Another Federal Court Blasts Overbroad Complaint, Dismisses FLSA Collective Action Against Hospital
In yet another example of courts’ increasing hostility toward broad boilerplate complaints in Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective actions, in Sampson v. Medisys Health Network a Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of New York recommended dismissal with prejudice of an FLSA collective action. The court found that despite the length of the complaint – 35 pages with 202 paragraphs – the plaintiffs failed to allege “the most, basic, relevant, facts” necessary to proceed with their case, which alleged that the hospitals’ pay policies relating to meal period deductions, pre- and post-shift work, and unpaid training time violated the FLSA.
In this case, as in a number of recent FLSA collective actions against hospitals, the court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to plead sufficient facts to show that Medisys and the four other hospitals named as defendants were their employers within the meaning of the FLSA. Examining the twice-amended complaint, the court noted the lack of any allegations that Medisys or any of the other hospitals had any role in hiring, firing, supervising or paying the plaintiffs.
Based on the thread-bare allegations in the complaint, the court also concluded that it was impossible to infer that the proposed class of approximately 11,000 employees in more than 50 different positions, including both patient care and non-patient care positions, all performed the same type of work and were victims of the same allegedly unlawful policies. Even if the employees were subject to the same policies, the court noted, the type of alleged unpaid work that these various individuals performed was too dissimilar to satisfy the “similarly situated” standard in FLSA collective actions.
The court also observed that, in the district courts of New York alone, the same law firm had filed nearly identical class action complaints in nine other cases. In at least five of those cases, the complaints were dismissed for the same type of non-specific, boilerplate allegations. Noting the opportunities the plaintiffs had been given to re-plead their complaint and their failure to correct its defects, the court lamented the financial burdens imposed on the defendants and the waste of judicial resources and concluded that dismissal with prejudice was warranted.
The magistrate’s recommendation is subject to review by the district court judge, but in light of prior rulings in nearly identical cases it is likely that the magistrate’s report and recommendation will be accepted. It is encouraging that courts are rejecting what one court called a “blunderbuss” approach to pleading, asserting non-specific, generalized allegations against multiple allegedly “affiliated” defendants by a putative class of employees in numerous unrelated positions in an effort to obtain the broadest classes possible.
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