United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING IN PART MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND
S. LASNIK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on "Plaintiff s Motion for
Leave to File an Amended Class Action Complaint." Dkt. #
27. Plaintiff was employed by defendant Huntleigh USA
Corporation in the City of SeaTac, Washington, and has
asserted wage claims on behalf of himself and other
similarly-situated employees. Plaintiff seeks to amend his
complaint to add claims against six individuals who he
alleges were "officers, vice principals, and/or agents
of Defendant Huntleigh" for purposes of the Washington
Wage Rebate Act, RCW Ch. 49.52. Proposed Amended Complaint
(Dkt. # 28) at ¶ 44.
"should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so
requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). There is a
"strong policy in favor of allowing amendment"
(Kaplan v. Rose, 49 F.3d 1363, 1370 (9th Cir.
1994)), and "[c]ourts may decline to grant leave to
amend only if there is strong evidence of undue delay, bad
faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated
failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously
allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of
allowance of the amendment, or futility of amendment,
etc." Sonoma County Ass'n of Retired
Employees v. Sonoma County, 708 F.3d 1109, 1117 (9th
Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and alterations
omitted). Huntleigh does not oppose the addition of Richard
Sporn, Diane Galford, or Dennis Fox to this litigation,
argues mat the proposed claims against David Sass, John
Holtz, and Amit Meir would be futile.
proposed amendment would be immediately subject to dismissal
when challenged under Rule 12(b)(6)), there is no reason to
put defendants through the unnecessary expense and delay of
responding to the amendment. Nordyke v. King, 644
F.3d 776, 787 n.12 (9th Cir. 2011). Under Washington law,
"[a]ny ... officer, vice principal or agent of any
employer . . . who ... [w]ilfully and with intent to deprive
the employee of any part of his or her wages" pays less
than what is owed "shall be liable in a civil action by
the aggrieved employee ... for twice the amount of the wages
unlawfully .. . withheld ... together with costs of suit and
a reasonable sum for attorney's fees . .. ." RCW
49.52.050 and RCW 49.52.070. The legislature imposed personal
liability on the officers of an employer
because the officers control the financial decisions of the
corporation. ... The officers decide whether to pay one debt
over another (i.e., wages). The officers have the choice to
file bankruptcy or, say, close the business and pay its debts
(including wages). The officers decide whether to continue
running an inadequately capitalized corporation while hoping
for a change in financial position. In other words, the
officers control the choices over how the corporation's
money is used, and (in cases of unpaid wage claims) RCW
49.52.070 imposes personal liability when the officers choose
not to pay wages owed.
Morgan v. Kingen, 166 Wn.2d 526, 536-37 (2009).
liability for an employee's wages under the WRA requires
a finding that the defendant is an "officer, vice
principal or agent" of the employer and that the wages
were wilfully withheld. Ellerman v. Centerpoint Prepress.
Inc., 143 Wn.2d 514, 521 (2001). Plaintiff has alleged
only that Sas's, Holtz, and Meir are officers, vice
principals, and/or agents of I Huntleigh: he then equates
their positions with personal liability under the WRA
Plaintiff has done no more than identify notable corporate
persons from Huntleigh's website (Dkt. # 34 at 2 n.2) and
declare that they are personally liable. There are no facts
offered in support of this legal conclusion, nor is there any
indication that plaintiff possesses facts or information
suggesting that Sass, Holtz, and/or Meir supervised,
controlled, or participated in the decision to deprive
plaintiff (or fellow class members) of part of their wages.
Ellerman, 142 Wn.2d at 521-22. At the pleading
stage, plaintiff must allege facts - not legal conclusions -
that give rise to a plausible inference that the proposed
defendants could be held liable. Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Simply identifying
someone as a corporate officer is not enough. Participation
in the initial failure to pay or a wilful and intentional
choice not to pay the wages owed when defendant learned of
the underpayment is necessary in order to establish personal
liability under the MWA. Morgan. 166 Wn.2d at 537;
Jumamil v. Lakeside Casino. LLC, 179 Wn.App. 665,
685 (2014). Plaintiffs allegations as to Sass, Holtz, and
Meir are insufficient, and do not "unlock the doors of
discovery....." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678-79 (2009).
of the foregoing reasons, plaintiffs motion to amend the
complaint is GRANTED in part. Plaintiff may, within fourteen
days of the date of this Order, file an amended complaint
adding claims against Sporn, Galford, and Fox.
 Amendment to add these individuals as
defendants will therefore be ...