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Underwood v. KC Transport, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston

October 4, 2017

ANGELA UNDERWOOD, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
KC TRANSPORT, INC., d/b/a KC TRANSPORT OF WEST VIRGINIA, INC., a West Virginia Corporation, and KENNY COMPTON, a West Virginia resident, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN T. COPENHAVER, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the court is defendant KC Transport, Inc.'s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, filed on May 22, 2017. KC Transport submitted a supporting memorandum, and plaintiff responded in opposition.

         I. Facts

         On April 16, 2017, plaintiff filed her complaint asserting a claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (“FLSA”) for unpaid overtime wages, arising from her past employment as a truck driver with KC Transport. On behalf of herself and fifty similarly situated employees, plaintiff also requested certification of a collective action.

         Taking the allegations in the complaint as true, as the court must at this stage, Ms. Underwood often worked more than sixty hours per week and was not informed whether she was exempt from overtime wages under the FLSA. Even though she was not exempt from the overtime-pay requirement, she was treated as an exempt employee and paid a salary. Thus, she was not paid overtime pay that she was due for work in excess of forty hours per week.

         In the course of her employment, Ms. Underwood did not drive across state lines, nor did her job duties incorporate an expectation for her to do so.

         II. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a pleader provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing ... entitle[ment] to relief.” Rule 12(b)(6) permits a defendant to challenge a complaint when it “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” In order to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint “must contain enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         The required “short and plain statement” must provide “‘fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957), overruled on other grounds, Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1969); see also Anderson v. Sara Lee Corp., 508 F.3d 181, 188 (4th Cir. 2007). Additionally, the showing of an “entitlement to relief” amounts to “more than labels and conclusions . . . .” Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965. It is now settled that “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id.; Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 304 (4th Cir. 2008).

         III. Discussion

         A. KC Transport's affirmative defense is not a suitable ground for dismissal at this stage

         KC Transport argues that the complaint should be dismissed because it, and the work performed by plaintiff, are exempt from the overtime-pay provisions of the FLSA pursuant to the motor carrier exemption, 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(1).

         The exemption covers employees whose activities “affect safety of operation” and who work for a private motor carrier engaged in interstate commerce. See Truitt v. Stavola Bros., Inc., 107 F.3d 1104, 1106-07 (4th Cir. 1997). The parties disagree on whether Ms. Underwood satisfies the interstate-commerce prong of the analysis and, therefore, whether the exemption applies to her, barring a FLSA claim.

         As Ms. Underwood notes, if the court were to consider the affidavit attached to the motion to dismiss, it would have to convert it to a motion for summary judgment. Given the early stage of the litigation and the probability that discovery will bring out further relevant information, this the court will not do. ...


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