Figueroa v. Butterball, LLC, 5:20-CV-585-D

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
Docket Number5:20-CV-585-D
PartiesOSVALDO FIGUEROA, Plaintiff, v. BUTTERBALL, LLC, Defendant.
Decision Date15 September 2021



No. 5:20-CV-585-D

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

September 15, 2021



On November 4, 2020, Osvaldo Figueroa ("Figueroa" or "plaintiff") filed a complaint against Butterball, LLC ("Butterball" or "defendant") alleging claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., ("FLSA"), the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 95-25.1 et seq. ("NCWHA"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. ("ADA"), and for North Carolina common law wrongful discharge [D.E. 1]. On December 31, 2020, Butterball moved to dismiss Figueroa's ADA and common law wrongful discharge claims [D.E. 11] and filed a memorandum in support [D.E. 12]. On January 20, 2021, Figueroa filed an amended complaint omitting his ADA and common law wrongful discharge claims [D.E. 13], and responded to Butterball's partial motion to dismiss [D.E. 14].[1] On March 2, 2021, Figueroa filed a notice of consent for Francisco Vasquez to join the suit as an opt-in plaintiff [D.E. 16]. On March 5, 2021, Butterball moved to dismiss Figueroa's amended complaint and to strike Figueroa's collective action and class action allegations, or in the alternative, for Figueroa to provide a more definitive statement [D.E. 17], and filed an exhibit [D.E. 17-1] and a memorandum in support [D.E. 18]. On March 24, 2021, Figueroa responded in opposition [D.E. 19]. On April 7, 2021, Butterball replied [D.E. 20].

As explained below, the court grants Butterball's motion to dismiss and dismisses Figueroa's FLSA and NCWHA claims for failure to state a claim. The court denies Butterball's motion to strike as moot.


Butterball, a turkey product producer, is a limited liability corporation with its principal place of business in Garner, North Carolina. See Am. Compl. [D.E. 13] ¶ 20-21. Figueroa is a resident of Clinton, North Carolina. See Id. ¶ 19. Figueroa worked for Butterball as a poultry loader/catcher at Butterball's processing plant in Warsaw, North Carolina, from approximately May 8, 2017, to May 2019. See id. ¶¶ 19, 32-34. As a loader/catcher, Figueroa corralled, caught, and loaded turkeys onto trucks to be transported for slaughter. See Id. ¶¶ 33, 36-38. Figueroa's work was "unskilled, repetitive, and rote." Id. at ¶ 37. He "did not receive specialized training." Id. He had no authority over the hiring and firing of other employees, and he did not manage other employees. See Id. ¶¶ 40-41.

Figueroa typically worked six days per week, from 6:30 p.m. until 9:30 a.m. the next day. See Id. ¶ 42. Approximately once a month, the machines the loaders/catchers used would break, and Figueroa would work until 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. See Id. Butterball provided "a one-hour, uninterrupted lunch break," but "the lunch break depended on the general pace of the production line." Id. ¶ 43. Figueroa worked approximately 90 hours per week. See Id. ¶ 44.

When Butterball hired Figueroa, Butterball informed Figueroa that "he would be paid on a piece-rate basis at a rate of$12 per truck load of turkeys." Id. ¶¶ 48-49. During the hiring process, both Figueroa's manager and a representative from human resources told Figueroa that he would be paid overtime for any hours worked in excess of 40 per week. See id, ¶¶ 48-49, 51. Butterball required Figueroa to track his daily hours worked, and Butterball reported Figueroa's hourly rate on Figueroa's paystub. See Id. ¶¶ 51-52. Butterball paid Figueroa on a weekly basis. See Id. ¶47.

Figueroa alleges that Butterball treated him like an hourly employee. See Id. ¶¶ 50-51. Figueroa alleges that Butterball systemically under-calculated Figueroa's wages, and paid him less than his promised hourly rate. See Id. ¶¶ 54-56. Figueroa also alleges that he "should have been paid time and one-half for all hours worked over 40 per week," and that Butterball failed to pay Figueroa an overtime premium. Id. ¶¶ 52, 54.

Figueroa's paystub for January 15, 2018, to January 21, 2018, indicates that he worked 66.18 hours and earned a gross total of $1, 382.15 for the pay period. See [D.E. 17-1]. Figueroa earned $1, 147.62 in "LoadTrip" pay and $234.53 in "OT Hours." Id. The paystub also lists a "Rate" of "18.54," but it does not further define the "Rate." Id

Figueroa alleges that Butterball failed to pay proper overtime wages under the FLSA. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 80-95. Figueroa brings his FLSA claim as a collective action on behalf of himself and all similarly situated employees. See Id. ¶¶ 60-69. Figueroa also brings a claim pursuant to the NCWHA. See Id. ¶¶ 105-17. Figueroa brings his NCWHA claim as a class action on behalf of himself and all similarly situated employees. See Id. ¶¶ 70-79. Figueroa seeks collective action certification, class action certification, and monetary damages. See Id. at 21-22.


