United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. Bredar Chief Judge.
Chad Wenzlick Pridgen brought this action against Defendant
Appen Butler Hill, Inc., in Maryland state court on October
20, 2017, and Defendant removed the case to this Court on
January 8, 2018. (See Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.)
Before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss Count
IV of Plaintiff's complaint. (Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 10.)
Plaintiff has responded in opposition (ECF No. 11) and
Defendant has replied (ECF No. 13). The motion is therefore
ripe for review. No hearing is necessary to resolve the
matter. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016).
Plaintiff may plead alternative and even conflicting claims
for relief, and therefore Defendant's motion to dismiss
Count IV of Plaintiff's complaint will be denied by
began working for Defendant as a Senior Auditor on August 8,
2010. (Compl. ¶ 10, ECF No. 2.) Plaintiff is homosexual,
and “shortly after learning” this fact, Defendant
began discriminating against him, largely in the form of
“refusing to pay him for all hours worked and . . . by
assigning him less and less work.” (Id. ¶
11.) More specifically, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant
wrongfully misclassified him as a subcontractor and therefore
did not pay him proper wages under the Fair Labor Standards
Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et
seq. (Id. ¶¶ 103-07.) Plaintiff also
alleged that Defendant did not pay him proper wages under
various Maryland state laws, that Defendant discriminated
against him under the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act,
Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 20-601 et
seq., and that Defendant fired him for engaging in
protected activity under the FLSA. (Id. ¶¶
76-90; 98-102.) Plaintiff also alleged that Defendant owes
him damages under Maryland common law, specifically under a
theory of quantum meruit; i.e., that
“Plaintiff conferred benefits upon defendant by working
regular and overtime hours on defendant's behalf [and]
Defendant had an appreciation or knowledge of [those]
benefits” but did not pay Plaintiff for his work.
(Id. ¶¶ 91-97.) At bottom, Plaintiff's
wage and hour claims relevant to this motion amount to this:
Plaintiff believes he has not been paid properly for the work
that he has done for Defendant.
brought this lawsuit against Defendant in the Circuit Court
for Baltimore County on October 20, 2017. (See
Notice of Removal ¶ 1.) Defendant removed the case to
this Court on January 8, 2018, asserting federal question
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as well as
diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
(Id. ¶¶ 5-7.) On February 16, 2018,
Defendant filed a motion to dismiss Count IV of the
Complaint. Count IV is Plaintiff's quantum
meruit claim, and Defendant contends that this claim is
preempted by federal law, or by a contract that, it contends,
exists between the parties. (See Mot. Dismiss Mem.
Supp., ECF No. 10-1.)
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 Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
The issues presented by the Defendant's motion are almost
entirely legal in nature, and, although the Court will accept
all of Plaintiff's factual allegations as true, this
principle does not apply to legal conclusions.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Court will deny Defendant's motion for a simple reason:
even subcontractors deserve to be paid for their work. To
explain why that principle settles this matter will take
slightly more time, but not much.
contends that Plaintiff cannot bring both a quantum
meruit claim under Maryland common law and a wage and
hour claim under the FLSA, because the FLSA preempts Maryland
law. Defendant is half right. The FLSA does, to an extent,
preempt state law. See Anderson v. Sara Lee Corp.,
508 F.3d 181, 194 (4th Cir. 2007). Generally speaking,
“there is a strong presumption that Congress, in
enacting the FLSA for the benefit of workers, did
not intend to override the States' traditional
role in protecting the health and safety of their citizens,
” and the FLSA “contains a ‘savings
clause' that expressly allows states to provide workers
with more beneficial minimum wages and maximum workweeks than
those mandated by the FLSA itself.” Id. at 193
(emphasis added) (quoting S. Blasting Servs., Inc. v.
Wilkes Cty., NC, 288 F.3d 584, 590 (4th Cir. 2002));
see 29 U.S.C. § 218(a). But, Congress created
in the FLSA an “unusually elaborate enforcement scheme,
” and a plaintiff cannot short-circuit that scheme by
way of utilizing state common law remedies for FLSA
violations. Id. at 192 (quoting Kendall v. City
of Chesapeake, 174 F.3d 437, 443 (4th Cir. 1999)). For
example, a plaintiff cannot allege that his employer
“negligently” failed to provide proper overtime
(i.e., overtime that is properly due the plaintiff under the
FLSA) and thus recover under a theory of negligence for what
is at heart a violation of the FLSA. To do so would create a
state law obstacle to the enforcement goals of the FLSA.
