Employment Alert: Ninth Circuit Adopts Strict Pleading Requirement for FLSA Violation Claims

In Landers v. Quality Communciations, Inc., et al., No. 12-15890, published November 12, 2014 (Landers), the Ninth Circuit held it is not enough for a complaint under the Fair Labor Standards Act to merely allege that the employer failed to pay the employee minimum wages or overtime wages. Rather, the allegations in the complaint must plausibly state a claim that the employer failed to pay minimum wages or overtime wages. A plaintiff asserting a claim to overtime payments must allege that he or she worked more than forty hours in a given workweek without being compensated for the hours worked in excess of forty during that week.

The plaintiff in Landers did not allege facts in his complaint showing there was a specific week in which he was entitled to, but denied, minimum wages or overtime wages. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). On appeal, the Ninth Circuit panel noted the plaintiff failed to provide any detail regarding a specific workweek when he worked in excess of forty hours and was not paid overtime for that specific workweek and/or was not paid overtime wages. While the court acknowledged the difficulty of requiring “mathematical precision,” the court concluded allegations that “raise the possibility” of a FLSA violation may nevertheless fail to state a “plausible” claim.

Landers adopts a heightened pleading standard for federal wage and hour lawsuits. A complaint that does not specifically plead FLSA violations in accordance with the above standards is vulnerable to a motion to dismiss.

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November 17, 2014