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Murcia v. A Capital Electric Contractors, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 5, 2017

OSCAR MURCIA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
A CAPITAL ELECTRIC CONTRACTORS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs Oscar Murcia, Julio Cesar Chavez, Victor Garcia, Rafael Gonzalez, Jose Luis Cardona, and Franklin Puerta brought this action in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the D.C. Minimum Wage Revision Act, and the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia wage payment laws. Dkt. 1-2 at 4-7 (Compl. ¶¶ 8-31). Plaintiffs allege that Defendants-A Capital Electric Contractors, Inc. and its president, Olga Gonzalez- failed to pay overtime wages over a period of several years from 2013 to 2016. Dkt. 1-2 at 3 (Compl. ¶ 6). Defendants timely removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, Dkt. 1, and now move to dismiss for improper venue and failure to state a claim, Dkt. 8. For the reasons explained below, the Court will deny that motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         For purposes of the pending motion, the Court must accept Plaintiffs' allegations as true. See Wood v. Moss, __U.S.__, 134 S.Ct. 2056, 2065-67 & n.5, (2014) (Rule 12(b)(6)); Laukus v. United States, 691 F.Supp.2d 119, 125 (D.D.C. 2010) (Rule 12(b)(3)).

         According to the complaint, Defendant A Capital Electric Contractors, Inc. is a Virginia electrical contractor that engages in “construction[-]related work in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.” Dkt. 1-2 at 3 (Compl. ¶ 4). Defendant Olga Gonzalez is the “principal owner” of A Capital and serves as its president. Id. (Compl. ¶ 5). Plaintiffs, in turn, “were formerly employed by Defendants to perform electrical work.” Dkt. 1-2 at 2 (Compl. ¶ 3). Each Plaintiff “worked for Defendant[s] at some point . . . from early 2013 through the first half of 2016.” Dkt. 1-2 at 3 (Compl. ¶ 6). Gonzalez “supervis[ed] . . . each Plaintiff and largely determined the hours that each Plaintiff worked.” Id. (Compl. ¶ 5).

         Each of Plaintiffs' claims turns on the allegation that “Defendants regularly, intentionally and knowingly employed each Plaintiff in excess of forty hours per week but failed to pay each Plaintiff at a[n] . . . overtime rate” of time-and-a-half. Id. (Compl. ¶ 6). As a result, Plaintiffs allege, Defendants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 207 (Count I), and the D.C. Minimum Wage Revision Act (“DCMWRA”), D.C. Code § 32-1001(c) (Count II). Moreover, because Defendants did not pay these past-due overtime wages at the time that each Plaintiff ceased to work for Defendants, Plaintiffs assert that Defendants also violated the D.C. Wage Payment and Collection Law (“DCWPCL”), D.C. Code § 32-1303 (Count III). Finally, Plaintiffs allege similar violations under Maryland (Count IV) and Virginia (Count V) law, “to the extent [those laws] appl[y] to Defendants' conduct.” Dkt. 1-2 at 7 (Compl. ¶¶ 27, 30); see Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-505; Va. Code Ann. § 40.1-29. Plaintiffs seek damages, including liquidated damages, attorney's fees and expenses, and an injunction barring “Defendant[s] from further violations of labor laws.” Id. at 8 (Compl. Demand).

         Defendants removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and, then, promptly moved to dismiss for improper venue, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3), and for failure to state a claim, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).[1] Dkt. 8.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible if the plaintiff pleads “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Although “detailed factual allegations” are not required, the complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions, [or] a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The Court must “assume [the] veracity” of “well-pleaded factual allegations, ” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, and must “grant [the] plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged, ” Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court, however, need not accept “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         A similar standard governs a defendant's motion to dismiss for improper venue. The Court must “accept[] the plaintiff's well-pled factual allegations regarding venue as true;” must “draw[] all reasonable inferences from those allegations in the plaintiff's favor;” and must “resolve[] any factual conflicts in the plaintiff's favor.” Darby v. U.S. Dep't of Energy, 231 F.Supp.2d 274, 276 (D.D.C. 2002). The plaintiff, however, “bears the burden of establishing that venue is proper, ” Varma v. Gutierrez, 421 F.Supp.2d 110, 113 (D.D.C. 2006) (citation omitted), and must offer more than mere legal conclusions.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Venue

         Defendants first argue that the Court must dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint on the ground that venue is improper in the District of Columbia. In particular, they contend that “28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) governs venue.” Dkt. 8-1 at 3. That provision limits venue to judicial districts where “any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located;” where “a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred;” or where “any defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction” if “there is no district in which [the] action may otherwise be brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). Relying on § 1391(b), Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have failed to allege sufficient facts to show that a substantial portion of their uncompensated work occurred in the District of Columbia. Dkt. 8-1 at 3. They are incorrect on both the facts and the law.

         As an initial matter, Plaintiffs have alleged that “[a] substantial portion of [the] work” that they performed on behalf of Defendants occurred at “construction sites in the District of Columbia.” Dkt. 1-2 at 2-3 (Compl. ¶¶ 3-4). Despite Defendants' assertion to the contrary, that is not a mere legal conclusion; although the word “substantial” appears in § 1391 and has been given meaning by the courts, “the [C]ourt ‘must treat the complaint's factual allegations- including mixed questions of law and fact-as true and [must] draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in the plaintiff's favor.'” Smith v. United States, 121 F.Supp.3d 112, 117 (D.D.C. 2015) (quoting Epps v. U.S. Capitol Police Bd., 719 F.Supp.2d 7, 13 (D.D.C. 2010)). As the Supreme Court has explained, the federal rules do “not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but [do] demand[] more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Here, Plaintiffs' reliance on a legal term of ...


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