Blount v. U.S. Sec. Assocs., Civil Action No. 12-809 (JDB)

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtJOHN D. BATES
PartiesANGELA BLOUNT, et al., for themselves and those similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. U.S. SECURITY ASSOCIATES, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 12-809 (JDB)
Decision Date18 March 2013

ANGELA BLOUNT, et al., for themselves and those similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
U.S. SECURITY ASSOCIATES, et al., Defendants.

Civil Action No. 12-809 (JDB)


Dated: March 18, 2013


Plaintiffs filed this action on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated against defendants U.S. Security Associates, Inc. ("U.S. Security"), Watkins Security Agency of DC, Inc. ("Watkins DC"), and Watkins Security Agency, Inc. ("Watkins Security Agency"). Plaintiffs are current and former employees of defendants who worked as security guards in District of Columbia public schools. They allege that defendants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., the D.C. Minimum Wage Revision Act, D.C. Code §§ 32-1001 et seq., and the D.C. Wage Payment and Collection Law, D.C. Code §§ 32-1301 et seq., by not paying them for work they performed or had to be ready to perform during meal breaks. Before the Court is [9] a motion to dismiss filed by defendants Watkins DC and Watkins Security Agency ("the Watkins Defendants"). For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be denied.


District of Columbia public schools are guarded by security guards employed by private contractors. See Compl. [ECF 1] ¶ 18. Defendants are contractors that provide security services

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to District of Columbia elementary and middle schools pursuant a single contract. See id. ¶ 19. U.S. Security is the prime contractor and is responsible for guarding 55% of the schools, and Watkins DC is the subcontractor and is responsible for guarding the other 45%. See id. ¶ 20. According to plaintiffs, Watkins DC and Watkins Security Agency, which is based in Maryland, "are alter egos and/or joint employers of individuals working as security guards in the DC Schools." Id. ¶¶ 10-11. Plaintiffs allege, for example, that security guards employed by Watkins DC receive paychecks from Watkins Security Agency. Id.

Plaintiffs worked as security guards for either U.S. Security or the Watkins Defendants. See id. ¶¶ 21-23. Hence, plaintiffs are divided into two groups: the U.S. Security Plaintiffs, who bring claims against U.S. Security (Counts I, II, and III), and the Watkins Plaintiffs, who bring claims against the Watkins Defendants (Counts IV, V, and VI). See id. ¶¶ 21-22, 45-105. Both sets of plaintiffs had the same job responsibilities, performed the same work, and worked under the same terms and conditions of employment. See id. ¶ 23. In all ways relevant to plaintiffs' claims here, defendants' employment and payroll policies were identical. See id. ¶¶ 23, 27-28.

Plaintiffs filed this action based on defendants' shared policy of deducting 30 minutes of pay per shift for "meal breaks," even though plaintiffs had to remain on school grounds, be "at the ready," and perform any necessary work during their purported meal breaks. See id. ¶¶ 24-28. The Watkins Defendants now move to dismiss or, alternatively, to sever Counts IV, V, and VI, arguing that they have been misjoined; Watkins Security Agency moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction as well.


I. Joinder

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A court may sever a party from an action if the permissive joinder requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a) are not met. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 21; Parks v. District of Columbia, 275 F.R.D. 17, 18 (D.D.C. 2011). Rule 20(a)(2) allows the joinder of multiple defendants if: (1) "any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences"; and (2) "any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action." Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "the impulse is toward entertaining the broadest possible scope of action consistent with fairness to the parties; joinder of claims, parties and remedies is strongly encouraged." See United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 724 (1966). Hence, the requirements for permissive joinder are to be "liberally construed in the interest of convenience and judicial economy." Spaeth v. Mich. State Univ. Coll. of Law, 845 F. Supp. 2d 48, 53 (D.D.C. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted).

All of plaintiffs' claims here arise out of a common series of transactions and occurrences - the docking of plaintiffs' pay for half-hour meal breaks during which they actually worked or at least had to be ready to work, pursuant to a payroll policy applied by both U.S. Security and the Watkins Defendants. In this way, plaintiffs' claims against the different defendants are logically connected and hence meet the "same transaction or occurrence" requirement of Rule 20(a)(2). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2)(A); Parks, 275 F.R.D. at 18 ("To satisfy the same transaction or occurrence prong, the claims must be logically related." (internal quotation marks omitted)); cf. Spaeth, 845 F. Supp. 2d at 53-54 (finding joinder improper where plaintiff did not claim that defendants acted pursuant to shared policy or allege any other concerted action between defendants). In addition, plaintiffs' claims against U.S. Security and their claims against the

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Watkins Defendants share common questions of law and fact: the two sets of claims are based on identical legal theories and the same core facts. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2)(B); Compl. ¶¶ 45-105 (legal claims); id. ¶¶ 18-29 ("facts common to all claims," including single contract to provide security services, plaintiffs' shared job responsibilities, and defendants' shared payroll policies).

The Watkins Defendants do not dispute that plaintiffs' claims arise out of the same series of transactions and occurrences, or that there are questions of law and fact common to all defendants. Nor do they argue that plaintiffs are improperly joined under Rule 20(a)(1). Rather, the Watkins Defendants' sole argument for misjoinder is that plaintiffs' claims "do not assert a right to joint, several, or alternative relief against U.S. [Security] and either of the Watkins Defendants." See Watkins' Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss [ECF 9], Mem. in Supp. ("Watkins MTD") 2. They claim, in other words, that joinder is improper because no plaintiff is suing both U.S. Security and the Watkins Defendants. See Watkins' Defs.' Reply [ECF 20] ("Reply") 3.

Rule 20(a)(2) does not impose the requirement urged by the Watkins Defendants. The Rule does require that a right to relief be asserted against defendants "jointly, severally, or in the alternative," but the Rule nowhere states that rights to relief against multiple defendants must be asserted by a common plaintiff. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2)(A). Indeed, to require "an allegation of shared liability" in order for defendants to be properly joined, as the Watkins Defendants would have it, see Reply 3, would be to limit defendants that may be joined to those sued jointly and to ignore Rule 20's express provision for joinder of defendants sued jointly, severally, or in the alternative. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(3) ("Neither a plaintiff nor a defendant need be interested in obtaining or defending against all the

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relief demanded.").

Here, plaintiffs are suing defendants severally: they claim that U.S. Security is liable to the U.S. Security Plaintiffs and that the Watkins Defendants are liable to the Watkins Plaintiffs. Hence, Rule 20's requirement that a right to relief be asserted against each defendant is satisfied, and it is immaterial that no plaintiff is suing both U.S. Security and the Watkins Defendants. See, e.g., Moore v. Comfed Sav. Bank, 908 F.2d 834, 837-39 (11th Cir. 1990) (finding joinder of...

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