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FSLA complaint"Bare Bones" FLSA Complaint Back to Supreme Court

Co-authored by Robert S. WhitmanHoward M. Wexlerand Joshua D. Seidman

Last summer, the Second Circuit issued a flurry of decisions clarifying the pleading standard in FLSA cases.  In one of those cases, Dejesus v. HF Management Services, LLC, the court held that, in order to state a valid overtime claim under the Supreme Court’s decisions in Iqbal and Twombly , “a plaintiff must sufficiently allege 40 hours of work in a given workweek as well as some uncompensated time in excess of the 40 hours.”  The Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Dejesus because the plaintiff failed to estimate her hours or provide any factual context for how many hours she worked, and criticized her complaint as merely a “rephrasing” of the FLSA’s requirements made to appear as factual statements.

The plaintiff in Dejesus has now filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court, asking the Justices to decide the proper pleading standards for FLSA claims.

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The petition is largely based on two 2013 cases arising from alleged underpayment of overtime wages in the healthcare industry:  Nakahata v. New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, Inc. in the Second Circuit and Manning v. Boston Medical Center Corporation in the First Circuit.  While neither case involved an approximation of overtime hours as in Dejesus, the petition attempts to identify a Circuit-split by contending that “[t]he Second Circuit in Nakahata found that the FLSA claim was not plausibly stated while the First Circuit in Manning found that the FLSA claim was plausibly stated.”  According to the petitioner, this split reflects “what the state of affairs is among the federal district courts in almost every federal circuit.”

The petition also relies on the Supreme Court’s decision in Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., which held that under the notice pleading system, a plaintiff need not plead facts establishing a prima facie case.  The petition thus argues that  the Second Circuit’s “requirement that plaintiff approximate her hours and provide greater specificity” runs afoul of Swierkiewicz and represents “a reflection of a wider conflict among lower federal courts in several other circuits” regarding the meaning of Swierkiewicz.

Finally, the petition emphasizes that “[t]he need for Supreme Court review is now” based on the large volume of FLSA cases filed each year in federal courts.  It states that between 1993 and 2012, the number of FLSA filings ballooned from 1,457 to more than 7,000, each of which has the potential of affecting “hundreds or thousands of individuals.”

Now that the issues and arguments are laid out on the Supreme Court’s operating table, we will eagerly await word as to whether the Court deems Dejesus, and its “bare bones” allegations, ripe for resuscitation.

Find this article and others by Seyfarth Shaw LLP here.

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