Judge Percy Anderson of the Central District of California faced the question of whether basing a UCL claim partially on a violation of the FSLA creates federal jurisdiction. The Court held that it did not. The case is Williams, et al. v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. CV 10-4761 PA (PJWx), 2010 WL 3184248 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 9, 2010).
Plaintiffs’ alleged that defendant Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (“Defendant”) misclassified them as exempt from overtime and failed to pay wages for overtime compensation.
Plaintiffs were employed by Defendant as “Home Mortgage Consultants” sometime between February 10, 2001 and the present. During that time, Plaintiffs were paid on a commission sales basis and were never paid any overtime or premium pay. On May 30, 2010, Plaintiffs brought this action against Defendant in the Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles, alleging (1) violation California Labor Code §§ 510 and 1198 for unpaid overtime; (2) violation of California Labor Code §§ 2800 and 2802 for unpaid business expenses; (3) violation California Labor Code §§ 201 and 202 for wages not timely paid upon termination; (4) violation California Labor Code § 204 for wages not timely paid during employment; (5) violation California Labor Code § 226(a) for non-compliant wage statements; and (6) violation of California Business & Professions Code §§ 17200, et seq.
Defendant filed a Notice of Removal on June 28, 2010, alleging federal question jurisdiction. Plaintiffs filed a motion to remand, maintaining that they have only alleged state law claims, and thus there is no basis for subject matter jurisdiction.
Defendant contended that Plaintiffs have effectively alleged a separate federal claim by alleging violation of the UCL based on violation of the FLSA.
Defendant is asking that this Court treat UCL claims and the violations upon which they are based as one in the same. However, Defendant has not cited, and the Court has not found, any authority which supports this position. Indeed, Defendant’s view seems to directly contradict the California Supreme Court‘s characterization of the UCL as a statute that “borrows” violations of other laws and makes them “independently actionable.” Accordingly, the Court does not find that Plaintiffs have somehow alleged a federal cause of action by basing their UCL claim in part on Defendant’s alleged violation of FLSA.
Defendant also contended that because most of Plaintiffs’ claims stem from their allegations that Defendant misclassified them as exempt from overtime compensation, and Plaintiffs’ overtime claim is entirely dependent on an interpretation of the FLSA, the resolution of Plaintiffs’ claims depends upon the resolution of whether Defendant violated the FLSA. The court was not persuaded.
Although Defendant is correct in noting that most of Plaintiffs’ claims stem from allegations that Defendant improperly classified them as exempt, there is no indication in the complaint that this misclassification is based on exemptions set forth in federal law, as opposed to California law. . . . Where a plaintiff has alleged a UCL claim based on both the violation of state and federal law, courts have found that federal question jurisdiction does not exist. See, e.g., Holliman v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14627 at *13 (N.D. Cal. March 14, 2006) (finding no federal question jurisdiction where UCL claim was based on violations of California Labor Code and FLSA); Roskind v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. 165 F. Supp. 2d 1059, 1067 (N.D. Cal. April 11, 2001) (finding no federal question jurisdiction where UCL claim was based on “unfair” misrepresentations and violation of the National Association of Securities Dealers rules); Castro v. Providian Nat’l Bank, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19062 at *8-9 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 29, 2000) (finding that even if plaintiffs were basing UCL claim on violation of federal Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”) in addition to violations of California law, claim did not depend on question of federal law because jury could find violation of section 17200 without finding violation of TILA).
Here, Plaintiffs have alleged a UCL claim based on a number of “unlawful” acts, which include two FLSA violations in addition to nine violations of the California Labor Code. Because a single unlawful business practice may give rise to liability under the UCL, a jury could very well find that Defendant violated section 17200 without also finding that it violated the FLSA. As such, Plaintiffs’ UCL claim does not depend upon the resolution of a question of federal law.