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2 Recent Decisions Apply Common Law Test for Successor Liability to FLSA Claims and Hold Successor Companies Liable
As previously discussed here, the law regarding successor liability in the context of FLSA claims continues to develop. In two recent decisions, the Seventh Circuit and a District Court from within the Sixth Circuit joined the growing majority of courts on the issue and held that the common law test, applicable to other types of employment law claims, also applies to determine whether a successor corporation is liable for the FLSA violations of its predecessor. Although the cases are fact-specific, they provide some insight into what factors courts will examine to decide whether it is equitable to hold a successor company liable.
M.D.Tenn.: DirecTV Has “Successor Liability” Where Sham Foreclosure Sale
Thompson v. Bruister and Associates, Inc.
In the first case, the court held that DirecTV was liable for the FLSA violations of its predecessor, a company exclusively engaged in the business of performing installations for DirecTV pursuant to sub-contracts with DirecTV, due to the circumstances under which DirecTV “purchased” the prior company. Significantly, following its default on its loan agreement with its bank, BAI had no place to turn for funding. As a result, DirecTV agreed to advance BAI funds to cover payroll and other operating expenses, because it was in DirecTV’s interest to keep its installer running. Shortly thereafter, the companies began discussing a deal whereby DirecTV would purchase BAI outright. However, after performing due diligence of the company via an extensive document review, DirecTV decided not to purchase BAI because it was “so far under water,” and had a “whole book of litigation.” Instead, DirecTV began reviewing other alternatives to acquiring the assets of BAI. Ultimately, representatives of BAI, DirecTV, and BAI’s bank met and tentatively arrived at a preliminary three-way agreement. Under the agreement, BAI would pay MB Financial $4 million; DirecTV would purchase the remaining loan obligations from MB Financial for $4.7 million, and, in exchange, MB Financial would assign DirecTV all of its rights as a secured creditor under the loan agreement. By this time, DirectTV had already advanced $5.5 million to BAI for payroll and other expenses. Ultimately the parties executed a formal agreement and DirecTV acquired BAI’s loan obligations. Thereafter, DirecTV scheduled a foreclosure sale for August 11, 2008. The purpose of the sale was to extinguish claims to BAI’s collateral. A $1 million figure was set as the minimum price for the collateral. No HSPs were invited to the sale, and no other parties bid at the sale. DirecTV purchased the collateral and, while no money exchanged hands, one million dollars was credited against the money BAI owed DirecTV. As of the time of the foreclosure sale, BAI was insolvent, and it remaned insolvent.
Following the foreclosure sale, DirecTV, Inc. conducted business out of BAI’s locations. Further, the team working on the BAI transition post-foreclosure included personnel from DirectTV and its subsidiary. Additionally DirecTV took over BAI’s facilities, including its warehouses, corporate offices, call centers, and storage units, and DirectTV operated out of those facilities. BAI provided DirecTV with the names and addresses of all its employees (as provided for under the HSPs), and the companies worked together to ensure a “smooth” and “seamless” transition for employees who were terminated by BAI and subsequently hired by DirecTV. Before the foreclosure sale, DirecTV sent notices of the impending change to all BAI employees (except those at Gadsden), including: (1) a new hire packet with employment application and payroll forms; (2) frequently asked questions about the transition; (3) an offer letter; and (4) retention bonus information. Additionally, DirectTV set up a live hotline to field BAI employees’ questions, and, during the first week of August 2008, sent human resources employees to each of the 15 primary BAI sites to conduct orientation sessions, respond to questions, help individuals complete forms, conduct new hire orientations, and oversee drug and background testing. Similarly, of the former 1,100 or so employees of BAI, 180 Connect hired 1,005 of them, including a number of management and upper level management employees, and more than 80 of the Plaintiffs in this action. BAI’s principle was hired as a consultant by DirectTV and paid $861,516.16 to serve as a consultant to help with the transition for the first year, working out the same office that he had used while serving as President of BAI. Most of BAI’s installers that were hired by DirecTV continued doing substantially the same jobs. DirecTV did not make any broad changes to jobs and functions, job titles, job responsibilities, or the technicians’ supervisors, and BAI’s hourly scale and current pay status and rates for the employees remained in place. DirecTV also honored vacation time and other benefits employees had accrued during their employment with BAI, and used former BAI employees’ hire dates with BAI as their effective hire date with DirecTV for tenure and benefits purposes.
