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Mendis v. Schneider National Carriers, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

March 7, 2017

BALAPUWADUGE MENDIS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SCHNEIDER NATIONAL CARRIERS, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          HONORABLE JOHN C. COUGHENOUR JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Schneider's partial motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 115). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS the motion for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is a class action brought on behalf of truck drivers employed by Schneider. The facts of this case have been discussed in previous motions and orders of the Court and will not be repeated here. Of importance for this motion, however, are the parties' previous pleadings and motions, and this Court's summary judgment order.

         In every iteration of Plaintiffs' complaint, they have made an unlawful deduction claim which stated:

Defendant made deductions from Plaintiff(s) and the Class wages, including but not limited to, for per diem expenses. This was disadvantageous to Plaintiff(s) and the Class. The employer benefited from the deduction. Further, Plaintiff(s) and the Class' wages were reduced below the agreed upon rate.

(Dkt. No. 1-1 at 10, ¶ 43; Dkt. No. 39 at 9, ¶ 43; Dkt. No. 93 at 9, ¶ 43; Dkt. No. 114 at 9, ¶ 41.) As factual support for this claim, Plaintiffs alleged that

Defendant has made unlawful deductions from the wages of Plaintiff(s) and the Class and failed clearly [sic] indicate deductions being made on each employee's wage statements. Such deductions were not expressly authorized in writing and in advance for a lawful purpose for the benefit of the employee. Moreover, Defendant, or a person acting in the interest of Defendant, derived a financial benefit from the deductions.

(Dkt. No. 1-1 at 7, ¶ 21; Dkt. No. 39 at 6, ¶ 22; Dkt. No. 93 at 6, ¶ 23; Dkt. No. 114 at 6, ¶ 22.)

         Defendant moved for summary judgment on all of Plaintiffs' claims, including the per diem deduction claim. (Dkt. No. 43 at 4, 19.) In its introduction, Defendant stated that all of Plaintiffs' claims failed for several reasons. (Id. at 4.) Among those was that “Plaintiffs consented to deduction from their pay for cash withdrawals from their fuel cards.”[1] (Id.) However, Defendant did not go on to address this argument in its brief. (See generally id.) In the Court's order granting in part and denying in part summary judgment, it noted that “[t]he Court finds the inclusion of a fuel card claim curious, as it was neither found in Plaintiffs' complaint nor discussed in Schneider's motion. Accordingly, the Court does not address it.” (Dkt. No. 92 at 4 n.1.) As part of the order, the Court granted Plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint to add two named plaintiffs, but not to add any additional claims. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiffs did not file a motion for clarification or reconsideration following that order.

         Plaintiffs later filed a motion for class certification, in which they alleged that Defendant unlawfully deducts fees from the wages of employees who receive pay on a payroll card and who purchase safety equipment required for employment. (Dkt. No. 51 at 17-18.) And it was not until Plaintiffs' reply in support of its motion for class certification that it specifically labeled them as a “payroll card deduction claim” and “safety deduction equipment claim.” (Dkt. No. 111 at 14.) Given the uncertain status of the payroll card and safety equipment claims, Defendant filed the present motion to dismiss, arguing that Plaintiffs never asserted either claim in any previous complaint and if they did, they failed to state a claim. (Dkt. No. 115 at 2.) Plaintiffs argue that (1) Defendant's motion is untimely, (2) their complaint sufficiently states a claim for payroll card and safety equipment deductions, and (3) if the Court dismisses the claims, it should grant leave to amend. (Dkt. No. 118 at 6-9.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Rule 12(b)(6) standard

         A defendant may move for dismissal when a plaintiff “fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To grant a motion to dismiss, the Court must be able to conclude that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, even after accepting all factual allegations in the complaint as true and construing them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Fleming v. Pickard, 581 F.3d 922, 925 (9th Cir. 2009). However, to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must cite facts supporting a “plausible” cause of action. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). A claim has “facial plausibility” when the party seeking relief “pleads factual content that allows the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 672 (2009) (internal quotations omitted). ...


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