Zavala v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. CIV.A.03-5309 JAG.

CourtU.S. District Court — District of New Jersey
Writing for the CourtGreenaway
Citation393 F.Supp.2d 295
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A.03-5309 JAG.
Decision Date07 October 2005
PartiesVictor ZAVALA; Eunice Gomez; Antonio Flores; Octavio Denisio; Hipolito Palacios; Carlos Alberto Tello; Maximiliano Mendez; Arturo Zavala; Filipe Condado; Luis Gutierrez; Daniel Antonio Cruz; Petr Zednek; Teresa Jaros; Jiri Pfauser; Hana Pfauserova; Pavel Kunc; and Martin Macak, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. WAL-MART STORES, INC., Defendant.
393 F.Supp.2d 295
Victor ZAVALA; Eunice Gomez; Antonio Flores; Octavio Denisio; Hipolito Palacios; Carlos Alberto Tello; Maximiliano Mendez; Arturo Zavala; Filipe Condado; Luis Gutierrez; Daniel Antonio Cruz; Petr Zednek; Teresa Jaros; Jiri Pfauser; Hana Pfauserova; Pavel Kunc; and Martin Macak, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC., Defendant.
No. CIV.A.03-5309 JAG.
United States District Court, D. New Jersey.
October 7, 2005.

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Gilberto M. Garcia, Mary Ann Kricko, Garcia and Kricko, Attorneys at Law, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, James L. Linsey, Thomas N. Ciantra, Oriana Vigliotti, Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, New York, NY, for Plaintiffs.

Robert H. Bernstein, Reed Smith LLP, Newark, NJ, David P. Murray, Randy Branitsky, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, Washington, D.C., for Defendant.

Michaelene Loughlin, Loughlin & Latimer, Hackensack, NJ, for Amicus Curiae Czech Republic.

OPINION

GREENAWAY, District Judge.


Plaintiffs are undocumented immigrants who have provided janitorial services at Defendant's retail stores nationwide. By this action, they assert claims against Defendant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. ("Defendant" or "Wal-Mart"), pursuant to the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1962(c) and (d) (1996); the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 206 and 207 (1996); the Civil Rights Act of 1871 ("section 1985"), 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) (1996);

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and common law. Wal-Mart has moved to dismiss the entire complaint, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The motion is granted as to Plaintiffs' RICO and Section 1985 claims, and denied as to Plaintiffs' FLSA and common law claims.

BACKGROUND

Defendant Wal-Mart, by its own account, is the nation's largest private employer. (Defendant's Brief dated March 19, 2004 ("Def. Br."), at 2.) The named plaintiffs are undocumented immigrants who worked as janitors in various Wal-Mart retail store locations across the country. The allegations in the revised first amended complaint are accepted (and set forth below) as true for purposes of deciding this motion.1 See FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6); Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 (3d Cir.1994).

I. Law Enforcement Actions Against Wal-Mart

On October 23, 2003, four months before Plaintiffs filed their amended complaint in this Court, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("USICE") officers raided Wal-Mart retail stores in 21 states. (Revised Amended Complaint dated October 28, 2004 ("RAC"), at ¶ 2.) Federal agents who conducted these raids as part of "Operation Rollback" arrested hundreds of janitors, including 12 of the named plaintiffs, for alleged immigration violations. (RAC ¶ 2.) Federal agents also raided Defendant's headquarters in Arkansas and seized documents and materials in support of a criminal investigation by the United States Attorney of the Middle District of Pennsylvania.2 (RAC ¶ 2.)

The janitors arrested as part of Operation Rollback were undocumented immigrants from Mexico, the Czech Republic, Mongolia, Brazil, Uzbekistan, Poland, Russia, Georgia, and Lithuania. (RAC ¶ 2.) The named plaintiffs resided in New Jersey, Texas, Alabama, Florida, Virginia, Michigan, and Connecticut. At least 10 of the immigrants arrested in Arizona and Kentucky were employed directly by Wal-Mart. (RAC ¶ 2.) Others were employed through maintenance contractors. (RAC ¶ 2.)

Operation Rollback was not the first raid on Wal-Mart stores or on its headquarters. Federal agents raided Wal-Mart stores in St. Louis, Missouri in 1997 and 1998 and arrested janitors who had been working illegally in those stores. (RAC ¶ 42.)