As a result of the foreclosure sale, DirecTV acquired an interest in the collateral listed in Section 6.1 of the Loan and Security Agreement, including all of BAI’s property, such as accounts, inventory, goods (furniture and fixtures), software, securities, chattel paper, and insurance policies and proceeds. DirecTV was provided access to historical information on personal computers and servers used in BAI’s business, and migrated former BAI computers into its network. DirecTV also assumed BAI’s data and voice circuits and internet domains, and continued to use all circuit that were in place and working. After DirecTV formed a new internet domain for DirecTV Homes services, DTVHS.com, the former BAI locations were transferred to that new domain name.
By separate contract effective August 11, 2008, DirecTV assumed the leases for all field service personnel fleet vehicles, and continued to use the same installation equipment, including the tools and equipment stored on the trucks, set-top boxes, satellite dishes, and other equipment, as well as vehicles acquired from BAI following the foreclosure. BAI also assigned DirecTV various service contracts, including a contract with Total Design Solutions for inventory and personnel services, a contract with ONTOP Systems, Inc. for a Summit financial application, and a contract with Prime Alert for security monitoring. BAI also assigned to DirecTV its rights under all insurance policies for which DirecTV was named as an additional insured in accordance with the terms of the Home Service Provider Agreements.
Significantly, following the foreclosure sale, there was no interruption of the installation and repair services to DirecTV customers. As before, work was assigned to the technicians through the Siebel system, which DirecTV used to process customer accounts and assign work. DirecTV was also provided with access to BAI’s historical customer information.
After discussing the history and reasoning for successor liability in employment law cases, the court laid out the factors:
“[T]he appropriateness of successor liability depends on whether the imposition of such liability would be equitable.” Cobb v. Contract Transp., Inc., 452 F.3d 543, 553–54 (6th Cir.2006). “Courts that have considered the successorship question in a labor context have found a multiplicity of factors to be relevant. These include: 1) whether the successor company had notice of the charge, 2) the ability of the predecessor to provide relief, 3) whether there has been a substantial continuity of business operations, 4) whether the new employer uses the same plant, 5) whether he uses the same or substantially the same work force, 6) whether he uses the same or substantially the same supervisory personnel, 7) whether the same jobs exist under substantially the same working conditions, 8) whether he uses the same machinery, equipment and methods of production and 9) whether he produces the same product.” MacMillan, 503 F.2d at 1094.
Applying these factors, the court concluded, “[c]onsidering those factors, as well as the overall equities, the Court is persuaded by the evidence which has been presented that DirectTV, as a matter of law, is liable as a successor employer to BAI.”
Click Thompson v. Bruister and Associates, Inc. to read the entire Memorandum opinion on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment.
7th Cir.: Common Law Successor Liability Test Applicable; Successor Company Liable
Teed v. Thomas & Betts Power Solutions, L.L.C.
Perhaps of more significance, the 7th Circuit, only the second circuit court to take up the issue recently held the common law test for successor liability to FLSA claims as well. In this case, the court summarized the salient facts as follows:
Packard provided, and continues under its new ownership by Thomas & Betts to provide, maintenance and emergency technical services for equipment designed to protect computers and other electrical devices from being damaged by power outages. All of Packard’s stock was acquired in 2006 by Bray, though Packard retained its name and corporate identity and continued operating as a stand-alone entity. The workers’ FLSA suit was filed two years later.
