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Haile-Iyanu v. Central Parking System of Virginia

July 5, 2007

IYOB HAILE-IYANU, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CENTRAL PARKING SYSTEM OF VIRGINIA, INC., DEFENDANT.



MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff, Iyob Haile-Iyanu, brought this action against defendant, Central Parking System of Virginia, Inc., asserting violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the D.C. Workers' Compensation Act, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 related to the termination of his employment by defendant. Pending before the Court is defendant's partial motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted with regard to the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the D.C. Workers' Compensation Act claims. Upon consideration of the motion and supporting memorandum, the response and the reply thereto, the applicable law, and the entire record, the Court determines that plaintiff's D.C. Workers' Compensation Act must be dismissed. However, plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts to support his Fair Labor Standards Act and Family and Medical Leave Act claims. Therefore, for the reasons stated herein, defendant's partial motion to dismiss is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Iyob Haile-Iyanu, is a former employee of defendant, Central Parking System of Virginia, Inc. ("Central Parking").*fn1 Compl. ¶ 5. Defendant is a Tennessee corporation registered to do business in the District of Columbia and is engaged in the provision of parking services. Id. ¶¶ 2, 4. Defendant terminated plaintiff from his employment as an area manager on September 12, 2006. Id. ¶ 19. In response to his termination, plaintiff filed his complaint with this Court on December 21, 2006. Plaintiff claims defendant is liable for violations of the retaliation provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") (Count I), the retaliation and interference provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") (Count II), and the retaliation provision of the D.C. Workers' Compensation Act ("D.C. WCA") (Count III), and for unlawfully discriminating and retaliating under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts IV-V)*fn2 .

With regard to plaintiff's FLSA claim, plaintiff sought overtime payment for the employees he supervised during 2005 and 2006. Compl. ¶ 6. Plaintiff did not file any formal legal complaints, but rather presented an informal request to defendant for proper overtime payment. Id. ¶¶ 6, 8. Defendant refused to pay the required overtime, and as a result of plaintiff's request for payment, defendant allegedly retaliated against him by terminating his employment. Id. ¶¶ 6-9.

With regard to plaintiff's FMLA claim, plaintiff was injured on October 31, 2005, due to a work-related accident. Id. ¶ 16. As a result, plaintiff was treated for a herniated disk and took leave from work to take care of this injury. Id. ¶¶ 16-17. Plaintiff returned from leave but was still required to take intermittent leave for treatment. Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff informed defendant of the need for such leave and further treatment. Id. Defendant allegedly terminated plaintiff for taking leave and in order to interfere with his right to take future leave. Id. ¶ 22.

With regard to plaintiff's D.C. WCA claim, plaintiff inquired of defendant about compensation for his workplace injury. Id. ¶¶ 30-31. Plaintiff was terminated from his employment shortly after inquiring about workers' compensation. Id.

On February 13, 2007, defendant filed its partial motion to dismiss the complaint with regard to plaintiff's FLSA, FMLA, and D.C. WCA claims. On April 13, 2007, plaintiff filed his opposition to defendant's partial motion to dismiss arguing that he had stated valid FLSA and FMLA claims, but agreeing that his D.C. WCA claim should be dismissed.

STANDARD of REVIEW

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). A complaint must present "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," and "above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965, 1974 (2007). The Court will accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint, and give the plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be drawn from the facts alleged. See id. at 1965; Atchinson v. Dist. of Columbia, 73 F.3d 418, 422 (D.C. Cir. 1996).

ANALYSIS

I. Plaintiff's FLSA Claim

In order to establish a retaliation claim under the anti-retaliation provision of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3), a plaintiff must show that "she engaged in protected expression." Scott v. Sunrise Healthcare Corp., 195 F.3d 938, 940 (7th Cir. 1999). The anti-retaliation provision states that it is unlawful for any person "to discharge . . . any employee because such employee has filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to this chapter." 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3). Defendant moves to dismiss plaintiff's FLSA claim, arguing that his informal request is not a statutorily protected activity.

A minority of federal courts, including the Second and Fourth circuits, have held that the FLSA does not protect informal*fn3 complaints and is limited to complaints "in the context of formal legal actions." Mansfield v. Billington, 432 F. Supp. 2d 64, 74 (D.D.C. 2006); see Lambert v. Genesee Hosp., 10 F.3d 46, 55 (2d Cir. 1993) (holding § 215 is limited to formal complaints); Ball v. Memphis Bar-B-Q Co., 228 F.3d 360, 363-65 (4th Cir. 2000) (same). The Second and Fourth Circuits reason that the FLSA's language is "plain and unambiguous" and "[t]he plain language of [§ 215(a)(3)] limits the cause of action to retaliation for filing formal complaints, instituting a proceeding, or testifying." Lambert v. Genesee Hosp., 10 F.3d at 55; see Ball, 228 F.3d at 363-65. These courts, therefore, hold that the FLSA does not protect informal complaints made to a supervisor because "the intent of Congress is clear" and "that is the end of the matter." Lambert v. Genesee Hosp., 10 F.3d at 55.

In addition, courts support this narrow interpretation of the FLSA by comparing the FLSA to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act ("Title VII"). See Mansfield, 432 F. Supp. 2d at 74. Title VII "protects employees who have 'opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this subchapter.'" Id. (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a)). The broad "opposition" clause of Title VII encompasses complaints made to supervisors in addition to any formal complaints. Kotcher v. Rosa & Sullivan Appliance Ctr., Inc., 957 F.2d 59, 65 (2d Cir. 1992). The court in Mansfield argued that by comparison, the FLSA provision does not contain a broad "opposition" clause that is "markedly more inclusive than the language of [ยง 215(a)(3)] which protects the filing of 'any complaint' in the context of specific formal actions." Mansfield, 432 F. Supp. ...


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