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Parajon v. Coakley Mechanical, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

April 23, 2018

Milton Parajon and Jerman Tymer, Plaintiffs,
Coakley Mechanical, Inc., and others, Defendants.


          Robert N. Scola, Jr. United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court upon three motions to dismiss filed by the Defendants Odebrecht Construction, Inc. (ECF No. 20), Turner Construction Company (ECF No. 22), and Coakley Mechanical, Inc., RCI Air Conditioning Company, Thomas Maldonado, and Mike Ricklick (collectively, the “Coakley-RCI Defendants”) (ECF No. 36). After careful consideration of the motions, all opposing and supporting submissions, and the applicable case law, the Court grants in part and denies in part the motions (ECF Nos. 20, 22, 36).

         1. Background

         This case involves a dispute over wages allegedly owed to the Plaintiffs Milton Parajon and Jerman Tymer. In the Amended Complaint (ECF No. 7), the Plaintiffs allege that Odebrecht and Turner were the prime contractors on several projects undertaken pursuant to contracts awarded by Miami-Dade County. Coakley Mechanical, Inc. served as a subcontractor for both Odebrecht and Turner, and RCI Air Conditioning Company served as a sub-subcontractor hired by Coakley Mechanical, Inc. for the relevant projects. The Plaintiffs allegedly worked for the Coakley-RCI Defendants from approximately March, 2013 until October, 2016. The Plaintiffs further allege that pursuant to the Responsible Wages Ordinance, Miami-Dade County, Fla., Code of Ordinances § 2-11.16 (2017) (the “Ordinance”) (ECF No. 20-1), prime contractors and subcontractors are subject to certain duties, including paying an hourly rate and benefits according to the applicable schedule, permanently posting the schedule with accompanying notice, and keeping accurate time records of all employees performing work. Moreover, the Plaintiffs allege that pursuant to the Responsible Wages Ordinance, a prime contractor bears the ultimate responsibility for ensuring compliance by all subcontractors and sub- subcontractors. According to the Plaintiffs, the Coakley-RCI Defendants failed to comply with the requirements of the Responsible Wages Ordinance (Counts 1-2, 5, 7) and they seek to hold Odebrecht and Turner liable for those violations as well (Counts 1-2, 7). In addition, the Plaintiffs assert claims for violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act against the Coakley-RCI Defendants (Count 4).[1] The Defendants each request dismissal of the claims asserted against them for failure to state a claim.

         2. Legal Standard

         When considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must accept all of the complaint's allegations as true, construing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Pielage v. McConnell, 516 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2008). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, a pleading need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must therefore articulate “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 Court evaluates the instant motions through this lens.

         3. Analysis

         The Responsible Wages Ordinance states, in pertinent part,

[a]ny employee of a contractor or subcontractor who performed work on a contract subject to this section, may instead of adhering to the County administrative procedure set forth in this section but not in addition to such procedure, bring an action by filing suit against the contractor or subcontractor in any court of competent jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of this Chapter and may be awarded back pay, benefits, attorney's fees, costs.

Miami-Dade County, Fla., Code of Ordinances § 2-11.16(k) (2017). This language was added to the Responsible Wages Ordinance through Ordinance No. 16-88, which was passed and adopted on September 7, 2016. (See ECF 57- 3); see also

         A. The Ordinance does not apply retroactively

         The Coakley-RCI Defendants argue that Counts 1 and 5 asserting violations of the Responsible Wages Ordinance for unpaid wages and retaliation should be dismissed because the amendment does not apply retroactively to give rise to a cause of action for violations occurring before the amendment. “The question of whether a statutory change in the law should be applied retroactively is governed by state law.” Rivera v. Wal-Mart Stores E., LP, No. 3:10-cv-956-J-20TEM, 2011 WL 7575393, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Jan.13, 2011) (citing Turner v. United States, 514 F.3d 1194, 1199 n.3 (relying upon Florida law to determine retroactive application of Florida statutory amendment)). “The presumption against retroactive application is a well-established rule of statutory construction that is appropriate in the absence of an express statement of legislative intent.” Fla. Ins. Guar. Ass'n, Inc. v. Devon Neighborhood Ass'n, Inc., 67 So.3d 187, 195 (Fla. 2011).

         The Court employs the same framework when interpreting a statute or ordinance. “[W]ith any question of statutory interpretation, [the Court] begins by examining the text of the statute to determine whether its meaning is clear.” Harry v. Marchant, 291 F.3d 767, 770 (11th Cir. 2002) (internal citations omitted). “When the language of a statute is unambiguous, we need go no further, because we must presume that Congress said what it meant and meant what it said.” In re Paschen, 296 F.3d 1203, 1207 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting United States v. Steele, 147 F.3d 1316, 1318 (11th Cir. 1998) (internal quotations omitted)). “The plain meaning of legislation should be conclusive, except in the rare cases in which the literal application of a statute will produce a result demonstrably at odds with the intentions of its drafters.” Id. (quoting United States v. Ron Pair Enters., Inc., 489 U.S. 235, 242 (1989)

         In support of their contention that subsection (k) of the Ordinance should apply retroactively, the Plaintiffs urge the Court to read it in conjunction with subsection (f), which states, “[t]his section shall not apply to any contract for which authority to advertise for bids has been obtained prior to the effective date of this section [Ordinance 90-90].” According to the Plaintiffs, subsection (f) indicates Miami-Dade County's ability to clearly and explicitly exclude retroactive application, and that in the absence of such language, the Court should hold that subsection (k) applies retroactively. However, the Plaintiffs' argument turns the Court's inquiry on its head. The Court looks at the plain text of an ordinance or statute to assess evidence of retroactive intent. West Palm Gardens Villas Condo. Ass'n, Inc. v. Aspen Specialty Ins. Co., No. 11-23912-Civ, 2012 WL 3017083, at *4 (S.D. Fla. June 25, 2012) (Scola, J.). In this case, the plain text of the Ordinance does not demonstrate an expressly stated clear legislative intent for subsection (k) to apply retroactively. Indeed, subsection (f) supports the exact opposite ...

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