Several months after it was filed, Bray defaulted on a $60 million secured loan that it had obtained from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and that Packard, Bray’s subsidiary, had guaranteed. To pay as much of the debt to the bank as it could, Bray assigned its assets—including its stock in Packard, which was its principal asset—to an affiliate of the bank. The assets were placed in a receivership under Wisconsin law and auctioned off, with the proceeds going to the bank. Thomas & Betts was the high bidder at the auction, paying approximately $22 million for Packard’s assets. One condition specified in the transfer of the assets to Thomas & Betts pursuant to the auction was that the transfer be “free and clear of all Liabilities” that the buyer had not assumed, and a related but more specific condition was that Thomas & Betts would not assume any of the liabilities that Packard might incur in the FLSA litigation. After the transfer, Thomas & Betts continued to operate Packard much as Bray had done (and under the same name, as we noted), and indeed offered employment to most of Packard’s employees.
Noting that Wisconsin state law, if applicable, would serve to bar successor liability in the case, the court examined the equity of applying successor liability under federal common law instead. Holding the federal common law test applicable, the court reasoned:
The idea behind having a distinct federal standard applicable to federal labor and employment statutes is that these statutes are intended either to foster labor peace, as in the National Labor Relations Act, or to protect workers’ rights, as in Title VII, and that in either type of case the imposition of successor liability will often be necessary to achieve the statutory goals because the workers will often be unable to head off a corporate sale by their employer aimed at extinguishing the employer’s liability to them. This logic extends to suits to enforce the Fair Labor Standards Act. “The FLSA was passed to protect workers’ standards of living through the regulation of working conditions. 29 U.S.C. § 202. That fundamental purpose is as fully deserving of protection as the labor peace, anti-discrimination, and worker security policies underlying the NLRA, Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, ERISA, and MPPAA.” Steinbach v. Hubbard, 51 F.3d 843, 845 (9th Cir.1995). In the absence of successor liability, a violator of the Act could escape liability, or at least make relief much more difficult to obtain, by selling its assets without an assumption of liabilities by the buyer (for such an assumption would reduce the purchase price by imposing a cost on the buyer) and then dissolving. And although it can be argued that imposing successor liability in such a case impedes the operation of the market in companies by increasing the cost to the buyer of a company that may have violated the FLSA, it’s not a strong argument. The successor will have been compensated for bearing the liabilities by paying less for the assets it’s buying; it will have paid less *767 because the net value of the assets will have been diminished by the associated liabilities.
There are better arguments against having a federal standard for labor and employment cases, besides the general objections to multifactor tests that we noted earlier: applying a judge-made standard amounts to judicial amendment of the statutes to which it’s applied by adding a remedy that Congress has not authorized; implied remedies (that is, remedies added by judges to the remedies specified in statutes) have become disfavored; and borrowing state common law, especially a common law principle uniform across the states, to fill gaps in federal statutes is an attractive alternative to creating federal common law, an alternative the Supreme Court adopted for example in United States v. Bestfoods, 524 U.S. 51, 62–64, 118 S.Ct. 1876, 141 L.Ed.2d 43 (1998), in regard to the liability of a corporation under the Superfund law for a subsidiary’s violations. But Thomas & Betts does not ask us to jettison the federal standard; it just asks us not to “extend” it to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Yet none of the concerns that we’ve just listed regarding the filling of holes in a federal statute with federal rather than state common law looms larger with respect to the Fair Labor Standards Act than with respect to any other federal labor or employment statute. The issue is not extension but exclusion.
Addressing and rejecting the defendants’ suggestion that enforcing successor liability against the purchaser of an insolvent company would discourage the insolvent company from selling itself (or the successor from making such a purchase), the court explained:
there is no good reason to reject successor liability in this case—the default rule in suits to enforce federal labor or employment laws. (For remember that the successor’s disclaimer of liability is not a good reason in such a case.) Packard was a profitable company. It went on the auction block not because it was insolvent but because it was the guarantor of its parent’s bank loan and the parent defaulted. Had Packard been sold before Bray got into trouble, imposition of successor liability would have been unexceptionable; Bray could have found a buyer for Packard willing to pay a good price even if the buyer had to assume the company’s FLSA liabilities. Those liabilities were modest, after all. Remember that the parties have agreed to settle the workers’ suit (should we affirm the district court) for only about $500,000, though doubtless there was initial uncertainty as to what the amount of a judgment or settlement would be; in addition, Thomas & Betts incurred attorneys’ fees to defend against the suit. Nevertheless had Packard been sold before Bray got into trouble, imposition of successor liability would have been unexceptionable, and we have not been given an adequate reason why its having been sold afterward should change the result.
