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Aguilar v. Michael & Son Services, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 9, 2017





         Plaintiff Marco Aguilar, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, filed this action against his former employer, Michael & Son Services, Inc. ("M&S"), seeking unpaid overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). M&S moves to dismiss for improper venue or, alternatively, to transfer to the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division. Mr. Aguilar argues that venue is proper in this District, but proposes that if this Court finds otherwise, it should transfer this case to the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division. Finding that considerations of convenience and justice favor transfer to the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division, this Court grants M&S's alternative motion to transfer.


         M&S-which is organized under Virginia law and headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia-provides home improvement and repair services in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Compl. ¶ 11, 13, ECF No. 1; Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss ("M&S Mem.") at 2, ECF No. 5-1. Although it advertises to the "DC Metro Area" and has a District of Columbia home improvement contractor license, M&S asserts that it conducts only approximately 6-7% of its business in the District of Columbia. See Compl. ¶4, 53, 62; M&S Mem. at 2; Schlekau Aff. ¶ 6, ECF No. 5-2.

         In October 2016, M&S hired Mr. Aguilar-a resident of Yorktown, Virginia-as a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning ("HVAC") technician. See Compl. ¶ 2; M&S Mem. at 2-3. Mr. Aguilar worked in this capacity out of M&S's Norfolk, Virginia office until his resignation in March 2017. M&S Mem. at 2. As part of his duties, he traveled to customers' homes in a company vehicle to perform services and repairs. Id. During his tenure with M&S, he serviced seventy-seven customers, all of whom were reportedly assigned to him by supervisors and managers from M&S's Norfolk office. Id. GPS records purportedly show that Mr. Aguilar never worked outside of the area surrounding Norfolk, Virginia. See id.; Schlekau Aff. ¶ 17. Additionally, according to M&S, Mr. Aguilar's supervisors and the records pertaining to his work history at M&S are all located in the Norfolk office. M&S Mem. at 3. Decisions regarding payment of M&S employees, however, are made and processed in Alexandria, Virginia. See Pl.'s Resp. Mot. Dismiss at 4, ECF No. 8.

         Mr. Aguilar alleges that he and other HVAC technicians sometimes worked more than forty hours per week and that, per company policy, M&S did not compensate them for this overtime work. Compl. ¶ 24-26. Mr. Aguilar commenced this action against M&S, seeking unpaid overtime under the FLSA. See Compl. ¶ 26. Presently before the Court is M&S's motion to dismiss for improper venue or, in the alternative, to transfer this case to the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division. See Def.'s Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 5.


         A. Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) instructs a district court to dismiss or transfer a case when venue is improper. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) ("The district court of a district in which is filed a case laying venue in the wrong division or district shall dismiss, or if it be in the interest of justice, transfer such case to any district or division in which it could have been brought."). Venue is proper in a district where (1) a defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located; (2) a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claim occurred; or (3) if there is no district in which the action may otherwise be brought, wherever the defendants are subject to personal jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). Generally, a defendant corporation is deemed a resident of "any judicial district in which such defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to the civil action in question." Id. § 1391(c)(2). But see Id. § 1391(d) (specifying district rules for residency of corporations in States with multiple districts).

         "To prevail on a motion to dismiss for improper venue, . .. 'the defendant must present facts that will defeat the plaintiff s assertion of venue.'" Ananievv. Wells Fargo Bank, N. A., 968 F.Supp.2d 123, 129 (D.D.C. 2013) (quoting Slabyv. Holder, 901 F.Supp.2d 129, 132 (D.D.C. 2012)). The burden, however, remains on the plaintiff to prove that venue is proper when an objection is raised, since "it is the plaintiffs obligation to institute the action in a permissible forum." Williams v. GEICO Corp., 192 F.Supp.2d 58, 62 (D.D.C. 2011). In determining whether venue is proper, courts must accept the plaintiff s well-pled allegations as true, resolve any factual conflicts in the plaintiffs favor, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Hunter v. Johanns, 517 F.Supp.2d 340, 343 (D.D.C. 2007). However, "the court need not accept the plaintiff's legal conclusions as true." Darby v. U.S. Dep 't of Energy, 231 F.Supp.2d 274, 277 (D.D.C. 2002).

         B. Motion to Transfer Pursuant to § 1404(a)

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), any civil action may be transferred to another district or division "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice." § 1404(a). Unlike Rule 12(b)(3) and § 1406(a), which contemplate dismissal or transfer when venue is improper, "§ 1404(a) does not condition transfer on the initial forum's being 'wrong.'" Ail. Marine Constr. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court for W. Dist. of Tex., 134 S.Ct. 568, 579 (2013). Instead, § 1404(a) "is intended to place discretion in the district court to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an 'individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.'" Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (quoting Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964)). If the district court finds transfer merited, it may send the case to any district or division "where venue is also proper (i.e., 'where [the case] might have been brought') or to any other district to which the parties have agreed." Atl. Marine Constr. Co., 134 S.Ct. at 579 (alteration in original) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)). The burden is on the moving party to establish that transfer is proper. SEC v. Savoy Indus., Inc., 587 F.2d 1149, 1154 (D.C. Cir. 1978).

         Resolving amotion for transfer under § 1404(a) involves a two-step process. First, the movant must show that the proposed transferee district is one where the plaintiff originally could have brought the case. See Ctr. For Envtl. Sci. v. Nat'l Park Serv.,75 F.Supp.3d 353, 356 (D.D.C. 2014). That is, a district where subject matter jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction, and venue are proper. See Dean v. Eli Lilly & Co.,515 F.Supp.2d 18, 21 (D.D.C. 2007). Second, the movant must show that "considerations of convenience and the interest of justice weigh in favor of transfer." Sierra Club v. Flowers, 276 F.Supp.2d 62, 65 (D.D.C. 2003). This inquiry into whether considerations of convenience and the interest of justice weigh in favor of transfer '"calls on the district court to weigh in the balance a number of ...

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