United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable John J. Tuchi, United States District Judge
issue is Plaintiff James Sao's Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings (Doc. 11), to which Defendants filed a Response
(Doc. 14) and Plaintiff filed a Reply (Doc. 15). The Court
resolves the Motion without oral argument. See LRCiv
7.2(f). For the reasons that follow, the Court grants
Plaintiff's Motion in part and denies it in part.
Pro-Tech Products, Inc. (“Pro-Tech”) produces
residential and commercial roofing systems. (Doc. 2, Answer
¶ 36.) Defendant Randall Winter is a director and
officer of Pro-Tech. (Answer ¶ 19.) Plaintiff worked for
Pro-Tech for one week, from August 12-16, 2019. (Doc 1,
Compl. ¶ 9; Answer ¶¶ 9, 37.) Defendants
allege that, although Plaintiff “began employment as a
laborer with . . . Pro-Tech, ” the week consisted
solely of training, of which Plaintiff was the primary
beneficiary. (Answer ¶¶ 37-38.)
one week, “Plaintiff decided the job was not for
him” and did not return to work for Pro-Tech. (Compl.
¶ 40.) Plaintiff did not receive wages on the next
regular payday. (Answer ¶ 44.) When Plaintiff addressed
the non-payment with Defendants, they informed Plaintiff that
he had executed an Employment Contract, wherein he
“voluntarily agreed” that if he left the job
within 90 days of his start date, he would forfeit one
week's pay due to the “expense and time consumption
of training new employees.” (Answer ¶ 45.)
attorneys then sent Defendants a demand letter. (Answer
¶ 46.) On September 16, Defendants delivered a check to
Plaintiff's attorneys in the “full amount of wages
due to Plaintiff” less withholdings. (Answer ¶
47.) Two days later, Plaintiff's counsel informed
Defendants' counsel that Plaintiff had rejected the
check. (Compl. ¶ 48; Answer ¶ 48.)
alleges three claims against Defendants: (1) failure to pay
minimum wages in violation of the Federal Labor Standards Act
(FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 206; (2) failure to pay minimum
wages in violation of the Arizona Minimum Wage Statute
(AMWS), A.R.S. § 23-364(g); and (3) failure to timely
pay wages under the Arizona Wage Statute (AWS), A.R.S. §
23-353. Defendants raise multiple affirmative defenses in
their Answer, including lack of subject matter jurisdiction
due to mootness of Plaintiff's claims; failure to state a
claim for the same reason; satisfaction; good faith; the
right of setoff; and waiver and consent. Plaintiff now moves
for judgment on the pleadings on all counts, arguing that
Defendants admitted each element of each claim and that none
of Defendants' alleged affirmative defenses apply.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), “a party may
move for judgment on the pleadings” after the pleadings
are closed “but early enough not to delay trial.”
The legal standards governing Rules 12(c) and 12(b)(6) are
“functionally identical, ” as both permit
challenges directed at the legal sufficiency of the other
party's allegations. Cafasso, U.S. ex rel. v. Gen.
Dynamics C4 Sys., Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1054 n.4 (9th
Cir. 2011). A judgment on the pleadings is proper only when
there are no issues of material fact, and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Gen. Conference
Corp. of Seventh-Day Adventists v. Seventh-Day Adventist
Congregational Church, 887 F.2d 228, 230 (9th Cir.
1989). Stated another way, a motion for judgment on the
pleadings will not be granted unless it appears “beyond
doubt that the [non-moving party] can prove no set of facts
in support of his claim which would entitle him to
relief.” Enron Oil Trading & Transp. Co. v.
Walbrook Ins. Co., 132 F.3d 526, 529 (9th Cir. 1997).
assessing a motion for judgment on the pleadings, all
allegations of fact by the party opposing the motion are
accepted as true and are construed in the light most
favorable to that party. Seventh-Day Adventists, 887
F.2d at 230. “As a result, a plaintiff is not entitled
to judgment on the pleadings when the answer raises issues of
fact that, if proved, would defeat recovery.”
