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Mo-Kan Iron Workers Pension Fund v. Acme Erectors, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

November 21, 2016

MO-KAN IRON WORKERS PENSION FUND, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ACME ERECTORS, INC. and HCH CONSTRUCTION, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER

          FERNANDO J. GAITAN, JR. United States District Judge.

         Pending before the Court are (1) Defendant Acme Erectors, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 16) and (2) Defendant HCH Construction, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 18). Defendant HCH Construction has not set forth grounds for relief independent of Acme Erectors - instead, HCH Construction has incorporated Acme Erectors' motion, suggestions in support, and reply suggestions. Therefore, the Court only considers Acme Erectors' arguments below.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs filed their complaint against Acme Erectors, Inc. and HCH Construction, Inc. on July 13, 2016. After defendants filed motions to dismiss, plaintiff filed an amended complaint on August 24, 2016. Defendants again filed the currently-pending motions to dismiss. Defendant Acme Erectors, Inc. has signed a collective bargaining agreement with plaintiffs. Defendant HCH Construction has not signed a collective bargaining agreement with plaintiffs; however, plaintiffs assert that HCH Construction has the same owners and employs the same individuals as Acme Erectors, among other things. Plaintiffs therefore seek to bind HCH Construction to the collective bargaining agreement signed by Acme Erectors.

         The amended complaint sets forth two claims against defendants: that the two companies should be treated as a single employer under federal law, or that the two companies are alter egos of each other under federal law. Defendants assert that plaintiff has failed to plead sufficient facts as to both of these claims.

         II. Standard

         When ruling a motion to dismiss, the court must accept plaintiff's factual allegations as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Patterson Oil Co. v. VeriFone, Inc., No. 2:15-cv-4089, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141635, at *9 (W.D. Mo. Oct. 19, 2015) (citing Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008)). A pleading 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). “The pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, (2007)). In order for a claim to survive a motion to dismiss, ‘a 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, 677-678 (2009). A plaintiff must plead facts which support the prima facie elements of the claims asserted in order to avoid dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6). Parker v. Dir. of Mental Health, No. 04-0599, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33515, *6 (W.D. Mo. Apr. 20, 2005).

         III. Discussion

         A. Single Employer Liability

         Defendants argue that plaintiffs have not pled facts showing that a “single employer” relationship exists between them; instead, defendants argue that plaintiffs offer mere conclusions.

Under the single employer doctrine, two or more related enterprises are treated “as a single employer for purposes of holding the enterprises jointly to a single bargaining obligation or for the purpose of considering liability for any unfair labor practices.” Kansas City S. Transp. Co., Inc. v. Teamsters Local Union #41, 126 F.3d 1059, 1062 (8th Cir. 1997) (citing Iowa Exp. Distribution, Inc. v. N.L.R.B., 739 F.2d 1305, 1310 (8th Cir. 1984)). The Eighth Circuit has adopted a four-part test to determine whether two corporate entities should be viewed as a single employer of the plaintiff under the LMRA. Pulitzer Pub. Co. v. N.L.R.B., 618 F.2d 1275, 1278-1279 (8th Cir. 1980). See also Radio & Television Broad. Technicians Local Union 1264 v. Broad. Serv. of Mobile, Inc., 380 U.S. 255, 256 (1965); Russom v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 415 F.Supp. 792, 796-797 (E.D. Mo. 1976), affd sub nom. 558 F.2d 439 (8th Cir. 1977). These factors include: 1. Interrelation of operations, 2. Centralized control of labor relations, 3. Common management, and 4. Common ownership or financial control. Radio & Television Broad. Technicians Local Union 1264 v. Broad. Serv. of Mobile, Inc., 380 U.S. at 256. “No one of these factors is controlling nor need all criteria be present; single employer status is a factual question that ultimately depends upon all the circumstances of the individual case.” Id.

Int'l Ass'n of Bridge v. Acme Erectors, Inc., No. 16-0488-CV-W-REL, 2016 WL 6089748, at *4-5 (W.D. Mo. Oct. 17, 2016).

         In their amended complaint, plaintiffs allege that defendants are a single employer in that:

(a) Defendants Acme Erectors, Inc. and HCH Construction, Inc. share common ownership in that the owners of both Defendants have a family relationship and reside at the same residence and the owners and corporate officers of Acme Erectors and HCH Construction are married to one another; (b) HCH Construction, Inc. and Acme Erectors, Inc. share common management; (c) Defendant HCH Construction, Inc. and Defendant Acme Erectors, Inc. share tools and equipment; (d) upon information and belief Defendant HCH Construction, Inc. and Defendant Acme Erectors, Inc. share employees; (e) Defendant HCH Construction, Inc. and Defendant Acme Erectors, Inc. currently share the same or have shared the same principal place of business and/or share the same plant and/or business offices; (f) upon information and belief Defendant HCH Construction, Inc. and Defendant Acme Erectors, Inc. share customers; (g) upon information and belief Defendants share centralized control of labor operations in that the Acme Erectors, Inc. controls and directs HCH Construction, Inc.; (h) as a result of common ownership, HCH Construction, Inc. is aware of Acme Erectors, Inc's obligations to the Plaintiff Funds; (i) the Defendants share ...

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