Louisiana Record

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

District court denies Masse Contracting's request to dismiss shipyard worker's unpaid overtime claim


By Takesha Thomas | Jul 31, 2019

Cargo ship 05

NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. District Court Eastern District of Louisiana has denied a request to have a suit over unpaid overtime wages against a shipyard dismissed.

Last month, Judge Barry W. Ashe denied Masse Contracting's and Bollinger Shipyards' motion to dismiss the suit under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim. Jose Ruiz, a pipefitter for Bollinger, alleges he along with 200 others were not paid overtime wages by Bollinger and Masse as labor subcontractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act. 

Ashe found that "Ruiz has alleged enough facts in the complaint to state a plausible claim of an FLSA violation related to the per diem payments."

According to court papers, Ruiz alleges that he along with about 50 others worked at Bollinger's Amelia shipyard as subcontractors and that because all workers were largely supervised and controlled by Bollinger, Bollinger should also be held liable in the claim.  

Attorneys for Bollinger argued for dismissal saying that "Ruiz’s complaint does not adequately allege FLSA claims against them and fails to include necessary parties." Additionally, they argued that Ruiz failed to include alleged time periods or the amount of overtime compensation due in his complaint. 

Attorneys for Ruiz argued that the complaint is adequate claiming that "notice of his dates of employment (2015 to 2018) and the amount of unpaid overtime, having alleged that he normally worked more than 40 hours per week – on average, at least 67 hours per week" should suffice.

Additionally, attorneys for Ruiz argue that the defendants "violated the FLSA by improperly disguising wages as per diem payments so as to avoid including those amounts in the calculation of overtime premium wages."

Ashe agreed, finding that, "Ruiz’s complaint plausibly alleges that Bollinger controlled his work by supervising him, setting his schedule, and maintaining an employment file on him. Further, it is also plausible that Ruiz’s employment was dependent upon Bollinger’s need for employees and that his pay could have been determined by whatever Bollinger paid Masse for his services. Ruiz alleges that Masse hired him to work at Bollinger, as opposed to any site where Masse had a contract to provide workers. Thus, it is reasonable to infer that Ruiz would have become unemployed had Bollinger terminated its contract with Masse. Consequently, Ruiz has plausibly alleged that Bollinger was one of his FLSA employers, while it is undisputed that Masse was the other."

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Bollinger ShipyardU.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

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