See Id. at 194 (“Because the FLSA's
enforcement scheme is an exclusive one, we further conclude
that the Class Members' FLSA-based contract, negligence,
and fraud claims are precluded under a theory of obstacle
preemption.”); accord Bouthner v. Cleveland Const.
Inc., Civ. No. RDB-11-244, 2011 WL 2976868, at *7 (D.
Md. July 21, 2011).
has alleged that he is owed money under the FLSA, because he
was an “employee” of the Defendant, but was
improperly classified as a “sub-contractor, ” who
was not entitled to overtime. This claim-that Plaintiff is
owed overtime under the FLSA because he was improperly
classified-is an FLSA claim, regardless of what label one
attaches to it. Such a claim must be brought under the
FLSA's enforcement scheme, and would preempt any state
common law claim based on the same FLSA violation.
Plaintiff may plead alternative, and even inconsistent,
claims for relief. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(d).
Plaintiff has done so. In addition to alleging that Defendant
violated the FLSA (and Maryland state law) by misclassifying
him as a subcontractor, Plaintiff has also alleged
that Defendant failed to pay him for benefits conferred under
a theory of quantum meruit. These may be
inconsistent claims, at least insofar as they seek to recover
damages for the same hours worked. A plaintiff who should
have been classified as an employee under the FLSA cannot
recover time-and-a-half overtime wages owed under the FLSA
under a theory of quantum meruit. But if the
plaintiff was properly classified as a
sub-contractor, and never paid “overtime, ” i.e.,
never paid anything for work done beyond a certain
amount of time, then, although that plaintiff cannot recover
under the FLSA, he may be able to recover under a theory of
quantum meruit. Plaintiff here has alleged these two
alternative theories of relief. See Sosnowy v. A. Perri
Farms, Inc., 764 F.Supp.2d 457, 463 (E.D.N.Y. 2011)
(noting that “[d]efendants do not cite any cases in
support of the notion that duplicative state common law
claims and Labor Law claims cannot proceed as alternative
legal theories.”). Either he was an employee, who
should be paid overtime under the FLSA, or he was a
sub-contractor, who should have been paid for the work that
he performed. In other words, even if Plaintiff was a
subcontractor, he still deserves to be paid for the work that
he has done, if any, and thus the Court will not dismiss
Plaintiff's Count IV, and will instead deny
further argues that Count IV must be dismissed because of a
purported contract between the parties. Defendant's
argument here fails for the same reason that Count IV will
not be dismissed despite the alternative possibility of
relief under the FLSA. Plaintiff cannot recover under the
FLSA, as well as a common law claim of quantum
meruit. And he cannot recover under a common law claim
of quantum meruit if “the subject matter of
the claim is covered by an express contract between the
parties.” FLF, Inc. v. World Publ'ns, 999
F.Supp. 640, 642 (D. Md. 1998). But, Plaintiff can
plead alternative theories of recovery, and they
will not be dismissed at this early stage. See Roble v.
Celestica Corp., Civ. No. 06-2934 (JRT/FLN), 2006 WL
3858396, at *3 (D. Minn. Dec. 29, 2006) (“While
additional discovery may reveal that plaintiffs' common
law claims are in fact duplicative of the statutory claims,
the Court cannot conclude at this stage of the proceedings
that the underlying common law claims are preempted by the
FLSA.”). Perhaps Plaintiff is owed overtime under the
FLSA (or Maryland state laws), perhaps he is owed overtime
under a theory of quantum meruit, perhaps (even
though Plaintiff has not brought this claim) Plaintiff is
owed for unpaid work under a breach of contract theory.
See Swedish Civil Aviation Admin v. Project Mgmt.
Enters., 190 F.Supp.2d 785, 792 (D. Md. 2002)
(“[A]lthough [plaintiff] may not recover under both
contract and quasi-contract theories, it is not barred from
pleading these theories in the alternative where the
existence of a contract concerning the subject matter is in
dispute.”). Or, perhaps Plaintiff was properly paid for
any work he performed and is owed nothing. Only time-and
perhaps motions practice, discovery, and trial-will tell.