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Casperson v. AAA Southern New England

Superior Court of Rhode Island

December 22, 2015

WILLIAM CASPERSON, individually and on behalf of a class of persons similarly-situated, Plaintiff,
v.
AAA SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND, JOHN DOE COMPANIES, 1 through 10, inclusive, and JOHN DOES, 1 through 10 inclusive, Defendants.

Providence County Superior Court

For Plaintiff: V. Edward Formisano, Esq.

For Defendant: Robert G. Flanders, Jr., Esq.

DECISION

SILVERSTEIN, J.

Before the Court for decision is Defendant AAA Southern New England's (hereinafter AAA) Motion to Dismiss the class action Complaint for unpaid wages filed by Plaintiff William Casperson (hereinafter Casperson), individually and on behalf of a class of persons similarly-situated. In his Complaint, Casperson asks that this matter be certified as a class action with Casperson as the class representative. Casperson asserts that (i) AAA wrongfully denied Casperson, and other similarly-situated employees, wages under the Wage Act by failing to pay them one and one-half (1 V2) times the normal rate of pay for hours worked on Sundays and holidays; (ii) AAA wrongfully denied Casperson, and other similarly-situated employees, wages under the Sunday Pay Act by failing to pay them one and one-half (1 V2) times the normal rate of pay for hours worked on Sundays and holidays; and (iii) AAA has been unjustly enriched by the hours that Casperson, and similarly-situated employees, worked on Sundays and holidays, thus entitling them to such legal and equitable relief as the Court deems proper. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 8-2-14.

I

Facts and Travel

AAA is a Delaware corporation duly registered with the State of Rhode Island, which maintains a principal place of business in the City of Providence. Additionally, AAA employs individuals in the State of Rhode Island and is engaged in the motor vehicle service industry, providing "roadside assistance" services to its customers, including, but not limited to, towing, mechanical adjustments, vehicle fuel delivery, battery replacement, vehicle extrication, and lockout services. Compl. ¶ 3.

On October 19, 2009, AAA hired Casperson as a part-time tow truck driver. At the time of his hire, Casperson earned $11.50 per hour and worked twenty-four hours per week, including Sundays and holidays. In June of 2011, Casperson became a permanent, full-time flatbed driver for AAA. At that time, he earned $12.50 per hour and worked thirty-nine hours per week, including Sundays and holidays. During Casperson's tenure with AAA, he was required to work at least eight hours every Sunday, as well as some holidays. Casperson was terminated from his position with AAA on March 13, 2014. Id. at ¶¶ 12-16.

On December 15, 2014, Casperson filed this action against AAA alleging that it violated (i) Title 28, Chapter 14 of the General Laws of Rhode Island, 1956, entitled the Rhode Island Payment of Wages Act (hereinafter the Wage Act); and (ii) Title 25, Chapter 3 of the General Laws of Rhode Island, 1956, entitled Rhode Island Work on Holidays and Sundays Act (hereinafter the Sunday Pay Act). Casperson further alleges that AAA was unjustly enriched by reason of its failure to pay Casperson one and one-half (1 ½) his normal rate of pay for hours worked on Sundays and holidays. Casperson also asserts that during all relevant time periods he was an "employee" of AAA within the meaning of both the Wage Act and the Sunday Pay Act. Casperson further claims that as an "employee, " both Acts entitle him to one and one-half (1 ½) times his normal rate of pay (hereinafter premium pay) for the hours he worked on Sundays and holidays. Casperson contends that AAA wrongfully denied him this premium pay. Casperson further alleges that AAA wrongfully underpaid him, and other similarly-situated employees, in excess of $5000. Thus, Casperson concludes that AAA violated both the Wage Act and the Sunday Pay Act by failing to compensate him premium pay for the work he performed on Sundays and holidays. Further, Casperson asserts that, through this lack of compensation, AAA was unjustly enriched by the work Casperson performed on Sunday and holidays.

AAA has moved to dismiss this action under Super. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) (Rule 12(b)(6)) arguing that (i) Casperson has not asserted a claim upon which relief can be granted as he is not considered an "employee, " but instead, is exempt[1] under the Sunday Pay Act; and (ii) his unjust enrichment claim is preempted by the Sunday Pay Act.[2] In its Motion, AAA chiefly relies on an opinion letter written by Sean M. Fontes, Executive Counsel of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (hereinafter DLT), [3] on May 1, 2014 (hereinafter Letter). Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. A.

The Letter was in response to a request from AAA, in which AAA inquired about the status of both its company and its roadside service technicians under the Sunday Pay Act. According to the Letter, the DLT stated that it had "reviewed the issue of whether or not AAA is required to pay its emergency roadside service technicians premium pay" and concluded that "AAA is not required to . . . because [these technicians] perform a service that is 'ancillary' to a 'telephonic delivery of customer service' pursuant to R.I.G.L. § 25-3-1(3)(viii)." Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. A. In the Letter, the DLT reasoned that, "[b]ased upon the facts presented by [AAA], AAA has a call center operation which receives calls for emergency roadside assistance. The call center operators then contact the roadside service technicians who provide the assistance" and that such assistance "is 'ancillary' to the call center operations, since emergency roadside service technicians could not perform their work without the operations of the call center." Id. The DLT based the Letter entirely on facts submitted by AAA and concluded that AAA emergency roadside service technicians, such as Casperson, are not "employees" under the Sunday Pay Act and therefore are not entitled to receive premium pay for work performed on Sundays and/or holidays. Casperson objected to AAA's Motion, asserting that the Letter is not legally binding on this Court.

At issue is whether (i) the Court may take judicial notice of the Letter that AAA attached to its Motion; (ii) the Letter-if capable of judicial notice-is legally binding on the Court, therefore warranting dismissal of Casperson's Complaint; and (3) AAA was unjustly enriched as a result of its failure to provide Casperson with premium pay for the hours he worked on Sundays and holidays.

II

Standard of ...


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