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McNeal v. PRB Entertainment, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

November 6, 2019

Sasha McNeal, Plaintiff
PRB Entertainment, Inc. and others, Defendants


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

         Plaintiff Sasha McNeal filed her second amended complaint alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3). (ECF No. 64.) Now before the Court is the Defendants PRB Entertainment, LLC (“PRB”) and James Fulford's motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 65.) The Defendants Nightlife Solutions, Inc. (“NSI”) and Benjamin Fox have fully joined and adopted the grounds for dismissal raised in the motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 69.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion (ECF No. 65) is denied.

         1. Background [1]

         McNeal files this suit against the Defendants for retaliating against her because of an FLSA suit that she had filed against her previous employer. McNeal was a server and bartender at Club Climaxxx, a night club in Miami-Dade County. (ECF No. 64 at ¶ 4.) Her other job duties included cleaning the windows, mirrors, and ashtrays, promoting the club on social media, and training new personnel. (Id. at ¶ 17.) The Defendants own, manage, or otherwise control Club Climaxxx. Fox was the general manager. James Fulford and his company PRB Entertainment, LLC owned the club, and Nightlife Solutions, Inc. is named on advertising literature. (Id. at 19.) Fox and Fulford were “involved in the day-to-day operations of Club Climaxxx” and supervised its employees. (Id. at ¶ 14-15.)

         Prior to working at Club Climaxxx, McNeal worked for a different club that was named “the Office.” (Id. at ¶ 18.) At the Office, she was not properly paid minimum wage pursuant to the FLSA, and instead worked on “straight tips.” (Id.) She sued her prior employer and its two principals, Claudette Pierre and Gregory Pierre, to recover unpaid wages. (Id.) The complaint does not say whether the suit was successful.

         Before the Defendants terminated McNeal, Fox stated on numerous occasions that “they had to be careful with Plaintiff because she liked to sue her employer.” (Id. at ¶ 20.) Additionally, one of the managers, Abraham Jean-Baptiste, told everyone about her previous lawsuit. (Id.) When she was terminated on January 3, 2017, she was told that the reason for her termination was that “the Defendants were fearful that she was going to sue them just like she had sued her former employer” and that someone had accused her of saying that she was “going to call her attorney and sue them.” (Id. at ¶ 21.) Plaintiff never made the statement. (Id.)

         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). 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) (quotation omitted). A plaintiff must 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).

         “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. Thus, a pleading that offers mere “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” will not survive dismissal. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         Yet, where the allegations “possess enough heft” to suggest a plausible entitlement to relief, the case may proceed. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557. “[T]he standard ‘simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence' of the required element.” Rivell v. Private Health Care Sys., Inc., 520 F.3d 1308, 1309 (11th Cir. 2008). “And, of course, a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and ‘that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         3. Analysis

         “The FLSA protects persons against retaliation for asserting their rights under the statute.” Wolf v. Coca-Cola Co., 200 F.3d 1337, 1343 (11th Cir. 2000). “A prima facie case of FLSA retaliation requires a demonstration by the plaintiff of the following: (1) she engaged in activity protected under the act; (2) she subsequently suffered adverse action by the employer; and (3) a causal connection existed between the employee's activity and the adverse action.” Id. at 1342. McNeal's complaint contains sufficient allegations to demonstrate those elements. First, it alleges that McNeal sued her previous employer under the FLSA because the employer did not pay her the minimum wage. (ECF No. 64 at ¶ 18.) Second, it alleges that she was fired from Club Climaxxx by the Defendants, and, third, it alleges that the stated reason for her termination was that “the Defendants were fearful that she was going to sue them like she had sued her former employer.” (ECF No. 64 at ¶ 21.)

         The Defendants argue that McNeal impermissibly “lumps” all four Defendants together and that she lodges “identical allegations against each of the four Defendants.” (ECF No. 65 at 2-3.) Although McNeal does lump the Defendants together at times, this is not necessarily impermissible. A plaintiff may seek to sue multiple employers in an FLSA case, as the statute contemplates that there “may be several simultaneous employers who are responsible for compliance with the FLSA.” Ceant v. Aventura Limousine & Transp. Service, Inc., 874 F.Supp.2d 1373, 1380 (S.D. Fla. 2012) (Scola, J.). In previous versions of the complaint, the allegations did not specify how each Defendant was involved with Club Climaxxx or how each Defendant could have been an employer under the FLSA. This iteration of the complaint specifies that Fox was the general manager, Fulford and his company, PRB, were the owners, and NSI was named on advertising literature. (ECF No. 64 at ¶ 19.)

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