United States District Court, D. Maryland
THEODORE D. CHUANG United States District judge.
December 23, 2015, Plaintiff Maria Antonieta Vale Avila
("Vale") filed a Complaint against Defendants
Barbara McDonald, who is self-represented, and Caring Hearts
& Hands Assisted Living & Elder Care, LLC
("Caring Hearts"). Vale alleges that she worked
approximately 84 hours per week at Caring Hearts but was not
appropriately compensated under the overtime pay requirements
of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 ("FLSA"),
29 U.S.C. §§ 201-19 (2012), the Maryland Wage and
Hour Law ("MWHL"), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl.
99 3-401-31 (West 2016), and the Maryland Wage Payment and
Collection Law ("MWPCL"), Md. Code Ann., Lab. &
Empl. 99 3-501-09 (West 2016). Presently pending before the
Court is McDonald's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed on
February 22, 2016. The Motion is ready for disposition, and a
hearing is unnecessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6.
For the following reasons, the Motion for Summary Judgment,
construed as a motion to dismiss, is DENIED.
following facts are alleged in the Complaint. Vale was
employed as a "helper" by McDonald and Caring
Hearts between June 1, 2009 and November 23, 2015. Compl.
¶17. McDonald and Caring Hearts are a single enterprise
with an annual gross volume of business in an amount
exceeding $500, 000. McDonald controlled the day-to-day
operations of Caring Hearts. She had the power to hire, fire,
suspend, and discipline Vale; supervised Vale; directly or
indirectly set and controlled Vale's work schedule or had
the power to do so; and directly or indirectly set and
determined the rate and method of Vale's payor had the
power to do so.
her employment period, Vale worked approximately 84 hours per
week and was paid, at various times, at weekly rates of $600
or $700 per week. When Vale worked over 40 hours per week,
she was not compensated at 1.5 times her regular hourly rate
for those overtime hours. All told, Vale claims that she is
owed $51, 818.40 in unpaid minimum and overtime wages. She
claims $103, 636.80 in damages for violations of the FLSA,
$155, 455.20 for violations of the MWPCL, and $51, 818.40 for
violations of the MWHL.
asserts that Vale's Complaint should be dismissed on
several grounds. First, she asserts generally that she may
not be sued in her individual capacity because she is
insulated from liability by the corporate veil. Second, she
asserts that Vale's FLSA claim should be dismissed
because none of Caring Hearts' employees is engaged in
interstate commerce. Third, McDonald asserts that Vale's
MWHL claim should be dismissed because her allegations are
untrue and that her MWPCL claim should be dismissed because
she may not recover overtime wages under that law. Each of
McDonald's arguments will be addressed in turn.
Motion on Behalf of Caring Hearts
preliminary matter, the Court construes the Motion, submitted
under McDonald's signature, as filed on behalf of
McDonald alone, not on behalf of Caring Hearts. In the
Motion, McDonald states that she is the owner and operator of
Caring Hearts. However, Caring Hearts, as a limited liability
company, may appear in court only through a licensed
attorney. See United States v. Lavabit,
LLC, 749 F.3d 276, 290 n.17 (4th Cir. 2014) (citing
Rowland v. Cal. Men's Colony, Unit II Men's
Advisory Council, 506 U.S. 194, 202 (1993)) (holding
that artificial entities may not proceed without counsel).
Because McDonald is not a licensed attorney, she may not file
a Motion on behalf of Caring Hearts. See id; United
States v. Hagerman, 545 F.3d 579 581-82 (7th
Cir. 2008) (holding that an LLC must be represented by
counsel because "the right to conduct business in a form
that confers privileges, such as the limited personal
liability of the owners for tort or contract claims against
the business, carries with it obligations one of which is to
hire a lawyer if you want to sue or defend on behalf of the
March 1, 2016, the Clerk issued an Order of Default against
Caring Hearts pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55
because Caring Hearts has filed neither an Answer nor a Rule
12 motion through counsel. Caring Hearts remains in default.
has captioned her filing as a "Motion for Summary
Judgment" and invokes Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1), 12(b)(6), and 56. The Court, however, construes the
Motion as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12. Rules 12(b)(1)
and 12(b)(6) govern motions to dismiss, not motions for
summary judgment. McDonald's Memorandum of Point and
Authorities in support of the Motion provides only the legal
standard for a motion to dismiss. Moreover, there is no
record upon which McDonald can assert a lack of a genuine
issue of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(c)(1)(A). McDonald has attached two exhibits to her
Motion: (1) a letter from Yale's counsel alleging FLSA,
MWHL, and MWPCL violations and making a settlement proposal,
and (2) a responsive letter from McDonald disclaiming
liability and declining the settlement offer. McDonald cites
these letters as evidence that Yale attempted "to
shakedown Defendants for money that she is not entitled to,
" Def.'s Mem. Point Authorities in Supp. Def's
Mot. Summ. J. ("Def.'s Mem.") at 2, not to
establish the lack of any genuine dispute of material fact.
Finally, as a self-represented litigant, McDonald may not be
aware that motions for summary judgment are generally filed
after the close of discovery and are appropriate only when
the evidence reveals that "there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Here,
discovery will not begin until the Court issues a scheduling
order, so it is premature to assess whether there are
material factual disputes between the parties, such as
whether Yale was appropriately paid overtime or minimum
wages. For these reasons, the Court construes the Motion as a
Rule 12 motion to dismiss.
the Court construes the Motion as a motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Although
McDonald also references Rule 12(b)(1), she does not provide
any argument that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction
Indeed, because Yale brings her claim under the FLSA, the
Court clearly has federal question subject matter
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Because
Yale's MWHL and MWPCL claims form part of the same case
or controversy as her FLSA claim, the Court also has subject
matter jurisdiction over these state law claims pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1367. Therefore, the Court construes
McDonald's Motion as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.
defeat a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the complaint
must allege enough facts to state a plausible claim for
relief. Ashcroft v.Iqbal,556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). A claim is plausible when the facts pleaded allow
"the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Id. Although courts should construe pleadings of
self-represented litigants liberally, Erickson v.Pardus,551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), legal conclusions or
conclusory statements do not suffice, Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678. The Court must examine the complaint as a whole,
consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true,
and construe the factual allegations in the ...