Click Teed v. Thomas & Betts Power Solutions, L.L.C. to read the court’s entire Decision.
When an employee is employed by a company, as long as that company is an enterprise covered by the FLSA, it is subject to the wage and hour requirements of the FLSA. But what about when the company alleged to have violated the FLSA changes hands before its employees have initiated a lawsuit or claim for their unpaid wages. Does the successor company, who acquires the assets of the alleged violator have successor liability under the FLSA? Two recent decisions discuss this very issue. However, given the factually intensive nature of the inquiry, as discussed below, both courts denied the respective defendants’ motions based on issues of fact.
Paschal v. Child Development Inc.
In the first case, Paschal v. Child Development, Inc., the plaintiffs’ subsequent employer (“CDIHS”) sought judgment as a matter of law at the pleading stage of the case, asserting that it could not be plaintiffs’ employer under the FLSA, because it was not in existence when the plaintiffs’ claims arose. In denying the subsequent employer’s motion as premature, the court explained the parameters for successor liability in FLSA cases.
The court explained that the test for liability of a successor company under the FLSA requires the examination of several elements:
The doctrine of successor liability has [ ] been recognized to apply to FLSA violations.” The question of successor liability is difficult based on the “myriad [of] factual circumstances and legal contexts in which it can arise;” therefore, the court must give emphasis on the facts of each case as it arises. A finding of successorship involves two essential inquiries: (1) whether there is continuity of the business; and (2) did the successor know of the violations at the time it took over the business. A court may also consider whether: (a) the same plant is being used; (b) the employees are the same; (c) the same jobs exist; (d) the supervisors are the same; (e) the same equipment and methods of production are being used; and (f) the same services are being offered.
In their Reply, CDIHS argues that Plaintiffs failed to plead any facts that put them in the category of being a successor in interest. Specifically, they argue that “[t]he business was not transferred, nor were employees or property transferred. There was no purchase of the business in any sense.” However, Defendants fail to address the two essential questions of whether they had notice of the violations and whether there was continuity of the business… Plaintiffs argue that “[s]ubstantial continuity of operations between CDI and CDIHS is a given.” They point to CDIHS’s website that indicates all of the efforts on CDIHS’s behalf to maintain the continuity of program. They also argue that based on CDIHS’s intervention, they were “aware of CDI’s potential liability for FLSA and ERISA violations.”
Ultimately, the court denied CDIHS’ motion as premature.
Click Paschal v. Child Development Inc. to read the entire Order Denying Motion to Dismiss.
Battino v. Cornelia Fifth Ave., LLC
In the second case, Battino v. Cornelia Fifth Ave., LLC, a different court applied a similar test to that discussed above. However, because the Battino case was before the court on the defendants’ motion for summary judgment (rather than a motion to dismiss at the pleading stage), it provides a greater insight into how courts apply the multi-factor test in ascertaining whether there is successor liability under the FLSA. In Battino, the court denied the subsequent employers’ motion for summary judgment holding that issues of fact precluded a finding in the defendants’ favor on this issue. As discussed here, the court primarily focused its inquiry on the second factor enunciated above, whether the successor knew of the violations at the time it took over the business.
Regarding the specific test applied by the Battino court, the court explained:
The substantial continuity test in the labor relations context looks to “whether the new company has acquired substantial assets of its predecessor and continued, without interruption or substantial change, the predecessor’s business operations.” Fall River, 482 U.S. at 43 (citation and quotation marks omitted). Courts applying this test typically look at the nine factors enunciated by the Sixth Circuit in the Title VII discrimination context in EEOC v. MacMillan Bloedel Containers, Inc., 503 F.2d 1086, 1094 (6th Cir.1974): (1) whether the successor company had notice of the charge or pending lawsuit prior to acquiring the business or assets of the predecessor; (2) the ability of the predecessor to provide relief; (3) whether there has been a substantial continuity of business operations; (4) whether the new employer uses the same plant; (5) whether he uses the same or substantially the same work force; (6) whether he uses the same or substantially the same supervisory personnel; (7) whether the same jobs exist under substantially the same working conditions; (8) whether he uses the same machinery, equipment, and methods of production; and (9) whether he produces the same product. Musikiwamba, 760 F.2d at 750 (paraphrasing MacMillan Bloedel ). “No one factor is controlling, and it is not necessary that each factor be met to find successor liability.” EEOC v. Barney Skanska Const. Co., 99 Civ.2001, 2000 WL 1617008, at *2 (S .D.N.Y. Oct. 27, 2000) (citation omitted).
