United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ROBERT WALTERS, an individual, and TERRY THORP, an individual, Plaintiffs,
SUPERIOR TANK LINES NORTHWEST DIVISION, LLC, a foreign limited liability company, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
S. Lasnik, United States District Judge.
matter comes before the Court on defendant's
“Motion to Dismiss.” Dkt. #7. For the following
reasons, defendant's motion is GRANTED.
Robert Walters and Terry Thorp were employed as truck drivers
by defendant Superior Tank Lines prior to their terminations
in 2018. Dkt. #1-2 at ¶¶ 2.1-2.2. Plaintiffs allege
that defendant wrongfully terminated them in retaliation for
questioning defendant's paid time off policies.
Id. at ¶ 3.3. Plaintiffs also claim that they
are entitled to safety bonuses per defendant's bonus
program policy. Id. at ¶ 3.6. Plaintiffs were
terminated before the payout date and never received the
bonuses. Id. at ¶ 2.11. Plaintiffs allege that
these bonuses are “wages” under Washington law,
and defendant willfully withheld them in violation of RCW
49.52.050. Id at ¶ 3.9; Dkt. #11 at 4-5.
Defendant seeks dismissal only of the willful withholding of
wages claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Dkt. #7.
context of a motion to dismiss, the Court's review is
generally limited to the contents of the complaint.
Campanelli v. Bockrath, 100 F.3d 1476, 1479 (9th
Cir. 1996). Nevertheless, Ninth Circuit authority allows the
Court to consider documents referenced extensively in the
complaint, matters of public record, and documents whose
contents are alleged in the complaint and whose authenticity
is not challenged. Northstar Fin. Advisors Inc. v. Schwab
Invs., 779 F.3d 1036, 1042-43 (9th Cir. 2015). Because
the Quarterly Bonus Program agreement forms the basis of
plaintiffs' claim for willful withholding of wages, it
has been considered in ruling on defendant's
motion. Dkt. #8-1. After reviewing the complaint,
the motions, and this document, the Court finds as follows:
district court must dismiss a claim if it “fail[s] to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The question for the Court on a motion
to dismiss is whether the facts alleged in the complaint
sufficiently state a “plausible” ground for
relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible “when the
plaintiff 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, 678 (2009). The Court presumes all
well-pleaded allegations to be true and draws all reasonable
inferences in favor of the non-moving party. In re
Fitness Holdings Int'l, Inc., 714 F.3d 1141, 1144-45
(9th Cir. 2013). Nevertheless, “[t]hreadbare recitals
of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere
conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678. The facts must allow the Court “to
infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.”
Id. at 679. Dismissal is appropriate if
plaintiffs' Complaint fails to state a cognizable legal
theory or fails to provide sufficient facts to support a
claim. Taylor v. Yee, 780 F.3d 928, 935 (9th Cir.
Safety Bonuses as Wages
threshold question before the Court is whether the safety
bonuses at issue are wages within the meaning of RCW
49.52.050. In making this determination, this Court looks to
the definition of a wage under RCW 49.46. Kalmanovitz v.
Standen, No. 14-CV-1224-RSL, 2015 WL 9273611, at *4
(W.D. Wash. Dec. 21, 2015). That statute defines
“wage” as “compensation due to an employee
as a result of employment.” RCW 49.46.010(7).
Generally, payments that are related to employment and are
not discretionary will qualify as wages. See LaCoursiere
v. CamWest Dev., Inc., 181 Wn.2d 723, 742-44 (2014)
(concluding that payments that are due and owing to an
employee “by reason of employment” are wages and
distinguishing that from a merely discretionary bonus).
defendant's Quarterly Bonus Program expressly made
payment of the safety bonuses mandatory upon the meeting of
certain criteria. Dkt. #8-1 at 2. As plaintiffs indicate, the
agreement states that defendant “will” pay the
bonus to drivers meeting the requirements and lays out the
amount and conditions precedent to receiving the bonus.
Id.; Dkt. #11 at 5. Safe driving bonuses are clearly
related to employment as a driver. See Kalmanovitz,
2015 WL 9273611, at *5 (stating that “by reason of
employment” does not require a payment to be
“tied to the number of hours worked or the results
obtained”). However, the express terms of the bonus
agreement indicate that employees “must be employed at
the time of pay out to receive any part or portion of [the]
Bonus.” Dkt. #8-1 at 2. Accordingly, plaintiffs did not
earn the bonuses because they did not fully satisfy the
conditions precedent to doing so. See Hvidtfeldt v.
Sitrion Sys. Americas, Inc., 190 Wn.App. 1031 (2015)
(finding that plaintiffs were not entitled to bonuses by
looking to the express terms of the agreement requiring
employment at time of pay out).
Willful Withholding of Wages Claim
the unpaid bonuses could be considered earned wages,
plaintiffs' claim fails on another ground. Plaintiffs
allege that, despite their terminations, they were entitled
to receive the safety bonuses for their final pay periods.
Dkt. #1-2 at 3. Plaintiffs claim that defendant wrongfully
and willfully withheld those bonuses in violation of RCW
49.52.050. Under Washington law, employers must not
“[w]illfully and with intent to deprive [an] employee
of any part of his or her wages . . . pay any employee a
lower wage than the wage such employer is obligated to pay
such employee by any statute, ordinance, or contract.”
RCW 49.52.050. Failure to pay is “willful when it is
the result of a knowing and intentional action and not the
result of a bona fide dispute.” Garrison v. Merch.
& Gould, P.C., No. 09-CV-1728-JPD, 2011 WL 887749,
at *10 (W.D. Wash. Mar. 10, 2011) (quoting Lillig v.
Becton-Dickinson, 105 Wash.2d 653, 659, 717 P.2d 1371
plaintiffs do not assert any facts to establish willfulness.
Plaintiffs rely on insufficient, conclusory allegations to
establish their wages claim. Plaintiffs claim that “STL
knowingly refused to pay Plaintiffs their safety bonuses for
their final pay periods.” Dkt. #1-2 at ¶ 3.7.
Plaintiffs also assert that they “did not authorize STL
to withhold their safety bonuses” and, therefore,
defendant willfully withheld wages that caused
plaintiffs' alleged damages. Id. at ¶¶
3.8-3.9. These assertions are merely formulaic recitations of
the elements of a willful withholding of wages claim. Without
any specific factual allegations in support of these
assertions, plaintiffs have not established plausibility.