On April 20, 2015, the United States Supreme Court denied the petition for certiorari in Landers v. Quality Communications, Inc.
At issue in the case was the level of detail that plaintiffs seeking overtime payments under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) must allege in order to survive a motion to dismiss.
Greg Landers sued Quality Communications, Inc., his employer, alleging that Landers sometimes worked in excess of forty hours a week without receiving overtime pay in violation of the FLSA.
Landers failed to allege any specific instances in which he worked overtime without adequate compensation.
The district court dismissed Landers’s claim, concluding that his allegations were merely consistent liability and fell short of the line between “possibility” and “plausibility of entitlement to relief” under the Supreme Court’s pleading standards set out in Twombly and Iqbal.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed, joining the First and Third Circuits in holding that “a plaintiff asserting a claim to overtime payments must allege that she worked more than forty hours in a given workweek without being compensated for the overtime hours worked during that workweek.” Landers v. Quality Commc’ns, Inc., 771 F.3d 638, 644-45 (9th Cir. 2014).
The court noted a plaintiff could establish a plausible claim by estimating the average workweek and average rate of pay, the amount of overtime the plaintiff believes she is entitled to, or other facts that would allow the court to find plausibility. Id. at 645.
Although the court declined to “make the approximation of overtime hours the sine qua non of plausibility for claims brought under the FLSA,” the court held that the failure to allege a specific workweek in which the plaintiff worked over forty hours without overtime pay ensured that the plaintiff’s claim could not survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 646.
Landers’s petition asserted that the lower courts are in disarray over the proper pleading standards to apply to FLSA claims, and that a heightened pleading standard is inconsistent with the FLSA’s remedial goals. However, in light of the Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari, FLSA plaintiffs in the First, Third, and Ninth Circuits ostensibly must allege facts demonstrating they worked in excess of forty hours in a given week without being compensated for the overtime during that specific week.
The heightened pleading requirements delineated in Twombly and Iqbal will continue to provide a key grounds for employers to challenge the skyrocketing number of FLSA lawsuits nationwide.