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Rojas v. OC Electrical LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

June 20, 2019

Yuniel Rojas, Jorge Bravo, Plaintiffs
v.
OC Electrical LLC, and others, Defendants

          OPINION ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          Robert N. Scola, Jr. United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Yuniel Rojas (“Rojas”) and Jorge Bravo (“Bravo”) (collectively, the “Plaintiffs”) bring this action against their former employers (collectively, the “Defendants”) under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and Florida law seeking damages for unpaid wages and retaliatory discharge. (ECF No. 28.) Now before the Court is a motion to dismiss Count IV of the Amended Complaint for retaliatory discharge under Fla. Stat. § 440.205, filed by Defendants, OC Electrical LLC and Suntech Plumbing Corp. (collectively, the “Corporate Defendants”). (the “Motion, ” ECF No. 32.) Having reviewed the parties' submissions and the applicable law, the Court denies the Motion (ECF No. 32) as follows.

         1. Background

         Rojas worked as an “electrician/construction worker” for the Corporate Defendants from approximately May 1, 2017 to August 20, 2018. (ECF No. 28 at ¶ 21.) In June 2017, Rojas suffered a work-related injury. (Id. at ¶ 45.) In August 2018, Rojas hired worker's compensation lawyers, and notified the Corporate Defendants through counsel of his intent to pursue a worker's compensation claim. (Id. at ¶ 47.) Over the course his employment, the Corporate Defendants also failed to pay Rojas overtime wages. Rojas complained about these unpaid wages on “multiple occasions up until the time of his termination.” (Id. at ¶ 39.)

         On August 20, 2019, the Corporate Defendants terminated Rojas' employment. (ECF No. 28 at ¶ 39.) According to Rojas, he “would not have been fired but for his complaints about unpaid overtime wages” and his attempt to seek worker's compensation benefits. (Id. at ¶¶ 38-40, 48-50.)

         On October 9, 2018, the Plaintiffs filed the Complaint asserting claims under the FLSA and Florida law. (ECF No. 1.) The Defendants moved to dismiss (ECF No. 18) and the Court granted that motion, dismissing the Complaint without prejudice. (ECF No. 27.)

         The Plaintiffs timely amended the complaint. (ECF No. 28.) As relevant to the Motion, Rojas asserts claims for retaliatory discharge under the FLSA, (id. at Count III (the “Federal Retaliation Claim”)), and under Florida law, (id. at Count IV (the “Florida Retaliation Claim”)). The theory of the Federal Retaliation Claim is that the Defendants fired Rojas for complaining of unpaid overtime wages. As for the Florida Retaliation Claim, Rojas submits that his termination was due, at least in part, to his pursuit of workers' compensation benefits.

         The Corporate Defendants move to dismiss the Florida Retaliation Claim for lack of supplemental jurisdiction, arguing that this claim does not arise from the same nucleus of operative facts as Rojas' federal counts under the FLSA. (ECF No. 32.) Rojas opposes the Motion. (ECF 34.) No. reply brief was filed.

         2. Legal Standard

         “The district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). Supplemental jurisdiction may be exercised when the claim asserted "derive[s] from a common nucleus of operative fact" as the claim(s) over which the court has original jurisdiction. Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Fund, Inc. v. City of Atlanta, 701 F.3d 669, 679 (11th Cir. 2012).

         Put simply, “[w]e take the nucleus of facts on which the federal question claims are based and compare it to the nucleus of facts on which the state law claims are based.” Id.; see also Hudson v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 90 F.3d 451, 455 (11th Cir. 1996) (“In deciding whether a state law claim is part of the same case or controversy as a federal issue, we look to whether the claims arise from the same facts, or involve similar occurrences, witnesses or evidence.”).

         3. Analysis

         The parties agree that there is no federal question or diversity jurisdiction over the Florida Retaliation Claim. In the Motion, the Corporate Defendants seek dismissal of this claim, arguing that there is no common nucleus of facts between the Florida Retaliation Claim and the Federal Retaliation Claim, such that the Court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. The Court disagrees.

         The Florida Retaliation Claim and the Federal Retaliation Claim arise from a common nucleus of operative facts. Both claims are premised on the theory that the Defendants discharged Rojas in retaliation for engaging in a protected activity. Each claim involves the same discharge of the same plaintiff by the same defendants. Because these claims “arise from the same facts” and “involve similar occurrences, witnesses [and] evidence” relating to the circumstances ...


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