United States District Court, D. Maryland
Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge.
are former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
detainees who were held at the Cibola County Correctional
Facility (“Cibola”) in New Mexico while awaiting
civil immigration proceedings. (Compl. ¶¶ 1-3, ECF
No. 1.) They bring this purported class action against
Defendant, CoreCivic Inc. (“CoreCivic”), who owns
and operates the detention facility where Plaintiffs were
held pursuant to an Intergovernmental Service Agreement
between ICE and Cibola County. (Id. at ¶ 19.)
Defendant operates a work program at Cibola where detainees
are permitted to voluntarily perform work duties in the
facility. (Id. at ¶ 26.) Plaintiffs
participated in this work program at Cibola. (Id.
¶¶ 34-54.) Plaintiffs filed a complaint in this
Court based on federal question, diversity, and supplemental
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§
1331, 1332, and 1367. (Id. at ¶¶
4-8.) Plaintiffs allege they were employees of CoreCivic
under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and
New Mexico Minimum Wage Act (“NMMWA”) and were
paid at a rate below that which is required by the FLSA and
NMMWA and that the Defendant was unjustly enriched by these
alleged violations. (Id. at ¶¶ 89-110)
Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) arguing that
Plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed as the
Plaintiffs were not “employees” under the FLSA
and NMMWA and, thus, not required to be paid minimum wage.
(Mot. Mem. 1, ECF No. 36-1.)
pending before this Court is Defendants’ Motion to
Dismiss (ECF No. 36) and Plaintiffs’ Motion for
Conditional Certification and Issuance of Notice (ECF No.
43). The parties’ submissions have been reviewed, and
no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.
Md. 2018). As discussed below, Plaintiffs cannot be
considered “employees” of the Defendant during
their detention. Therefore, this Court shall GRANT
Defendant’s dismissal motion, and Plaintiffs’
motion for certification shall be DENIED AS MOOT.
Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 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). Rule 12(b)(6) 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).
While a complaint need not include “detailed factual
allegations, ” it must set forth “enough factual
matter (taken as true) to suggest” a cognizable cause
of action. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555-56 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). 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); Hall v. DirectTV, LLC, 846 F.3d 757, 765
(4th Cir. 2017). However, a court is not required to accept
legal conclusions drawn from those facts. Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678.
Plaintiffs were not employees under the FLSA and NMMWA as
they were detainees being held in anticipation of civil
contend that they were entitled to be paid a minimum wage by
the Defendant for work program they engaged in while being
held as detainees at Cibola. Plaintiffs allege that they were
employees, as defined by the FLSA and NMMWA, and that, as
employees, Defendant was required to pay them the minimum
wage as set by the federal government and the State of New
Mexico. (Compl. at ¶¶ 34-54, ECF No. 1.) Defendant
argues that the Plaintiffs were not employees, as they were
detainees being held in custody pending civil immigration
proceedings and the economic reality of the detention could
not have given rise to an employment relationship as
contemplated by the FLSA and NMMWA. (Mot. Mem. 12, ECF 36-1.)
the FLSA and NMMWA require employers to compensate employees
for all hours worked at a rate that is not less than the
minimum wage. 29 U.S.C. § 206(a)(1); N.M. ST §
4-22. The FLSA and NMMWA only apply to
“employees.” 29 U.S.C. § 206(a)(1); N.M. ST
§ 4-22. The definition of employee in the FLSA and NMMWA
are similar. Garcia v. American Furniture Co., 689
P.2d 934, 937 (N.M. Ct. App. 1984) (noting that the
definition of “employ” was almost identical in
the New Mexico statute as in the FLSA). Courts generally look
to the “economic reality” of an
individual’s status in determining whether they are an
“employee.” Goldberg v. Whitaker House Coop.,
Inc., 366 U.S. 28, 33 (1961). The Fourth Circuit has
held that prisoners are not “employees” under the
FLSA. Harker v. State Use Industries, 990 F.2d 131,
133 (4th Cir. 1993). The Fifth Circuit has held that civil
immigration detainees, like prison inmates, are not
“employees” as contemplated by the FLSA.
Alvarado Guevara v. I.N.S., 902 F.2d 394, 396 (5th
case, Plaintiffs cannot be considered “employees”
as defined by the FLSA or NMMWA. CoreCivic, under the
Intergovernmental Service Agreement, was required to offer a
voluntary work program for ICE detainees at Cibola. (Def.
Mot. to Dismiss at 2 ECF No. 36-1.) Plaintiffs were
incarcerated detainees in this facility awaiting civil
immigration proceedings and engaged in work offered by the
Defendant on an entirely voluntary basis through this
program. (Compl. at ¶¶ 34-54 ECF No. 1.) The
economic reality of the Plaintiffs’ situation is almost
identical to a prison inmate and does not share commonality
with that of a traditional employer-employee relationship.
Accordingly, Plaintiffs were not “employees” of
the Defendant during their detention.
As Plaintiffs were not employees under the FLSA and NMMWA,
their claims against CoreCivic pursuant to these laws (Counts
I and II) must be dismissed.
order to bring a claim under the FLSA or NMMWA, Plaintiffs
must show that they are employees of the Defendant. 29 U.S.C.
§ 206(a)(1); N.M. ST § 4-22. In this case,
Plaintiffs, as detainees, were not employees of CoreCivic and
are not entitled to bring a claim against the Defendant under
the FLSA or the NMMWA. As a result, Plaintiffs’ claims
under the FLSA and NMMWA shall be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
As Defendant’s actions were lawful, Plaintiffs claim of
unjust enrichment (Count III) must be dismissed.
also allege that Defendant’s use of their labor
constitutes unjust enrichement in violation of New Mexico
law. (Compl. at ¶¶ 105-10 ECF No. 1.) To prevail in
an unjust enrichment claim “. . .one must show that:
(1) another has been knowingly benefitted at one’s
expense (2) in a manner such that allowance of the other to
retain the benefit ...