In addition, on June 7, 2002, the United States raided numerous Wal-Mart stores and filed a Verified Complaint of Forfeiture ("Forfeiture Action"), in the Middle District of Pennsylvania against various contractors. (RAC ¶ 42.) The United States asserted that the contractors committed various criminal offenses — indeed, the very same violations that Wal-Mart allegedly committed in this action. See infra. As a result of these raids, federal agents arrested roughly 80 janitors believed to be undocumented immigrants

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from Uzbekistan, Georgia, Armenia, Estonia, Russia, Bulgaria, Mongolia, Lithuania, Poland, and the Czech Republic. (RAC ¶ 42.)

This action is also not the first time that a Wal-Mart contractor is alleged to have participated in immigration-related offenses. (RAC ¶ 43.) On June 4, 2001, one of Wal-Mart's maintenance contractors pled guilty in federal court to charges that she had harbored illegal aliens and committed related offenses. The contractor received a 7 month sentence and was fined $2,000. (RAC ¶ 43.) At that time, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart denied having any knowledge of the company's use of undocumented labor. (RAC ¶ 43.)

Plaintiffs allege that, based on this history, Wal-Mart was aware that it was, and has been, employing unlawfully, hundreds of undocumented immigrants for janitorial positions, notwithstanding its frequent and nationwide use of maintenance contractors. (RAC ¶ 41.) Because of this alleged pattern of conduct, Wal-Mart has been under investigation by federal law enforcement authorities for over five years. (RAC ¶ 42.)

II. The Alleged Criminal Enterprise

Plaintiffs allege that they were harmed by an ongoing "exploitative criminal enterprise" (herein the "Wal-Mart Enterprise") comprised of Wal-Mart and its various maintenance contractors, acting as Wal-Mart's co-conspirators or agents. (RAC ¶¶ 1, 36, 40.) Plaintiffs claim that the Wal-Mart Enterprise systematically employed, harbored, and trafficked in the labor of immigrants, aided and abetted violation of the immigration laws, failed to pay their wages and overtime and benefits as required, and concealed their profits and practices from detection. (RAC ¶¶ 1, 36, 57.)

More specifically, the Wal-Mart Enterprise operated as follows: participants in the Wal-Mart Enterprise violated the immigration laws to secure workers who could be exploited easily based on their undocumented status. It targeted, encouraged, harbored, trafficked, and employed undocumented aliens, specifically because they were a vulnerable population. (RAC ¶¶ 36, 39, 46, 47.) The Wal-Mart Enterprise exploited them in any number of ways — by obligating them to work in excess of the statutory maximum number of hours, every day of the week, denying them of lawful pay and benefits under the FLSA, as well as time for sick leave, meals or breaks, and paying them in cash without withholding payroll taxes. (RAC ¶ 41). The Wal-Mart Enterprise also easily could, and did, hide them from law enforcement authorities, by threatening them with deportation or locking them into the stores for the duration of their shifts. (RAC ¶ 41.)

Plaintiffs allege that, regardless of whether the janitors were hired directly by Wal-Mart or by a contractor, the terms of employment were illegal, and the same. (RAC ¶ 41.) Plaintiffs further allege that the Wal-Mart Enterprise used the mails and wire in order to operate the scheme, and concealed and prolonged the existence of the enterprise by money laundering. (RAC ¶ 41.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

On a motion to dismiss, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court is required to accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and to view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Oshiver, 38 F.3d at 1384. The question is whether the claimant can prove any set of facts consistent with his or her allegations that will entitle him or her to

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relief, not whether that person will ultimately prevail. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984).

While a court will accept well-pled allegations as true for the purposes of the motion, it will not accept unsupported conclusions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of actual allegations. See Miree v. DeKalb, 433 U.S. 25, 27 n. 2, 97 S.Ct. 2490, 53 L.Ed.2d 557 (1977). Moreover, the claimant must set forth sufficient information to outline the elements of his claims or to permit inferences to be drawn that these elements exist. See FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957).

In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court may consider the allegations of the complaint, as well as documents attached to or specifically referenced in the complaint, and matters of public record. See Pittsburgh v. W. Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 259 (3d Cir.1998); see also 5A CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHUR R. MILLER, FEDERAL PRACTICE & PROCEDURE § 1357 (3d ed.2004). "Plaintiffs cannot prevent a court from looking at the texts of the document on which its claim is based by failing to attach or explicitly cite them." In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir.1997).

