Since the Supreme Court’s decisions in Iqbal and Twombly, which seemed to require greater “heft” in pleadings than the more liberal standard that went before, class action defense lawyers (and non-class action defenders, for that matter) have been testing the value of those decisions, with inconsistent results. Some courts have imposed little more burden on plaintiffs than they had before the decisions, while other courts have been more rigorous.
Chalk up one more for the defense side. In Mell v. GNC Corp., pending in the Western District of Pennsylvania, the district court held on November 9 (PDF) that plaintiffs had failed to plead their off-the-clock claims with sufficient detail. Like many such complaints, the Mell complaint stated where and when the named plaintiffs worked for GNC, that they were classified as nonexempt, but were shortchanged because
GNC had a policy or practice of requiring or allowing Plaintiffs and other members of the putative class to work “off the clock” during lunch periods, scheduled overtime, and “additional hours or shifts.”
The court held that these allegations were not sufficient to meet the Iqbal/Twombly standard, because
we cannot even infer from the Amended Complaint that there was a “mere possibility of misconduct” unless we accept as a “fact” that Defendants had a policy or practice of requiring their employees to work “off the clock.”
That’s interesting, because other courts have held that the allegation of such a policy is sufficient to pass muster.
The court went on to suggest the sorts of things that should be included in the complaint to meet the new requirements:
who advised them of this policy, when were told they were required to work “off the clock” or what work consisted of, how the policy was imposed, approximately how many hours each week they worked without being paid, and whether either Plaintiff or any other GNC employee complained to a supervisor about the practice and, if so, what GNC’s response was. Plaintiffs provide no facts about the timekeeping practices of GNC, for instance, was there literally a time clock that employees used to record their time or was it simply understood that regular working hours would be from, say, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.?
Requiring plaintiffs to plead such facts initially should not deter any legitimate complaints, but would be a boon to defendants trying to understand the allegations against them.