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Hurt v. Commerce Energy, Inc.

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

August 27, 2013

DAVINA HURT, et al., Plaintiff,
COMMERCE ENERGY, INC., et al., Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER [Resolving Doc. No. 62]

JAMES S. GWIN, District Judge.

This is a case about minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act[1] and overtime pay under the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act.[2] Plaintiffs are door-to-door workers who marketed Defendants' energy services to residential customers. Defendant Just Energy Group Inc. has moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint.

For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Defendant's motion to dismiss.

I. Background

A. The Parties

Just Energy Group Inc. ("Just Energy") is a Canadian company that provides electric power and natural gas supply to 1.8 million residential and commercial customers in Canada and the United States. It operates in the U.S. through its licensed subsidiaries. One of these subsidiaries, Defendant Commerce Energy, operates in California, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Another Just Energy subsidiary, Defendant Just Energy Marketing, hires workers who market Just Energy services by going door-to-door to solicit customers.

Just Energy Marketing hired Plaintiffs as such door-to-door workers. They worked at various times from 2009 to 2013 at Just Energy's Beachwood, Ohio office.

B. The Complaint

In their Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs say that Defendants, including Just Energy, incorrectly claimed them as exempt under wage and hour laws as independent contractors.[3] They say that during that time Defendants required them to follow certain procedures and company rules, wear Just Energy badges and uniforms, and come to the Just Energy office every morning before working the geographic areas assigned to them by Defendants.[4] Plaintiffs say that under these circumstances they were actually employees.[5] They say that Defendants failed to pay them any minimum wage and overtime as required under state and federal law.[6]

Plaintiffs make these claims on behalf of themselves and as putative representatives for a collective action under Section 16 of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 216. They also seek to bring this case as a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Plaintiffs say Defendants: (1) violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") by failing to pay the minimum wage provisions or overtime, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq.; and (2) violated Ohio's Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act, Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4111, by failing to pay overtime.

C. Defendant Just Energy's Motion to Dismiss

Defendant Just Energy argues three separate grounds for dismissing Plaintiffs' claims against it: (1) for lack of personal jurisdiction, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2); (2) for failure to state a claim, under 12(b)(6); and (3) for judgment on the pleadings, under 12(c).[7] Because the Court's decision on Defendants' motion for summary judgment dealt with Defendant's arguments based on Rules 12(b)(6) and 12(c), the Court will only concern itself with the portion of Defendant's motion brought under Rule 12(b)(2).

As to its arguments under Rule 12(b)(2), Defendant Just Energy says Plaintiffs' claims against it must be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. Defendant Just Energy says that it does not have sufficient contacts with the state of Ohio to give the Court either personal jurisdiction or a constitutionally permissible basis for exercising jurisdiction.[8] It says that Just Energy itself conducts no business in Ohio and has no office, employees, or independent contractors in Ohio.[9] Defendant Just Energy says that it is an undisputed fact that the trade name "Just Energy" is the d/b/a for several corporate entities, and is not just shorthand for the corporate entity Defendant Just Energy.[10] It says that it does not own or lease any property in Ohio.[11] Defendant Just Energy also says that it does not produce any product or provide services that might find its way into Ohio through the stream of commerce.[12]

Plaintiffs disagree.[13] They say that, in addition to being the parent company of Defendants Commerce Energy and Just Energy Marketing Corporation, Defendant Just Energy takes an active role in managing Just Energy regional offices in Ohio.[14] They say that Just Energy participates in in the administration and management of marketing efforts in Ohio (including establishing procedures, policies, and rules for new marketers), assists with staffing of the ...

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