Roeder v. Directv, Inc., C14-4091-MWB

Decision Date22 September 2015
Docket NumberNo. C14-4091-MWB,C14-4091-MWB
PartiesJEFF ROEDER and CHRISTOPHER GRILL, Plaintiffs, v. DIRECTV, INC. and DIRECTV, L.L.C., Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. INTRODUCTION ........................................................................... 2
A. Factual Background ............................................................... 2
B. Procedural Background ........................................................... 4
II. LEGAL ANALYSIS ........................................................................ 5
A. Standards For Motions To Dismiss .............................................. 5
B. The FLSA Generally ............................................................... 7
C. Joint Employment Under the FLSA ............................................. 7
D. Review Of Factors ................................................................ 11
1. The power to hire and fire .............................................. 11
2. Supervision and control of work schedules and conditions of employment ............................................... 11
3. Determination of rate and method of payment ..................... 12
4. Maintenance of employment records ................................. 13
5. Totality of the circumstances ........................................... 15
E. Minimum Wage and Overtime Claims ........................................ 15
III. CONCLUSION ............................................................................ 17

Among the principal characters in Charles Dickens's classic novel Bleak House is Mr. Tulkinghorn, the solicitor to an aristocratic family, who manipulates the cast of characters, as a puppetmaster, enabling him to direct the fates of others. In this lawsuit, concerning purported violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FSLA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2001-219, plaintiffs allege that, like Mr. Tulkinghorn, defendant DIRECTV acts as the corporate puppetmaster of its business universe, pulling the strings of everyone in that universe, including their employer, a company that was part of DIRECTV's provider network. DIRECTV has filed a Motion to Dismiss (docket no. 13), which requires me to determine, inter alia, whether plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts establishing that DIRECTV was also their employer under the FSLA.

I. INTRODUCTION
A. Factual Background

"When ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)). Thus, the factual background to the pending motion to dismiss must be drawn from the factual allegations in plaintiffs Jeff Roeder and Christopher Grill's Complaint, unless other matters are also incorporated by reference, integral to their claims, subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, orders, or in the record of the case. Miller v. Redwood Toxicology Lab., Inc., 688 F.3d 928, 931 n.3 (8th Cir. 2012) (citing 5B CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHUR R. MILLER, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 1357 (3d ed. 2004)). In this case, Roeder and Grill did not attach any documents or exhibits to their Complaint. Thus, the factual background presented, here, is based on Roeder and Grill's allegations in their Complaint.

Plaintiff Jeff Roeder is an individual residing in Arthur, Iowa. Plaintiff Christopher Grill is an individual residing in Parkersburg, Iowa. Defendant DIRECTV, Inc. is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in El Segundo, California. DIRECTV, Inc. does business as DIRECTV Home Services. In December 2011, DIRECTV merged with another DIRECTV entity, DIRECTV Operations, L.L.C. The resulting entity is defendant DIRECTV, L.L.C., which is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in El Segundo, California.1

Roeder and Grill were technicians who installed and repaired DIRECTV satellite television service for DIRECTV. DIRECTV oversees and operates a "Provider Network" comprised of intermediary entities known as "Home Service Providers" ("HSPs") and secondary intermediaries called "Secondary Providers." Complaint at ¶ 14. DIRECTV has merged with many of the HSPs, leaving three primary HSPs in existence as independent entities still within the Provider Network; DirectSat, MasTec, and Multiband. Complaint at ¶ 16. DIRECTV's relationship with the Provider Network is controlled by a series of "Provider Agreements" that govern the framework for the business relationship between DIRECTV and the customers of its Provider Network. Complaint at ¶ 17. Included in the Provider Agreements are (1) required policies and procedures with which hired technicians must comply; (2) uniform and identification specifications, including requirements to show and wear DIRECTV insignia; and (3) equipment installment specifications. Complaint at ¶¶ 18-19. While employed as technicians, Roeder and Grill received daily schedules from a DIRECTV dispatchingsystem. Roeder and Grill would complete jobs "assigned by Defendants in the prescribed order on the daily work schedule." Complaint at ¶ 21. Roeder and Grill were required "to check-in by telephone with DIRECTV via its dispatching system." Complaint at 21. Once an assigned job was completed, they had to report it to DIRECTV, and coordinate "directly with DIRECTV employees to activate the customer's service. Complaint at ¶ 21.

Payroll was administered by non-DIRECTV providers, and those providers also directly paid Roeder and Grill. However, DIRECTV "determined whether Plaintiffs' work merited compensation, including setting the rate of pay to the Providers for Plaintiffs' work." Complaint at ¶ 34.

B. Procedural Background

Roeder and Grill filed suit against DIRECTV under the FLSA, alleging that DIRECTV was their employer and violated the FLSA by failing to pay them the statutory minimum wage and required overtime compensation. DIRECTV has filed a motion to dismiss in which it asserts that Roeder and Grill's Complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Specifically, DIRECTV asserts that Roeder and Grill have failed to allege that DIRECTV was their employer for purposes of the FLSA. DIRECTV also contends that Roeder and Grill's minimum wage claim must be dismissed because they have failed to plead sufficient facts that would support their claim that they received wages below the minimum wage in any workweek. DIRECTV further asserts that Roeder and Grill's overtime claim fails because they have failed to identify any single workweek in which they worked over 40 hours and did not receive overtime. Roeder and Grill filed a timely response to DIRECTV's motion in which they argue that their Complaint is sufficient to state a claimfor relief. In addition, Roeder and Grill filed a Conditional Motion For Time Within Which To Seek Leave To Amend Should The Court Grant Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (docket no. 20) in which they request that I grant them time to seek leave to file an amended complaint if I find their original Complaint fails to state a claim. DIRECTV filed a timely reply brief in support of its Motion to Dismiss as well as a response to Roeder and Grill's Motion for Time to Seek Leave to Amend.

II. LEGAL ANALYSIS
A. Standards For Motions To Dismiss

DIRECTV moves to dismiss Roeder and Grill's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a pre-answer motion to dismiss for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). As the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained,

We review de novo the district court's grant of a motion to dismiss, accepting as true all factual allegations in the complaint and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See Palmer v. Ill. Farmers Ins. Co., 666 F.3d 1081, 1083 (8th Cir. 2012); see also FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). "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, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal quotation omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

Richter v. Advance Auto Parts, Inc., 686 F.3d 847, 850 (8th Cir. 2012); accord Freitas v. Wells Fargo Home Mortg., Inc., 703 F.3d 436, 438 (8th Cir. 2013) (quoting Richter, 686 F.3d at 850); Whitney v. Guys, Inc., 700 F.3d 1118, 1128 (8th Cir. 2012) (stating the same standards).

Courts consider "plausibility" under this Twom-bal standard2 by "'draw[ing] on [their own] judicial experience and common sense.'" Whitney, 700 F.3d at 1128 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Also, courts must "'review the plausibility of the plaintiff's claim as a whole, not the plausibility of each individual allegation.'" Id. (quoting Zoltek Corp. v. Structural Polymer Grp., 592 F.3d 893, 896 n.4 (8th Cir. 2010)). The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has refused, at the pleading stage, "to incorporate some general and formal level of evidentiary proof into the 'plausibility' requirement of Iqbal and Twombly." Id. Nevertheless, the question "is not whether [the pleader] might at some later stage be able to prove [facts alleged]; the question is whether [it] has adequately asserted facts (as contrasted with naked legal conclusions) to support [its] claims." Id. at 1129. Thus,

[w]hile this court must "accept as true all facts pleaded by the non-moving party and grant all reasonable inferences from the pleadings in favor of the non-moving party,"
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