DISCUSSION

Defendant Wal-Mart has moved to dismiss the complaint in its entirety. There are five counts to the complaint, which seek relief pursuant to: (1) RICO, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c) (Count 1); (2) RICO conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) (Count 2); (3) 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) (Count 3); (4) FLSA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 206 and 207 (Count 4); and (5) common law false imprisonment (Count 5). For the reasons set forth below, this Court grants Defendant's motion with respect to Counts 1, 2, and 3, and denies the motion with respect to Counts 4 and 5.

I. Count 1 — RICO Enterprise Claim

Plaintiffs allege that Wal-Mart and its contractors formed an unlawful "Wal-Mart Enterprise," in the form of an association-in-fact, for "the purpose of profiting from a systematic violation of immigration and labor, wage and hour laws and other laws." (RAC ¶ 64.) Plaintiffs assert that the members of the Wal-Mart...

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62 practice notes
  • Global v. Prithvi Info. Sols., Civil Action No. 2:18-cv-01290-WSS
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Pennsylvania
    • March 10, 2020
    ...pleading mustPage 51 meet the particularity standard set forth in FED. R. CIV. P. 9(b)." (citing Zavala v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 393 F. Supp. 2d 295, 312 (D.N.J. 2005), aff'd, 691 F.3d 527 (3d Cir. 2012))). The Complaint's replete references to fraudulent activity make it clear that t......
  • In re Enter. Rent-A-Car Wage & Hour Emp't Practices Litig.. Nickolas Hickton, MDL No. 2056
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • August 13, 2010
    ...work; and (6) whether plaintiffs worked exclusively or predominantly for the purported joint employer.Zavala v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 393 F.Supp.2d 295, 329 (D.N.J.2005) (citing Zheng v. Liberty Apparel Co., 355 F.3d 61, 72 (2d Cir.2003)). The court agrees with ERAC-Missouri that factors s......
  • Coma Corporation v. Kansas Department of Labor, No. 95,537.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • March 23, 2007
    ...applies to earned, but unpaid, wages of an undocumented worker—the exact question before us. See e.g., Zavala v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 393 F.Supp.2d 295 (N.J.2005); Flores, 233 F.Supp.2d 462; Zeng Liu v. Donna Karan Intern., Inc., 207 F.Supp.2d 191, 192 (S.D.N.Y.2002) ("Courts have di......
  • Quinteros v. Sparkle Cleaning, Inc., Civil Action No. AW-07-0628.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • January 28, 2008
    ...of Sparkle's crews with respect to the performance of cleaning services. Plaintiffs rely heavily on Zavala v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 393 F.Supp.2d 295 (D.N.J.2005). There, the district court held that undocumented workers who provided janitorial services at various Wal-Mart retail stores, s......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
62 cases
  • Global v. Prithvi Info. Sols., Civil Action No. 2:18-cv-01290-WSS
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Pennsylvania
    • March 10, 2020
    ...pleading mustPage 51 meet the particularity standard set forth in FED. R. CIV. P. 9(b)." (citing Zavala v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 393 F. Supp. 2d 295, 312 (D.N.J. 2005), aff'd, 691 F.3d 527 (3d Cir. 2012))). The Complaint's replete references to fraudulent activity make it clear that t......
  • In re Enter. Rent-A-Car Wage & Hour Emp't Practices Litig.. Nickolas Hickton, MDL No. 2056
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • August 13, 2010
    ...work; and (6) whether plaintiffs worked exclusively or predominantly for the purported joint employer.Zavala v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 393 F.Supp.2d 295, 329 (D.N.J.2005) (citing Zheng v. Liberty Apparel Co., 355 F.3d 61, 72 (2d Cir.2003)). The court agrees with ERAC-Missouri that factors s......
  • Coma Corporation v. Kansas Department of Labor, No. 95,537.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • March 23, 2007
    ...applies to earned, but unpaid, wages of an undocumented worker—the exact question before us. See e.g., Zavala v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 393 F.Supp.2d 295 (N.J.2005); Flores, 233 F.Supp.2d 462; Zeng Liu v. Donna Karan Intern., Inc., 207 F.Supp.2d 191, 192 (S.D.N.Y.2002) ("Courts have di......
  • Quinteros v. Sparkle Cleaning, Inc., Civil Action No. AW-07-0628.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • January 28, 2008
    ...of Sparkle's crews with respect to the performance of cleaning services. Plaintiffs rely heavily on Zavala v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 393 F.Supp.2d 295 (D.N.J.2005). There, the district court held that undocumented workers who provided janitorial services at various Wal-Mart retail stores, s......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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