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Redgrave v. Ducey

United States District Court, D. Arizona

October 10, 2018

Marcie A Redgrave, Plaintiff,
Doug Ducey, et al., Defendants.


          Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Marcie Redgrave alleges on behalf of herself and others similarly situated that Defendants Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, the Arizona Department of Economic Security (“DES”), the DES Division of Developmental Disabilities (“DDD”), and Director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (“AHCCCS”) Thomas J. Betlach (collectively “Defendants”) violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) by failing to pay her the minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime compensation. Before the Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss. (Doc. 10, 14.) The motions are fully briefed and the Court heard oral argument on July 9, 2018. (Docs. 16, 20, 22, 24, 28-31.) For the following reasons, Defendants' motions are granted.

         I. Background

         For the past nineteen years, Redgrave has served as an in-home caretaker to P.L., a beneficiary (or “Member”) of the Arizona Long-Term Care System (“ALTCS”), who suffers from debilitating cerebral palsy disorder. Since 2016, when P.L. was diagnosed with autonomic disreflexia, Redgrave has increased her hours of active care from sixteen to twenty-four hours per day. P.L. depends on Redgrave for all basic living activities, including needs that arise in the middle of the night. Redgrave currently is compensated for sixteen hours per day at an hourly rate of $12.12.

         Redgrave is an Independent Provider hired directly by DDD, a state agency housed within DES. DDD is a Managed Care Organization delivering services to eligible Members through ALTCS with Medicaid funds provided by AHCCCS. Redgrave therefore alleges that Defendants and the Members themselves are her joint employers and are accountable for her compensation.

         In 2018, Redgrave filed this action in Maricopa County Superior Court, alleging that Defendants violated the FLSA by not compensating her the minimum wage for all hours worked or providing her overtime pay. In addition to damages, Redgrave seeks a declaratory judgment that she and others similarly situated are entitled to be paid for all hours they work, including overtime pay. Defendants timely removed to this Court in light of the purely federal nature of Redgrave's claims. Defendants now move to dismiss based primarily on sovereign immunity, though they also raise arguments concerning whether Redgrave has named appropriate defendants and whether her complaint plausibly states an entitlement to relief. Because the Court finds the sovereign immunity issue dispositive, it declines to address Defendants' alternative arguments for dismissal.

         II. Discussion

         “There are two forms of sovereign immunity: (1) sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment, which bars federal lawsuits against states and (2) sovereign immunity under the broader doctrine of state sovereign immunity, which shields a state from liability in both federal and state court, unless it has consented to be sued.” Wood v. Mont. Dep't of Revenue, 826 F.Supp.2d 1232, 1234 (D. Mont. 2011) (collecting cases). Defendants' motions focus on this latter, broader doctrine. For her part, Redgrave does not dispute that, absent a waiver or abrogation, Defendants have sovereign immunity against her FLSA claims for damages. Instead, Redgrave argues that Defendants waived their sovereign immunity, either by removing this case or as a result of state judicial abrogation of the immunity. (Doc. 16 at 1-7); see Wood, 826 F.Supp.2d at 1235 (“Sovereign immunity, in either form, can be waived.”). The Court therefore will focus on the waiver issue.

         A. Arizona Has Not Abrogated Sovereign Immunity for FLSA Claims

         Redgrave contends that the Arizona Supreme Court abolished the state's sovereign immunity in the 1963 case of Stone v. Arizona Highway Commission, 381 P.2d 107 (Ariz. 1963). Redgrave reads Stone too broadly, however. By its plain language, Stone abrogated sovereign immunity only for tort liability. 381 P.2d at 387 (“After a thorough re-examination of the rule of governmental immunity from tort liability, we now hold that it must be discarded as a rule of law in Arizona and all prior decisions to the contrary are hereby overruled.”). Subsequent cases interpreting Stone confirm the narrowness of its holding. See Glazer v. State, 347 P.3d 1141, 1144 (Ariz. 2015) (“This Court abolished the doctrine of sovereign immunity for tort liability in 1963, concluding that the government and its employees should generally be responsible for injuries they negligently cause.”). Stone did not, as Redgrave argues, effectuate a wholesale abrogation of Arizona's sovereign immunity for all claims.

         For this reason, Redgrave's interpretation of the Actions Against Public Entities or Public Employees Act (“Act”), A.R.S § 12-820.01, is misguided. In 1984, the Arizona legislature responded to the confusion caused by the Stone decision by enacting the Act, “which specifies circumstances in which governmental entities and public employees are immune from tort liability.” Glazer, 347 P.3d at 1144. Redgrave contends that the Act “carved out a small exception to the Stone rule” by “reestablish[ing] sovereign immunity for select government officials[.]” (Doc. 16 at 7.) Because FLSA claims are not explicitly included in these exceptions, Redgrave argues that Stone's abrogation continues to apply to these claims. But Redgrave's interpretation of this “small exception” is distorted by her erroneous belief that Stone abrogated sovereign immunity in its entirety, rather than for tort liability only. Indeed, this Court recently rejected the argument that, because FLSA claims are not referenced in the Act's exemptions for governmental tort liability, Arizona has somehow waived its sovereign immunity for such claims. Ramirez v. Ariz. State. Treasurer, No. CV-17-02024-PHX-SPL (D. Ariz. June 20, 2018).

         In the end, Redgrave identifies no statute or judicial decision that expressly waives Arizona's sovereign immunity for FLSA claims. To the contrary, state defendants have successfully asserted sovereign immunity against FLSA claims before this Court. See Gorney v. Ariz. Bd. of Regents, 43 F.Supp.3d 946, 951-52 (D. Ariz. 2014). The Court therefore finds that Arizona has not abrogated its broad sovereign immunity against FLSA claims.

         B. Defendants Did Not Waive Their Sovereign Immunity Through Removal

         Redgrave next contends that Defendants waived their sovereign immunity by removing this case. On this question, the Court finds persuasive the well-reasoned Wood decision from the United States District Court for the District of Montana. Rather ...

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