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Lavery v. Restoration Hardware, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 28, 2018

JOHN LAVERY, Plaintiff,


          Denise J. Casper United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff John Lavery brings claims against Defendant Restoration Hardware, Inc. (“RH”), based on RH's alleged misclassification of Lavery as an independent contractor when Lavery was allegedly in fact in employee under Massachusetts law. D. 13. In the request for relief in the amended complaint, Lavery seeks wages, reimbursement for expenses, and the value of benefits plan that he would have received had he been classified as an employee. ¶ 5.[1] RH now moves to dismiss this claim for damages with respect only to the value of the benefit plans because RH contends that that claim is preempted by federal law. D. 14. For the reasons discussed below, the Court ALLOWS this partial motion to dismiss.

         II. Factual Allegations

         The Court accepts all non-conclusory facts alleged in the amended complaint, D. 13, as true, Ocasio-Hernández v. Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011), and “draw[s] all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff[].” Gargano v. Liberty Int'l Underwriters, Inc., 572 F.3d 45, 48 (1st Cir. 2009). Lavery provided services to RH from April 2013 until September 2014. ¶ 2. From April 2013 until May 12, 2014, RH classified Lavery as an independent contractor. ¶ 7. During that period, Lavery worked full time at least two days a week performing “store maintenance as directed” at RH's store in Boston. ¶ 4. Beginning around April 2014, Lavery began working at additional stores and regularly working more than forty hours a week. ¶ 6. When Lavery became classified as an employee on May 12, 2014, his duties did not change. ¶ 7. While Lavery provided services for RH, he was “not free from RH's control and direction in connection with the performance of his services” and the services he performed were “not [] outside the usual course of RH's business.” ¶ 8-9. Lavery “did not have an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business of the same nature as that involved in the services he performed for RH.” ¶ 10. Lavery contends that, as a result of his misclassification, he “suffered lost wages and other benefits; . . . the value of RH's benefit plans (such as life insurance, disability insurance, medical insurance, and retirement plans).” ¶ 5.

         III. Procedural History

         On March 1, 2017, Lavery filed a complaint in Middlesex Superior Court, alleging that RH had violated the Massachusetts independent contractor law and wage law. D. 1-1. On May 15, 2017, RH removed Lavery's suit to this Court. D. 1. On June 12, 2017, Lavery filed an amended complaint, alleging counts under the same two state statutes. D. 13. RH has now filed its partial motion to dismiss as to the value of benefits under the benefit plan that Lavery seeks in the complaint. D. 14, 15. The Court has heard argument on the motion and took the matter under advisement. D. 23.[2]

         IV. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         On a motion to dismiss based under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court will dismiss a complaint that fails to allege adequate facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In reviewing the complaint, the Court can consider documents attached to or fairly incorporated into the complaint and facts susceptible to judicial notice. Schatz v. Republican State Leadership Comm., 669 F.3d 50, 55 (1st Cir. 2012).

         B. ERISA Preemption

         RH contends that the portion of the amended complaint that seeks damages based on the lost value of the benefit plans provided by RH, under two state law causes of action, is preempted by ERISA. D. 15. ERISA “supersede[s] any all State laws insofar as they may now or hereafter relate to any employee benefit plan” covered by ERISA. 29 U.S.C. § 1144(a). The statute defines “State law” as “all laws, decisions, rules, or regulations, or other State action having the effect of law, of any State.” 29 U.S.C. § 1144(c). The parties agree that the benefit plans in question are benefit plans covered by ERISA. D. 15 at 5; D. 17 at 11. The question, then, is whether the state law causes of action that Lavery assert “relate to” the employee benefit plans covered by ERISA.

         There are “three categories of state laws that ‘relate to' ERISA plans” such that they are preempted: “(1) state laws that ‘mandate[ ] employee benefit structures or their administration, ' (2) state laws that ‘bind plan administrators to [a] particular choice, ' and (3) state law causes of action that provide ‘alternative enforcement mechanisms' to ERISA's enforcement regime.” Hampers v. W.R. Grace & Co., Inc., 202 F.3d 44, 51 (1st Cir. 2000) (quoting New York State Conference of Blue Cross & Blue Shield Plans v. Travelers Ins. Co., 514 U.S. 645, 658-59 (1995)). RH contends that the Lavery's claims under the Massachusetts independent contractor law and the wage law, fall into the third category of providing an alternative enforcement mechanism to ERISA's enforcement regime. D. 15 at 4-5.

         That third category was at issue in Hampers as well. In that case, the plaintiff, Hampers, contended that the terms of his employment contract with a parent company, Grace, entitled him to enrollment in a particular ERISA benefits plan provided by a subsidiary company and Hampers sued Grace for its failure to enroll him in the benefit plan. 202 F.3d at 46-48. Subsequent to the decision not to enroll Hampers in the ...

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