United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Minnesota Living Assistance, Inc., d/b/a Baywood Home Care, Plaintiff,
Ken B. Peterson, Commissioner, Department of Labor and Industry, State of Minnesota, in his official capacity; and John Aiken, Interim Director of Labor Standards, Department of Labor and Industry, State of Minnesota, in his official capacity, Defendants.
J. Douglas, Esq., Stephanie J. Willing, Esq. and Ogletree,
Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., counsel for
Jonathan D. Moler, counsel for defendants.
S. Doty, Judge
matter is before the court upon the motions to dismiss by
defendants Ken B. Peterson and John Aiken and for summary
judgment by plaintiff Minnesota Living Assistance, Inc. d/b/a
Baywood Home Care (Baywood). Based on a review of the file,
record, and proceedings herein, and for the following
reasons, the court grants defendants' motion to dismiss
and denies plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.
is a Minnesota corporation that employs domestic service
workers who provide companionship services as defined under
the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Compl.
¶¶ 1, 3. The FLSA establishes a minimum wage of
$7.25 an hour and a maximum workweek of forty hours, after
which employers must pay workers one and one-half times their
regular hourly pay. See 29 U.S.C. §§
206(a)(1)©, 207(a)(1). Workers who perform companionship
services, however, are exempt from the minimum wage and
weekly maximum hour requirements. See 29 U.S.C.
§ 213(a)(15). Unlike the FLSA, the MFLSA subjects
companionship services to minimum wage, maximum weekly hours,
and overtime requirements. See Minn. Stat. §
177.23, subdiv. 11.
on a complaint by a Baywood employee, the Minnesota
Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) investigated whether
Baywood unlawfully withheld overtime compensation for
companionship services employees from March 21, 2012, to
March 21, 2014. Compl. ¶¶ 17-18. After its
investigation, on May 17, 2016, DLI assessed a penalty of $1,
000 for failure to keep records pursuant to Minn. Stat.
§ 177.30 and ordered Baywood to pay back wages of $557,
714.44 in addition to liquidated damages of $557, 714.44.
Compl. ¶ 22; Moler Aff. Ex. A. Baywood objected to the
penalties, and DLI brought a contested case proceeding at the
Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).Compl. ¶ 23; Moler Aff. Ex.
31, 2017, Baywood brought this suit seeking a declaration
that the FLSA preempts the MFLSA and injunctive relief
prohibiting DLI from further processing, investigating, or
adjudicating its claims against Baywood. Defendants now move
to dismiss the complaint arguing that the court should
abstain from exercising jurisdiction under Younger v.
Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971).
Younger Abstention Doctrine
the Younger abstention doctrine, “federal
courts should abstain from exercising jurisdiction when (1)
there is an ongoing state proceeding, (2) which implicates
important state interests, and (3) there is an adequate
opportunity to raise any relevant federal questions in the
state proceedings.” Plouffe v. Ligon, 606 F.3d
890, 892 (8th Cir. 2010) (citing Middlesex Cty. Ethics
Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432
(1982)). The parties do not dispute that the first and third
elements are met. Baywood argues, however, that
Younger abstention does not apply because an
important state interest is not implicated. Specifically,
Baywood contends that an important state interest cannot
exist when the state law the underlying proceeding seeks to
enforce is preempted by federal law.
argument is based, in part, on dicta in New Orleans Pub.
Serv., Inc. v. Council of the City of New Orleans, 491
U.S. 350 (1989) (NOPSI), where the “Supreme Court left
open the possibility of an exception to Younger for
preemption claims that are facially conclusive.”
Cedar Rapids Cellular Tel., L.P. v. Miller, 280 F.3d
874, 880 (8th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted); see also NOPSI, 491 U.S. at 367
(emphasis in original) (“[N]OPSI argues [that] ... even
if a substantial claim of federal pre-emption is not
sufficient to render abstention inappropriate, at least a
facially conclusive claim is. Perhaps so. But we do
not have to decide the matter here ....”).
Eighth Circuit has not addressed what makes a preemption
claim facially conclusive. Other circuits, however, have
identified the following scenarios where preemption claims
are not facially conclusive: (1) when a further factual
inquiry is required; (2) when the claim involves a question
of first impression; and (3) when the court must conduct a
“detailed analysis” of the state statute in
question, “including resolving interjurisdictional
differences.” Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co.
v. Medley, 572 F.3d 22, 27-28 (1st Cir. 2009) (citing
Woodfeathers, Inc. v. Washington County, Oregon, 180
F.3d 1017, 1022 (9th Cir. 1999); GTR Mobilnet of Ohio v.
Johnson, 111 F.3d 469, 478 (6th Cir. 1997)). When courts
have found that preemption was facially conclusive, they
merely applied established precedent that easily resolved the
preemption issue. See Chaulk Servs., Inc. v. Mass.
Comm'n Against Discrimination, 70 F.3d 1361, 1370
(1st Cir. 1995) (holding that under Supreme Court precedent
it was “readily apparent” the conduct at issue
was subject to the National Labor Relations Act);
Gartrell Constr. Inc. v. Aubry, 940 F.2d 437, 441-42
(9th Cir. 1991) (holding that under Ninth Circuit precedent
it was “readily apparent” that the state law at
issue was preempted by ERISA).
Baywood fails to cite to any binding precedent that the FLSA
preempts the MFLSA, or, more specifically, that the FLSA
preempts state regulation of workers who are exempt under the
FLSA. In fact, it appears that federal courts may be divided
on the issue. Compare Pac. Merch. Shipping Ass'n v.
Aubry, 918 F.2d 1409, 1418 (9th Cir. 1990) (holding that
preemption from the FLSA did not preempt the state's
ability to enforce overtime provision as to seamen), with
Coil v. Jack Tanner Co., 242 F.Supp.2d 555, 559 (S.D.
Ill. 2002) (holding that the state's overtime laws as
applied to seamen directly ...