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Zevallos v. Stamatakis

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

December 6, 2017

CESAR YAPIAS ZEVALLOS and EFRAIN PEREZ ARIAS, Plaintiffs,
v.
PETE STAMATAKIS and MOUNTAIN PLAINS AGRICULTURAL SERVICE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT PETE STAMATAKIS'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          DAVID NUFFER DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant Pete Stamatakis (“Mr. Stamatakis”) filed a Motion to Dismiss[1] arguing that Plaintiffs failed to plead sufficient facts in their Complaint[2] to state plausible claims for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPRA”); breach of contract; quantum meruit; intentional infliction of emotion distress; and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Because Plaintiffs allege sufficient facts to state plausible claims for relief, Mr. Stamatakis's Motion to Dismiss[3] is DENIED.

         DISCUSSION

         Standard of Review

         Mr. Stamatakis seeks dismissal of Plaintiffs' Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[4] A defendant is entitled to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) when the complaint, standing alone, is legally insufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted.[5] When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the thrust of all well-pleaded facts in the complaint is presumed.[6] “The allegations must be enough that, if assumed to be true, the plaintiff plausibly (not just speculatively) has a claim for relief.”[7] “This requirement of plausibility serves not only to weed out claims that do not (in the absence of additional allegations) have a reasonable prospect of success, but also to inform the defendants of the actual grounds of the claim against them.”[8]

         Measured against this legal standard, Plaintiffs allege sufficient facts to state plausible claims against Mr. Stamatakis for violations of the FLSA and the TVPRA, breach of contract, quantum meruit, intentional infliction of emotion distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

         Plaintiffs allege sufficient facts to state a plausible FLSA claim

         The FLSA requires employers to pay a minimum wage to employees, who are “employed in an enterprise engaged in commerce.”[9] “Any employer who violates [this] provision[] . . . shall be liable to the employee or employees affected in the amount of their unpaid minimum wages . . . and in an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.”[10] And [a]n action to recover the liability prescribed . . . may be maintained against any employer[.]”[11] In order to recover under the FLSA, a plaintiff, whose work involved some kind of interstate commerce, must allege that an employer failed to pay minimum wages.[12]

         Mr. Stamatakis argues that Plaintiffs fail to specify the alleged misconduct attributable to him, and that the allegations demonstrate their FLSA claim is merely possible, not plausible.[13]However, Plaintiffs allege Mr. Stamatakis was their employer, and that he failed to pay them at least a minimum wage for work that involved interstate commerce in violation of the FLSA.[14]These allegations are sufficient to state a plausible claim for violation of the FLSA against Mr. Stamatakis.

         Plaintiffs allege sufficient facts to state a plausible TVPRA claim

         Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1595(a), any person who is a victim of a violation of the TVPRA, “may bring a civil action against the perpetrator (or whoever knowingly benefit[ted])” from the violation.[15] A violation of § 1589(a) of the TVPRA occurs when a person:

knowingly provides or obtains the labor or services of a person by any one of, or by any combination of, the following means--
(1) by means of force, threats of force, physical restraint, or threats of physical restraint to that person or another person;
(2) by means of serious harm or threats of serious harm to that person or another person;
(3) by means of the abuse or threatened abuse of law or legal process; or
(4) by means of any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause the person to believe that, if that person did not perform such labor or services, that person or another person would suffer serious harm or physical restraint[.][16]

         A violation of § 1589(b) of the TVPRA occurs when a person:

knowingly benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture which has engaged in the providing or obtaining of labor or services by any of the means described in subsection (a), knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the venture has engaged in the providing or obtaining of labor or services by any of such means[.][17]

         And a violation of § 1592(a) of the TVPRA occurs when a person:

knowingly destroys, conceals, removes, confiscates, or possesses any actual or purported passport or other immigration document, or any other actual or purported government identification document, of another person--
(1) in the course of a violation of section 1581, 1583, 1584, 1589, 1590, 1591, or 1594(a);
(2) with intent to violate section 1581, 1583, 1584, 1589, 1590, or 1591; or
(3) to prevent or restrict or to attempt to prevent or restrict, without lawful authority, the person's liberty to move or travel, in order to maintain the labor or services of that person, when the person is or has been a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons, as defined in section 103 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000[.][18]

         Mr. Stamatakis argues Plaintiffs fail to specify the alleged misconduct attributable to him, and that the allegations demonstrate that their TVPRA claim is merely possible, not plausible.[19] However, Plaintiffs expressly allege Mr. Stamatakis used threats of force and serious harm such as withholding food and water, death threats, threats of jail, and withholding wages to obtain Plaintiffs' labor and services.[20] Plaintiffs also allege Mr. Stamatakis knowingly benefitted from their labor in violation of § 1589 (b), [21] and that Mr. Stamatakis confiscated their passports and other legal documents in order to coerce their services and restrict their ability to leave.[22] These allegations are sufficient to state a plausible claim for violations of the TVPRA against Mr. Stamatakis.

         Plaintiffs allege sufficient facts to state a plausible claim ...


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