United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
John Filleti filed this action against Defendant AOL, Inc.
(“AOL”) seeking unpaid wages and benefits arising
out of his work for AOL while misclassified as an independent
contractor. [ECF No. 1-2]. AOL moved to dismiss Count I of
the complaint, which alleges that Mr. Filleti was
misclassified as an independent contractor, pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). [ECF No. 11]. For
the reasons set forth below, AOL's partial motion to
dismiss is GRANTED.
following facts are drawn from the complaint. The Court takes
the well-pleaded allegations as true in evaluating the motion
to dismiss. See Ruivo v. Wells Fargo Bank, 766 F.3d
87, 90 (1st Cir. 2014). In early 2016, Mr. Filleti was
contacted by AOL regarding work as a recruiter. [ECF No. 1-2
¶ 5]. He accepted an offer to work as a full-time
recruiter for at least six months and ultimately provided
services for AOL from April 2016 to November 2016 and again
from April 2017 through June 2017. [Id. ¶¶
2, 5]. Between stints at AOL, he worked as a recruiter for
another company. [Id. ¶¶ 11-13].
he started work for AOL, Mr. Filleti was told that he would
be paid through an AOL vendor and was directed to enter into
a contract with the vendor. [Id. ¶ 7]. AOL was
involved in establishing the key terms and conditions of this
contract. [Id.] AOL also provided Mr. Filleti with a
company badge, email address, laptop, and phone line.
[Id. ¶ 6]. During the time that Mr. Filleti
provided services to AOL, he was paid a flat rate per hour
and typically worked about 50 hours per week, though he was
pressured to report 40 hours or less each week. [Id.
¶ 8]. During this same time, AOL offered a range of
benefits to its employees, including “traditional
benefits” such as paid time off and “modern forms
of benefits” such as discounts or other amenities.
[Id. ¶ 10]. AOL terminated Mr. Filleti in June
2017. [Id. ¶ 13].
January 31, 2018, Mr. Filleti filed a complaint in the
Superior Court of Suffolk County alleging five counts: a
violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 148B (Count I);
a violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 148 (Count
II); a violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151, § 1A (Count
III); breach of contract (Count IV); and, promissory estoppel
(Count V). [ECF No. 1-2]. AOL removed the case to this Court
on March 20, 2018. [ECF No. 1]. On March 27, 2018, AOL filed
an answer, [ECF No. 10], and a partial motion to dismiss,
[ECF No. 11]. On March 29, 2018, Mr. Filleti opposed the
partial motion to dismiss, [ECF No. 14], and on April 16,
2018, AOL replied, [ECF No. 18].
MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all well-pleaded
facts, analyze those facts in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff's theory, and draw all reasonable inferences
from those facts in favor of the plaintiff. United States
ex rel. Hutcheson v. Blackstone Med., Inc., 647 F.3d
377, 383 (1st Cir. 2011). The facts alleged must be
sufficient to “state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” A.G. ex rel. Maddox v.
Elsevier, Inc., 732 F.3d 77, 80 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). Dismissal is appropriate if a plaintiff cannot prove
any set of facts entitling him to relief. See
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Ahmed v. Rosenblatt, 118 F.3d
886, 890 (1st Cir. 1997).
partial motion to dismiss, AOL argues that Count I, which
alleges that Mr. Filleti was misclassified as an independent
contractor, is preempted by the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §
1001 et seq., to the extent that Mr. Filleti seeks
to recover the value of employee benefits. [ECF No. 11 at
ERISA “supersede[s] any and 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). A
conflict preemption analysis under ERISA requires the court
to address two questions: “(1) whether the plan at
issue is an ‘employee benefit plan' and (2) whether
the cause of action ‘relates to' this employee
benefit plan.” McMahon v. Digital Equip.
Corp., 162 F.3d 28, 36 (1st Cir. 1998) (quoting
Rosario-Cordero v. Crowley Towing & Transp. Co.,
46 F.3d 120, 124 (1st Cir. 1995)).
The Plans at Issue Include “Employee Benefit
first step of the ERISA conflict preemption analysis is to
determine whether any plans offered by AOL and at issue in
this action meet the criteria of an “employee benefit
plan, ” as defined by ERISA. ERISA defines
“employee benefit plans” to mean an
“employee welfare benefit plan, ” an
“employee pension benefit plan, ” or a plan that
is both. 29 U.S.C. § 1002(3). ERISA further defines
“employee welfare benefit plan” as “any
plan, fund, or program . . . established or maintained by an
employer . . . to the extent that such plan, fund, or program
was established or is maintained for the purpose of providing
for its participants or their beneficiaries, through the
purchase of insurance or otherwise, (A) medical, surgical, or
hospital care or benefits, or benefits in the event ...