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Brown v. Rapid Response Delivery, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 28, 2016

SPENCER BROWN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
RAPID RESPONSE DELIVERY, INC. et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs Spencer Brown, Zaire Acquaah, Lijalem Uregeha, Albert Sims, and Vincent Emmare (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) bring this putative collective action pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. (“FLSA”), the Maryland Wage and Hour Law, Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl., § 3-401, et seq. (“MWHL”), and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law, Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl., § 3-501, et seq. (“MWPCL”) seeking to recover unpaid wages, statutory damages, and related relief. (ECF No. 17.)

         Currently pending before this Court are (1) Defendants' Motions to Dismiss Count VII of Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint in which Plaintiff Brown alleges abusive discharge (“Defendants' Motions”) (ECF Nos. 22, 37), [1] and (2) Plaintiffs' Motion to Dismiss Rapid Response Delivery, Inc.'s Counterclaim (“Plaintiffs' Motion”) (ECF No. 40).[2] The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss Count VII in which Plaintiff Brown alleges abusive discharge (ECF Nos. 22, 37) are GRANTED, and Plaintiffs' Motion to Dismiss Defendant's Counterclaim (ECF No. 40) is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant Rapid Response Delivery, Inc. (“RRD”) operates a delivery service located in Savage, Maryland and employs courier drivers to make deliveries in Maryland and surrounding states. (ECF No. 17 at ¶ 21.) Plaintiffs work (or worked) as drivers for RRD and were assigned to drive exclusively for NAPA Auto Parts of Hunt Valley, LLC (“NAPA”) and Timonium Auto Parts, Inc. (“TAP”), two of RRD's clients. (Id. at ¶ 22.) Plaintiffs performed this work at varying times since April 15, 2013.[3] (Id. at ¶ 23.)

         Plaintiffs allege that RRD compensated Plaintiffs “a set amount for each delivery completed dependent on the mileage of the delivery, ” and no other compensation. (ECF No. 17 at ¶ 25.) NAPA and TAP schedule Plaintiffs to perform the delivery work from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from Monday through Friday, plus at least one 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday shift per month. (Id. at ¶ 26.) Thus, while Plaintiffs “regularly work more than 40 hours per week, ” defendants allegedly do not pay Plaintiffs additional compensation for overtime work and do not pay Plaintiffs the minimum wage for every hour of work performed. (Id. at ¶¶ 33-34.)

         In addition, plaintiff Spencer Brown alleges two individual claims: first, for retaliation under the FLSA; second, for abusive discharge in violation of the public policy of the State of Maryland. (ECF No. 17 at ¶¶ 89-103.) These claims are unique to Mr. Brown and separate from the putative class claims. Through these causes of action, Mr. Brown seeks to hold defendants liable for taking retaliatory, adverse actions against him based on his filing of the instant lawsuit-a protected activity under the FLSA and MWHL. (Id.)

         Finally, RRD has filed a counterclaim for breach of contract against Plaintiffs. (ECF No. 34 at 14-18.) RRD alleges that each of the named Plaintiffs entered into a valid contract with RRD, the “Independent Contractor Agreement” (“ICA”), to perform messenger delivery services for RRD. (Counterclaim, ECF No. 34 at ¶ 3.) The ICA purports to define the legal relationship between RRD and each plaintiff as one “of service recipient and independent contractor.” (Id. at ¶ 4.) RRD asserts that Plaintiffs' lawsuit against RRD is “in direct contravention to the express terms of the” ICA and seeks indemnification for costs and attorney's fees incurred defending against plaintiffs' claims. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-14.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is “to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006); see also Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th Cir. 2016). The sufficiency of a complaint is assessed by reference to the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(2), which provides that 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).

         To survive a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain facts sufficient to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl., Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009). Under the plausibility standard, a complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2013).

         In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court “‘must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint'” and must “‘draw all reasonable inferences [from those facts] in favor of the plaintiff.'” E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); see Houck v. Substitute Tr. Servs., Inc., 791 F.3d 473, 484 (4th Cir. 2015). While a court must accept as true all the factual allegations contained in the complaint, legal conclusions drawn from those facts are not afforded such deference. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to plead a claim); see A Society Without a Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th. Cir. 2011).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Defendants' Motions to Dismiss Count VII of ...


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