C). The MWHL parallels the FLSA and sets a minimum wage for Maryland. Md. Code, LE § 3-413. The MWPCL requires an employer to set regular pay periods and pay each employee at least once every two weeks or twice a month. Md. Code, LE § 3-502(a)(1). Further, under the MWPCL, "[a]n employer may not make a deduction from the wage of an employee" accept under certain conditions. Md. Code, LE § 3-503. Additionally, § 3-505(a) of the MWPCL requires that the employer pay all wages due on or before the date of termination. Md. Code, LE § 3-505(a).

Defendant seeks to have Plaintiffs' MWPCL claims for minimum wages dismissed, arguing that Defendant could not have violated the MWPCL by failing to pay minimum wages because the MWPCL does not provide a general right to wages. ECF No. 10 at 5. Plaintiffs contend that, under recent Maryland Court of Appeals' precedent, the failure to pay wages is a violation of the MWPCL. ECF No. 11 at 3. Defendant acknowledges that, under Maryland case law, Plaintiffs may bring overtime claims under ...


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