United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
EUGENE SCALIA, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor,  Plaintiff,
COMFORT CARE 4 U, LLC, and ZAINABU KOOISTRA, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
D. PETERSON, DISTRICT JUDGE
Secretary of the United States Department of Labor (DOL) has
filed claims against Comfort Care 4 U, LLC and its co-owner,
Zainabu Kooistra, alleging violations of the Fair Labor
Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.
The DOL has moved to strike six of defendants' nine
affirmative defenses, asserting that they do not meet the
pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
8(a). Defendants' affirmative defenses are bare-bones and
conclusory, but the DOL has already obtained fair notice of
the basis for the affirmative defenses through other means.
Requiring defendants to correct their pleadings would be a
waste of time and resources. So the court will deny the
motion. Defendants ask for their costs and attorney fees
generated in responding to the DOL's motion. But they
cite no authority in support of their request, and the
DOL's motion has at least arguable merit. The court will
deny defendants' request for cost-shifting.
alleges in its complaint that defendants, who operate
group-living facilities for physically and mentally disabled
adults, repeatedly violated the overtime provisions of the
FLSA in paying their employees. Defendants generally deny the
allegations and set forth nine affirmative defenses. The DOL
challenges six of them in its motion to strike. The
challenged defenses are:
1. Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted as to one or more theories of recovery.
2. Defendants acted in good faith and had reasonable grounds
for believing that they acted properly in their pay practices
and w[ere] in good faith compliance with the statutes and
regulations cited in the complaint.
3. The claims in the complaint are barred, in whole are in
part, by the de minimis doctrine.
4. The claims in the complaint are barred, in whole or in
part, by applicable statutes of limitations.
5. Plaintiff is not entitled to recover liquidated damages.
6. Those individuals on whose behalf plaintiff seeks recovery
may be exempt from overtime under federal law.
Dkt. 8, at 3.
8(a)(2) requires that pleadings contain “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” The claim must be “plausible
on its face, ” and include factual allegations that
“raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). The DOL objects to defendants'
affirmative defenses as bare-bones, conclusory allegations
that are insufficient to meet the Twombly-Iqbal
pleading standard, which this court has previously treated as
applicable to affirmative defenses. See Boehm v. Legends
of the Field, LLC, No. 15-cv-683-jdp, 2016 WL 2732202,
at *1 (W.D. Wis. May 10, 2016) (noting that applying the
Twombly-Iqbal standard to affirmative defenses
“appears to be the emerging rule in this
is correct that defendants' affirmative defenses are
factually sparse. “[T]he context of an affirmative
defense includes the allegations of the complaint, and thus
it typically does not take a rich factual exposition to make
an affirmative defense plausible.” Nouis Techs.,
Inc. v. Polaris Indus. Inc., No. 14-cv-233-JDP, 2015 WL
3407862, at *2 (W.D. Wis. May 27, 2015). Even so, the DOL is
entitled to a fuller explanation of the basis of
defendants' affirmative defenses than what defendants
have provided in their answer. But the record here shows that
the DOL investigated defendants for these alleged FLSA
violations for more than a year prior to initiating this
suit, during which time counsel for defendants raised and
elaborated the factual and legal issues that underlie most of
the affirmative defenses they later asserted in their answer.
See Dkt. 10-1 (June 8, 2018 letter from
defendants' counsel). What's more, the DOL has served
contention interrogatories asking defendants to explain the
basis of each affirmative defense, see Dkt. 20,
¶ 2, so it presumably now has whatever information it
previously lacked. The basic function of pleading is to put a
party on notice of the other side's claims and defenses.
Whatever the defects in defendants' answer, that basic
function has been satisfied here.
asks the court to strike the six challenged affirmative
defenses with prejudice, which suggests that its real purpose
in filing this motion to strike was to limit defendants'
defenses, not to gain additional information. Even if the
court were to grant the DOL's motion, it would not strike
the bare-bones and conclusory defenses with prejudice.
“Defenses are pleadings, and as such, leave to amend is
freely granted as justice requires.” Heller Fin.,
Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., 883 F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th
Cir. 1989). If deficiencies in defendants' affirmative
defenses might be rectified by amendments alleging additional
supporting facts, the court would be inclined to allow such
amendments. The court will strike with prejudice only
“defenses that are not appropriately pleaded as
affirmative defenses or for which it is impossible for the
defendant to prove a set of facts in support.”
Hayes v. Agilysys, Inc., No. 09 C 727, ...