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Wilkins v. Greens Service Co. LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

August 29, 2019

JUDY K. WILKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
GREENS SERVICE COMPANY, LLC, and THE GREENS COUNTRY CLUB, LLC, Defendants.

          ORDER

          CHARLES B. GOODWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Now before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Affirmative Defenses (Doc. No. 13). Defendants have jointly responded (Doc. No. 15), and Plaintiff has replied (Doc. No. 16). Having reviewed the parties' submissions and the relevant record, the Court denies Plaintiff's Motion.

         Background

         In this action, Plaintiff brings claims of unpaid overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) and the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act (“OADA”). Defendants jointly filed their answer to the complaint on May 24, 2019. See Doc. No. 11. In her Motion, Plaintiff argues that the defenses set forth in paragraphs 31, 35, 36, 37, and 41 of the Defendants' Answer should be stricken as “legally deficient or insufficiently pled.” Pl.'s Mot. at 2. These defenses allege:

31. The Greens acted in good faith and with a good faith belief that its actions relative to Plaintiff were lawful.
35. The decisions and actions taken by The Greens were not willful, but were taken in good faith and based upon a reasonable belief that all such actions did not violate the Fair Labor Standards Act, or other applicable laws or regulations, and should not subject it to liquidated damages.
36. The Greens denies liability, and alternatively asserts that The Greens acted in good faith and on reasonable grounds at all times, and thus, cannot be liable for liquidated damages under the FLSA.
37. The claims asserted are precluded because Plaintiff was exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In light of the duties requested of and/or performed by Plaintiff, Plaintiff is exempt as, without limitation, a bona fide administrative employee.
41. The Greens reserves the right to amend this Answer to assert any counterclaims or additional defenses, including in particular those defenses set forth in Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(c), when and if, in the course of its investigation, discovery, or preparation for trial, it becomes appropriate to assert such defenses.

Answer (Doc. No. 11) at 5-7.

         Defendants respond that the Twombly/Iqbal standard does not apply to affirmative defenses and that the challenged defenses provide Plaintiff with fair notice of what defenses and affirmative defenses Defendants will pursue.

         Standard of Decision

         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure prescribes that, when responding to a pleading, a party must “state in short and plain terms its defenses to each claim asserted against it, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(1)(A), and must “affirmatively state any avoidance or affirmative defense, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(c)(1). Under Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may “strike from a pleading an insufficient defense . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Rule 12(f) relief, however, is generally considered a drastic remedy and is disfavored. See Knighten v. Allstate Ins. Co., No. CIV-17-683-D, 2018 WL 718533, at *2 (W.D. Okla. Feb. 5, 2018).

         The Tenth Circuit has not expressly addressed whether the Twombly/Iqbal standard governs affirmative defenses, and judges within this judicial district have reached different conclusions. See Bors v. Okla. ex rel. Bd. of Regents for Reg'l Univ. Sys. of Okla., No. CIV-18-1235-R, 2019 WL 1177984, at *2 n.1 (W.D. Okla. Mar. 13, 2019) (collecting cases). Absent any controlling authority, the Court declines to apply the Twombly/Iqbal pleading standard to affirmative defenses. The Court is guided by the considerations outlined in 5C Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure, § 1381 (3d ed. 2019), which provides that “[t]he better view is that the plausibility standard only applies to the pleading of affirmative claims for relief, given that [Twombly and Iqbal] were interpreting the ‘showing' language of Rule 8(a)(2)-language that does not appear in Rule 8(b) or Rule 8(c)-and given the different circumstances facing claimants (who have months or years to prepare their claims) compared with those facing respondents to claims (who typically have a few weeks to prepare a response).” See also Creative Consumer Concepts, Inc. v. Kreisler, 563 F.3d 1070, 1076 (10th Cir. 2009) (post-Twombly decision stating that “the liberal pleading rules established by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply to the pleading of affirmative defenses, ” and ...


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