In denying the defendants’ motion, the court held that there were issues of fact precluding same, because the successor company could not be said to be an “innocent purchaser,” inasmuch as one of its principals was also a principal in the prior company.
The court explained:
This is not a case of an “innocent purchaser” who “exercised due diligence and failed to uncover evidence” of any potential liability. Musikiwamba, 760 F.2d at 750, 752. Rather, SCFAL was fully aware of the potential liabilities to the unpaid employees and attempted to negotiate the APA accordingly. Thus, the Court is unable to conclude as a matter of law that Canizales cannot be liable as a successor to Cornelia Fifth because of a lack of notice of the claim to SCFAL.
Click Battino v. Cornelia Fifth Ave., LLC to read the entire Opinion and Order.
N.D.W.Va.: An FLSA Employer Held Liable For FLSA Violations Has No Right To Contribution Or Indemnification; Allowing Same Would Contravene The Purposes Of The FLSA
McDougal v. G & S Tobacco Dealers, L.L.C.
This case was before the Court on the Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff’s (and current owner of the employer) and the Third-Party Defendant’s (former employer) cross motions for summary judgment. In a nutshell, what started as a simple FLSA claim, “expanded into contract claims for indemnification and contribution by the [current] employer [Woodward] against the former owner [Oliverios] of the company that employed Plaintiff.”
Among other issues, the Court discussed whether there was any pleaded theory that could impose a duty of indemnity or contribution on the previous owner [Oliveros] for the current owner’s [Woodward’s] non-payment of Plaintiff for the time Plaintiff worked for Defendant, subsequent to the time Woodward took ownership of the company that employed Plaintiff. Holding that no such duty of indemnity or contribution existed, the Court explained:
“1. With respect to Woodward’s claim for indemnification, contribution and breach of statutory or agency duties, the doctrine of conflict or obstacle preemption is dispositive.
Woodward’s state common law claims of contractual and implied indemnification and contribution against Oliverios for wages and benefits damages not paid to McDougal after July 17, 2007 in violation of FLSA and WPCA are preempted by the doctrine of conflict or obstacle preemption.
On the same date the parties argued the instant cross-motions for summary judgment before this Court, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals published its decision in Equal Rights Center, et al v. Archstone Multifamily Series I Trust, et al, 09-1453.
The following facts and claims of Archstone are analogous to the facts and claims of the instant case: Archstone hired architect Bolton to design multi-family apartment buildings which Archstone then had various contractors build. Of the units constructed, Equal Rights Center, et al alleged 71 failed to be constructed so that they were accessible to persons with disabilities in violation of FHA and ADA. Archstone and the Equal Rights Plaintiffs entered into a Consent Decree which required Archstone to retro-fit the 71 units to make them ADA and FHA compliant and to pay 1.4 million in damages and attorneys fees and expenses. Bolton did not join in the settlement but later entered into a separate consent decree with the Equal Rights Plaintiffs which did not include any admission of liability. Archstone cross-claimed against Bolton seeking damages based on state law causes of action: express indemnity; implied indemnity; breach of contract; and professional negligence. After lengthy discovery and immediately prior to the dispositive motions deadline, Archstone sought leave to amend its cross-claim against Bolton to include a claim for contribution. Bolton objected. The District Court denied leave to amend. Thereafter the District Court granted Bolton summary judgment reasoning that Archstone’s causes of action were indemnity and de facto indemnity claims for violations of the FHA and ADA and, because no right to indemnification exists under the ADA or FHA, the state law claims asserted by Archstone would be antithetical to the purposes of the FHA and ADA and therefore preempted under the doctrine of conflict or obstacle preemption. Archstone appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed holding:
Obstacle preemption applies “where state law; stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.’ “ …. where a state-law claim “interferes with the methods by which the federal statute was designed to reach [its] goal.” (internal citations omitted).
