United States District Court, D. Maryland
Richard D. Bennett, United States District Judge
Elizabeth Carollo, Russell Sutton, and Michael William
Johnson (“Plaintiffs”) have filed this action
against defendants Federal Debt Assistance Association, LLC
(“FDAA”), Vincent Piccione, David Piccione,
Robert Pantoulis, Nicholas Pantoulis, and Anne Marie Diaz
(collectively, “Defendants”). In Count I,
Plaintiffs allege that all defendants failed to pay wages in
violation the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law
(“MWPCL”), Md. Code, Lab. & Empl., §§
3-501 et seq. In Count II, Plaintiffs allege that
all Defendants failed to pay wages in violation of the Fair
Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C.
§§ 201 et seq. In Count III, Plaintiffs
allege that Defendant FDAA breached contracts with Plaintiffs
by refusing in bad faith to pay wages to Plaintiffs. In Count
IV, Plaintiff Johnson alleges that Defendant David Piccione
assaulted him in relation to the ongoing wage dispute. In
Count V, Plaintiff Johnson alleges that Defendant David
Piccione also battered him.
about March 30, 2017, Plaintiffs filed the original Complaint
in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Maryland. On May
3, 2017, Defendant FDAA removed the case to this Court
pursuant to federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1331 and 1441. On May 10, 2017, Defendants FDAA,
Robert Pantoulis, and Vincent Piccione filed Motions to
Dismiss. (ECF Nos. 6, 7.) On May 11, 2017, Defendants Anne
Marie Diaz, Nicholas Pantoulis, and David Piccione also filed
a Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 10.) After Plaintiffs filed an
Amended Complaint on May 24, 2017 (ECF No. 12), Defendants
filed Motions to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint
(ECF Nos. 14-16). Pending before this Court are the initial
Motions to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 6, 7, 10) along with the Motions
to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint (ECF Nos.
14-16). The individual Defendants assert that the
Amended Complaint fails to show that they are
“employer[s]” subject to suit under either the
MWPCL or FLSA, and all Motions to Dismiss taken together
challenge the factual sufficiency of each count in the
parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is
necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For
the reasons stated below, the initial Motions to Dismiss (ECF
Nos. 6, 7, 10) are DENIED as MOOT. The Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint by Anne Marie Diaz,
Nicholas Pantoulis, and David Piccione (ECF No. 14) is
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Specifically, it is
GRANTED as to all counts against Anne Marie Diaz and Nicholas
Pantoulis, and it is DENIED as to all counts against David
Piccione. The FDAA's second Motion to Dismiss (ECF No.
15) is DENIED. The Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended
Complaint by Robert Pantoulis and Vincent Piccione (ECF No.
16) is DENIED. Accordingly, the case shall proceed as to
Defendants Federal Debt Assistance Association, LCC
(“FDAA”), Vincent Piccione, David Piccione, and
ruling on a motion to dismiss, this Court “accept[s] as
true all well-pleaded facts in [the] [C]omplaint and
construe[s] them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Wikimedia Found. v. Nat'l Sec.
Agency, 857 F.3d 193, 208 (4th Cir. 2017). The
Plaintiffs in this case worked as salespersons for FDAA in
Baltimore. (Am. Compl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 12.) Pursuant to
their compensation agreements, Plaintiffs were to be paid
“a base salary of $1[, ]250.00 plus 5% or 10%
commissions for customers for which they sold services
(depending if they were a floor ‘leader' that
month), and ‘residuals' for additional payments
made by customers brought in by them.” (Id.
¶ 16.) Defendants have allegedly failed to pay Plaintiff
Carollo at least $12, 233.00 for “work performed and
completed” during January and February 2017.
(Id. ¶ 17.) Defendants have allegedly failed to
pay Plaintiff Sutton at least $16, 810.00 for “work
performed and completed” during December 2016 and
January 2017. (Id. ¶ 18.) Defendants have also
allegedly failed to pay plaintiff Johnson at least $15,
000.00 for “work performed and completed” during
November 2016, December 2016, and January 2017. (Id.
the five individual Defendants, Vincent Piccione, David
Piccione, Robert Pantoulis, and Nicholas Pantoulis, are
“owners and operators of FDAA.” (Id.
¶ 2.) Three of the four “owners and operators,
” Vincent Piccione, David Piccione, and Robert
Pantoulis, “worked at FDAA on a daily basis and
authorized the payment of wages” during the time of
Plaintiffs' employment. (Id.) These three
Defendants had the power to hire, fire, or discipline the
Plaintiffs; “set the rate and method of
compensation”; manage the Plaintiffs' work duties
and schedules; and “maintain or cause to be
maintained all employment records relating to
Plaintiffs.” Id. More specifically, Defendant
David Piccione “was the owner with primary
responsibility in determining payroll.” (Id.
¶ 3.) When Plaintiff Sutton complained about unpaid
wages, Defendants David Piccione and Vincent Piccione told
Sutton they would not pay him “anything.”
(Id. ¶ 4.) David Piccione added that FDAA was
not paying because Sutton allegedly “relapsed.”
Id. Defendants David Piccione and Vincent Piccione
also refused to pay Plaintiff Carollo's unpaid wages.
(Id. ¶ 6.) Vincent Piccione subsequently sent
Carollo “a text threatening to pursue a theft charge
against her if she pursued a wage claim.”
(Id.) Defendant Robert Pantoulis “signed
[p]laintiffs' paychecks.” (Id. ¶ 3.)
When Plaintiff Carollo asked Robert Pantoulis about her
wages, Robert Pantoulis said, “my name is at the bottom
of the check and I can decide whether to pay you or
not.” (Id. ¶ 5.)
Nicholas Pantoulis told plaintiff Carollo on three occasions
that he would make sure that she was paid her wages by
February 28, 2017, but he did not respond to Carollo when she
tried to contact him a fourth time on the matter.
(Id. ¶ 6.)
Diaz is the CFO of FDAA whose duties include in part the
calculation and payment of wages. (Id. ¶ 7.)
Diaz refused to pay the unpaid wages when requested by the
around March 15, 2017, Plaintiff Johnson went to the FDAA
offices to get his paycheck because the defendants had not
returned his phone calls regarding unpaid wages.
(Id. ¶ 21.) “Defendant David Piccione
said that Defendants were not going to pay Johnson because
Johnson was part of a lawsuit, which he was not at the time.
When Johnson turned to leave, Defendant David Piccione became
angry because he believed that Johnson was being verbally
disrespectful to him.” (Id.) Defendant David
Piccione then tackled Johnson to the ground.
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).
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).
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 Semenova v. Maryland Transit
Admin., 845 F.3d 564, 567 (4th Cir. 2017); 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 (stating that