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Drake v. Steak N Shake Operations, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 17, 2015

SANDRA DRAKE and RANDY SMITH, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
STEAK N SHAKE OPERATIONS, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOHN A. ROSS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Steak N Shake Operations, Inc.'s ("SNS" or "Defendant") Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint or, Alternatively, to Strike the Collective Allegations in Count III (Doc. 8). The Motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion will be DENIED.

I. Motion to Dismiss Standard of Review

In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must view the allegations in the Complaint liberally in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing Luney v. SGS Auto Servs., 432 F.3d 866, 867 (8th Cir. 2005)). Additionally, the Court "must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036, 1039 (8th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Huang v. Gateway Hotel Holdings, 520 F.Supp.2d 1137, 1140 (E.D. Mo. 2007).

II. Background

This is an action for unpaid overtime pay brought by Plaintiffs Sandra Drake ("Drake") and Randy Smith ("Smith") (collectively "Plaintiffs"), on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219 (Count I), and the Missouri Minimum Wage Law ("MMWL"), MO. REV. STAT. §§ 290.500-530 (Count II). Plaintiffs allege they were employed by SNS as Managers (Doc. 1 at ¶¶21, 22) and they routinely worked in excess of forty (40) hours per workweek without receiving overtime compensation for their overtime hours worked (Id. at ¶34). Plaintiffs also allege that SNS is engaged in interstate commerce by operating retail restaurants throughout the country (Id. at ¶8). Plaintiffs further allege that SNS misclassified Managers as exempt (Id. at ¶42).

Drake, on behalf of herself and other current and former female SNS Managers, and those similarly situated holding comparable positions with different titles, also brings a claim under the Equal Pay Act ("EPA"), 29 U.S.C. § 206(d), et seq. (Count III). Drake alleges that when Smith was hired as a Manager, he was paid a starting salary of $35, 000 per year, while, at that time, she was being paid a salary of approximately $33, 000 although she had been working for SNS as a Manager for close to five years (Doc. 1 at ¶23).

Defendant now moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Alternatively, Defendant asserts that the collective allegations in Count III should be struck pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f).

III. Analysis

A. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

1. FLSA and MMLW (Counts I and II)

Defendant first asserts that Counts I and II should be dismissed because Plaintiffs have failed to allege any facts in support of their allegation that Plaintiffs were not properly classified as exempt. Plaintiffs respond that they have properly alleged an FLSA violation by setting forth the prima facie elements for an FLSA claim - that they were employed by the defendant, that the work involved interstate activity, and that they performed work for which they were undercompensated. Plaintiffs further assert that whether an employee is subject to an FLSA overtime exemption is not an element of the Plaintiffs' prima facie claim but, instead, is an affirmative defense of which Defendant bears the burden of proof.

The FLSA requires employers to pay employees "a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed" for all hours worked in excess of forty hours per week. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). The Missouri Minimum Wage Law ("MMWL"), MO. STAT. ANN. § 290.505, similarly provides that "[n]o employer shall employ any of his employees for a workweek longer than forty hours unless such employee receives compensation for his employment in excess of the hours above specified at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed." Therefore, to assert a claim under either the FLSA or the MMWL, a plaintiff must allege "(1) he was employed by defendant; (2) the work involved interstate activity; and (3) plaintiff performed work for which he was under-compensated." Williams v. Cent. Transp. Int'l, Inc., No. 4:13-CV-2009 CEJ, 2014 WL 1344513, at *3 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 4, 2014). Thereafter, employers relying on an exemption to avoid the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the FLSA bear the burden of proof that an exemption applies. Fast v. Applebee's Intern., Inc., 638 F.3d 872, 882 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, 417 U.S. 188, 196-97 (1974)).

The Court finds that Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged violations of the FLSA and the MMWL to survive a motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs allege that they were employed by SNS as Managers, that Managers were misclassified as exempt, that the work involved interstate activity, and that they were undercompensated because they were not paid overtime compensation for their work in excess of forty (40) hours a week. Although Plaintiffs have not provided any facts in support of their allegation that they were misclassified as exempt, a "[p]laintiff is not obligated to plead facts showing that he is not exempt." McCullough v. Lennar Corp., No. 09CV1808-WQH-NLS, 2009 WL 3805305, at *6 (S.D. Cal. Nov. 10, 2009). See also Stratton v. Farmers Produce Co., 134 F.2d 825, 827 (8th ...


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