Obstacle preemption has been extended to state tort claims as well as positive enactments of state law. Id. citing Geier v. Am. Honda Motor Co., 529 U.S. 861, 120 S.Ct. 1913, 146 L.Ed.2d 914 (2000).
Finding Archstone’s indemnification claims were preempted, the Court held:
Here, Archstone sought to allocate the full risk of loss to Niles Bolton for the apartment buildings at issue. Allowing an owner to completely insulate itself from liability for an ADA or FHA violation through contract diminishes its incentive to ensure compliance with discrimination laws. If a developer of apartment housing, who concededly has a non-delegable duty to comply with the ADA and FHA, can be indemnified under state law for its ADA and FHA violations, then the developer will not be accountable for discriminatory practices in building apartment housing. Such a result is antithetical to the purposes of the FHA and ADA.
The Court further held Archstone’s last minute attempt to amend its cross-claim was properly denied as prejudicial to Bolton. Moreover, the Court held: “As presented on appeal, the claim which Archstone presents in its amended complaint is a de facto indemnification claim, and such a claim is preempted under federal law. Therefore, allowing Archstone to amend under these circumstances to include a so-called contribution claim is, in any event, futile.”
A number of cases have addressed the issue of whether there is a right to contribution or indemnification for employers held liable under the FLSA and have held there is none. Herman v. R.S.R. Security Servs. Ltd., 172 F.3d 132, 143 (2nd Cir.1999). Relying on the rationale expressed in Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, 451 U.S. 77, 101 S.Ct. 1571, 67 L.Ed.2d 750 (1981), the Herman Court held:
There is no right of contribution or indemnification for employers found liable under the FLSA. The reasons are readily apparent. First, the text of the FLSA makes no provision for contribution or indemnification. Second, the statute was designed to regulate the conduct of employers for the benefit of employees, and it cannot therefore be said that employers are members of the class for whose benefit the FLSA was enacted. Third, the FLSA has a comprehensive remedial scheme as shown by the express provision for private enforcement in certain carefully defined circumstances. Such a comprehensive statute strongly counsels against judicially engrafting additional remedies. Fourth, the Act’s legislative history is silent on the right to contribution or indemnification. Accordingly, we hold that there is no right to contribution or indemnification for employers held liable under the FLSA.
In Herman, Portnoy contended that even if the FLSA did not permit contribution or indemnification, those claims could be prosecuted under New York law in much the same way Woodward contends she should be permitted to prosecute claims for indemnification against Oliverios under West Virginia law. The Herman Court held: “This view of the law is flawed because the FLSA’s remedial scheme is sufficiently comprehensive as to preempt state law in this respect.” Herman v. R.S.R. Security Servs. Ltd., supra at 144.
The Fourth Circuit held in the 1992 case of Lyle v. Food Lion, Inc. 954 F.2d 984, 987: “In effect, Food Lion sought to indemnify itself against Tew for its own violation of the FLSA, which the district court found, and we agree, is something the FLSA simply will not allow. As the fifth Circuit has noted, ‘[t]o engraft an indemnity action upon this otherwise comprehensive federal statute would run afoul of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution’ and ‘would undermine employers’ incentives to abide by the Act. LeCompt v. Chrysler Credit Corp., 780 S.2d 1260, 1264 (5th Cir.1986).’ “
In the instant suit, Oliverios were the employers of McDougal prior to July 17, 2007 and therefore responsible for any FLSA and WPCA claims arising for work performed by McDougal up to July 17th. However, Woodward uses the warranty and indemnification clauses of the 2007 contract in an attempt to hold Oliverios liable for Woodward’s failure to pay McDougal FLSA wages after July 17, 2007. In the alternative to the contract indemnification claim, Woodward attempts to shift ultimate responsibility for payment of post July 17, 2007 FLSA wages to Oliverios using equitable principles. In every event, Woodward seeks to delegate her duty to comply with the FLSA to Oliverio for all wages and damages owed including those starting with the contract closing on July 17, 2007. This she cannot do. The FLSA does not contain language that provides for such indemnification or contribution. Woodward is not a member of the class protected by the FLSA. The FLSA is a comprehensive remedial statute designed to give employees the right to sue their employers for violations of the act. This is precisely what McDougal did in bringing his action against Woodward. Herman, supra at 144. This court cannot and will not engraft an indemnity clause on the FLSA where there is none. LeCompt, supra at 1264.