A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the complaint's legal and factual sufficiency. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662, 677-80 (2009); Bell All. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554-63 (2007); Coleman v. Md. Court of Appeals. 626 F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010), affd. 566 U.S. 30 (2012); Giarratano v. Johnson. 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008). To withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a pleading "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal. 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation omitted); see Twombly. 550 U.S. at 570; Giarratano, 521 F.3d at 302. In considering the motion, the court must construe the facts and reasonable inferences "in the light most favorable to [the nonmoving party]." Massey v. Ojanjit, 759 F.3d 343, 352 (4th Cir. 2014) (quotation omitted); see Clatterbuck v. City of Charlottesville. 708 F.3d 549, 557 (4th Cir. 2013), abrogated on other grounds by Reed v. Town of Gilbert. 576 U.S. 155 (2015). A court need not accept as true a complaint's legal conclusions, "unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments." Giarratano. 521 F.3d at 302 (quotation omitted); see Iqbal. 556 U.S. at 678-79. Rather, a plaintiff's factual allegations must "nudge[] [his] claims," Twombly. 550 U.S. at 570, beyond the realm of "mere possibility" into "plausibility." Iqbal. 556 U.S. at 678-79.

When evaluating a motion to dismiss, a court considers the pleadings and any materials "attached or incorporated into the complaint." E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448 (4th Cir. 2011); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c); Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th Cir. 2016); Thompson v. Greene. 427 F.3d 263, 268 (4th Cir. 2005). A court also may consider a document submitted by a moving party if it is "integral to the complaint and there is no dispute about the document's authenticity" without converting the motion into one for summary judgment. Goines, 822 F.3d at 166. "[I]n the event of conflict between the bare allegations of the complaint and any exhibit attached . . ., the exhibit prevails." Id. (quotation omitted); see Fayetteville Invs. v. Com. Builders. Inc., 936 F.2d 1462, 1465 (4th Cir. 1991). Additionally, a court may take judicial notice of public records. See, e.g., Fed. R. Evid. 201; Tellabs. Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rts., Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007); Philips v. Pitt Cnty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009).

Defendant's motion to dismiss requires the court to consider Figueroa's North Carolina state law claim. Accordingly, this court must predict how the Supreme Court of North Carolina would rule on any disputed state law issue. See Twin City Fire Ins. Co. v. Ben Arnold-Sunbelt Beverage Co. of S.C., 433 F.3d 36S, 369 (4th Cir. 200S). In doing so, the court must look first to opinions of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. See id.; Parkway 1046, LLC v. U.S. Home Corp., 961 F.3d 301, 306 (4th Cir. 2020); Stahle v. CTS Corp., 817 F.3d 96, 100 (4th Cir. 2016). If there are no governing opinions from the Supreme Court of North Carolina, this court may consider the opinions of the North Carolina Court of Appeals, treatises, and ''the practices of other states." Twin City Fire Ins. Co., 433 F.3d at 369 (quotation omitted).[2] In predicting how the highest court of a state would address an issue, this court must "follow the decision of an intermediate state appellate court unless there [are] persuasive data that the highest court would decide differently." Toloczko, 728 F.3d at 398 (quotation omitted); see Hicks v. Feiock, 48S U.S. 624, 630 & n.3 (1988). Moreover, in predicting how the highest court of a state would address an issue, this court "should not create or expand a [s]tate's public policy." Time Warner Ent-Advance/Newhouse P'ship v. Carteret-Craven Elec. Membership Corp., 506 F.3d 304, 314 (4th Cir. 2007) (alteration and quotation omitted); see Day & Zimmermann Inc. v. Challoner, 423 U.S. 3, 4 (197S) (per curiam); Wade v. Danek Med., Inc., 182 F.3d 281, 286 (4th Cir. 1999).


Figueroa alleges that Butterball violated the FLSA by failing to pay him and other loaders/catchers proper overtime wages. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 80-95. Congress enacted the FLSA to "eliminate.., substandard labor conditions." Powell v. U.S. Cartridge Co., 339 U.S. 497, 510 (19S0), superseded on other grounds by statute, e.g., Fair Labor Standards Amendments of 1966, Pub. L. No. 89-601, 80 Stat. 830; see Barrentine v. Ark.-Best Freight Sys., Inc., 4S0 U.S. 728, 739 (1981), overruled on other grounds, Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Com., 500 U.S. 20 (1991); Brooklyn Sav. Bank v. O'Neil, 324 U.S. 697, 706-07 (194S), superseded on other grounds by statute, Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947, Pub. L. No. 80-49, 61 Stat. 84; Shaliehsabou v. Hebrew Home of Greater Wash., Inc., 363 F .3d 299, 304 (4th Cir. 2004); Gaxiola v. Williams Seafood of Arapahoe, Inc., 776 F.Supp.2d 117, 124 (E.D. N.C. 2011). Under the FLSA, a covered...

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