Id. A plaintiff's uncontested allegations, to
which the defendant had an opportunity to respond, are also
taken as true. United States v. Brown, No.
CV-18-04213-PHX-DLR, 2019 WL 5549174, at *2 (D. Ariz. Oct.
28, 2019). Finally, a plaintiff's motion for judgment on
the pleadings may be granted only if all defenses raised in
the answer are legally insufficient. Qwest Commc'ns
Corp. v. City of Berkeley, 208 F.R.D. 288, 291 (N.D.
FLSA provides that “[e]very employer shall pay to each
of his [covered] employees” a minimum wage. 29 U.S.C.
§ 206(a). An employer who violates this provision
“shall be liable to the employee or employees affected
in the amount of their unpaid minimum wages . . . and an
additional equal amount as liquidated damages.” 29
U.S.C. § 216(b). When assessing liquidated damages,
“[d]ouble damages are the norm.” Chao v.
A-One Med. Servs., Inc., 346 F.3d 908, 920 (9th Cir.
prevail on his FLSA claim, Plaintiff must prove that (1) he
was employed by Defendants during the relevant period; (2) he
was a covered employee; and (3) Defendants failed to pay him
a minimum wage. Quinonez v. Reliable Auto Glass,
LLC, No. CV-12-000452-PHX-GMS, 2012 WL 2848426, at *2
(D. Ariz. July 11, 2012); see also Zorich v. Long Beach
Fire Dept. & Ambulance Serv., Inc., 118 F.3d 682,
684 (9th Cir. 1997). Plaintiff argues Defendants admitted
factual allegations in the Answer that prove all three
Plaintiff asserts that both Pro-Tech and Winter were
Plaintiff's employers within the meaning of the FLSA.
“Courts have adopted an expansive interpretation of the
definitions of ‘employer' and ‘employee'
under the FLSA, in order to effectuate the broad remedial
purposes of the Act.” Real v. Driscoll
Strawberry Assocs., Inc., 603 F.2d 748, 754 (9th Cir.
1979). An employer is “any person acting directly or
indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an
employee.” 29 U.S.C. § 203(d). An employee is
“any individual employed by an employer, ” and to
employ means to “suffer or permit to work.” 29
U.S.C. § 203(e), (g). Whether a party is an employer
within the meaning of the FLSA is a question of law.
Torres-Lopez v. May, 111 F.3d 633, 638 (9th Cir.
Answer admits the following factual allegations:
• Plaintiff “was a full-time employee of
Defendants” for the week of August 12-19, 2019;
• Plaintiff was an employee of Defendants as defined by
the FLSA, the AMWS, and the AWS;
• Pro-Tech was Plaintiff's employer as defined by
the FLSA, the AMWS; and the AWS;
• “Pro-Tech Products employed Plaintiff;”
• Plaintiff “began employment as a laborer with
Defendant Pro-Tech . . . on August 12, 2019.”
(Answer ¶¶ 9-12, 14-16, 20, 37.)
these allegations however, Defendants added “the
clarification that Plaintiff was a trainee and the primary
beneficiary of the first week training.” (Answer
¶¶ 9-12.) While the Response fails to develop this
argument or even contest Plaintiff's argument that
Defendants were his employers, the Court will evaluate
Defendants' claim that Plaintiff was a trainee and the
primary beneficiary of the training week.
employee-trainee distinction was first articulated in
Walling v. Portland Terminal Co., 330 U.S. 148, 152
(1947). The Court held that railroad workers who received
“practical training” to become yard brakemen were
not employees under the FLSA. The railroad company provided
the workers instruction and a certificate at the end of the
training period, which qualified the workers to earn
compensation for future work. The Court likened the
railroad's instruction to that which a school or
vocational setting would provide, where it ...