Accordingly, the Court concludes that Woodward’s Third Party Plaintiff claims against Oliverios for indemnification or contribution to McDougal’s FLSA claims arising post July 17, 2007 whether the same are based on contractual or equitable contribution, indemnification, breach of contract, breach of warranty, agency, or another state contract or equity claim, are preempted by the provisions of the FLSA; are antithetical to the purpose of the FLSA; undermine the public policy established by the FLSA; and are barred by the doctrines of Conflict and Obstacle Preemption.
Even if Woodward, in light of the absence of the availability of contribution and/or indemnification for the FLSA claims of McDougal, contends that she is entitled to contribution from Oliverios solely for WVPA damages claimed by McDougal, that contention also fails. The federal court only recognizes a right to contribution under state law “in cases in which state law supplie[s] the appropriate rule of decision.” Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, supra at 97. The West Virginia’s Wage Payment and Collection Act (W.Va.Code, § 21-5-1 et seq.) provides a comprehensive method for employees forcing their immediate or ultimate employer to timely pay them in accord with law. It does not provide authorization or a method or a rule of decision for allocating claims of contribution toward the liability of the employer to timely pay his employee’s wages. Nor does it provide or recognize any method, contractual or equitable, for shifting the burden of paying wages in accord with law from the employer to a third person.”
Not discussed here, the Court held that language from the contract of sale of the employer from Oliverios to Woodward was binding, to the extent that Oliverios was required to pay the cost of Woodward’s legal defense arising from the lawsuit.
To read the entire decision, click here.
Chao v. Concrete Management Resources, L.L.C.
Plaintiff filed this wage and hour suit against defendants alleging violations of the overtime and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In her complaint, plaintiff alleged that defendant Concrete Management Resources, L.L.C. (CMR) was formerly known as Concrete Masonry & Restoration, L.L.C. Defendant CMR moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that it was not a proper party to the action. Specifically, CMR contended that it has never operated as Concrete Masonry & Restoration, L.L.C. and that CMR is a separate legal entity from Concrete Masonry & Restoration, L.L.C. CMR contended that any FLSA violations were committed by Concrete Masonry & Restoration., L.L.C. and that CMR has no relationship with that entity.
The Court entered an Order permitting Plaintiff leave to file an Amended Complaint, asserting successor liability, stating, “[t]he court believes that the Tenth Circuit, if faced with the issue, would conclude that successor liability exists under the FLSA. Indeed, the Circuit had little difficulty extending the doctrine to the Title VII context-long before the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Steinbach. Trujillo, 694 F.2d at 224-25. In doing so, the Circuit emphasized that the “same policy considerations” supporting the application of the doctrine in the labor law context mandated the application of the doctrine to remedy violations of Title VII. Id. at 224. The Circuit also cautioned, however, that “successor liability is not automatic but should be determined on a case by case basis” through application of the ” MacMillan factors,” including whether the successor company had notice of the charge; the ability of the predecessor to provide relief; and whether there has been a substantial continuity in operations, work force, location, management, working conditions and methods of production. Id. at 225 & n. 3. The court, then, rejects defendant’s suggestion that plaintiff’s amendment is futile because the Tenth Circuit has not recognized the theory of successor liability under the FLSA.”
In so doing, the Court joined other Courts, namely the Ninth Circuit in expressly recognizing the existence of successor liability in an FLSA context.