Goya Foods Opposes Workers’ Request to Move Case Back to State Court in Wage Suit

Goya Foods filed a pair of motions in a putative class action accusing it and several of its officers of improperly deducting wages from employees’ pay. The first motion asked the court not to remand the case to state court as the plaintiffs requested. The second and much briefer “non-opposition” filing simply noted that the defendants do not oppose the workers’ request to file a second amended complaint. Both were filed Monday.

The case, first removed to federal court, then stayed pending mediation (which was unsuccessful), is before Judge Brian R. Martinotti of the District of New Jersey. Recent developments include Goya Foods’ filing of its answer to the complaint Sept. 25 and its submission of a motion for judgment on the pleadings concerning most of the causes of action in the first amended complaint (FAC).

The motion for judgment on the pleadings is currently stayed pending the resolution of the plaintiffs’ request to file a second amended complaint, which Goya Foods has now said it does not oppose. On Oct. 27, the workers moved for leave to both file their proposed second amended complaint (PSAC) and to remand the case to state court based on the allegations in that complaint.

Goya Foods responded to the plaintiffs’ second Oct. 27 request, arguing that remand is improper because the plaintiffs have failed to satisfy Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) strictures. The plaintiffs’ PSAC greatly differs from their FAC, the defendant contended. “Most importantly, the PSAC alleges two classes consisting solely of drivers who worked in New Jersey, whereas the FAC alleges two nationwide classes and a variety of alternate state-specific classes (including for drivers who worked in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and South Carolina),” Goya Foods explained.

The plaintiffs claimed that the suit should be shifted back to state court because they satisfy both the home-state and local-controversy CAFA exceptions, Goya Foods’ motion stated. But the defendant disagreed.

First, Goya Foods argued, the plaintiffs “rely on the wrong complaint.” The defendant contended that the question of remand determined based on the operative pleading at the time of removal. In this instance, it is the FAC, not the PSAC, Goya Foods contended.

Second, even considering the PSAC, the plaintiffs have “still failed to satisfy their burden because they rely on residency data that Defendants produced in preparation for the parties’ mediation to satisfy the citizenship requirements under the home-state and local-controversy exceptions,” Goya Foods claimed. The problem, the defendant said, is that the plaintiffs have not presented evidence of putative class members’ intent to stay in their state of residence.

Finally, and though the plaintiffs ostensibly do not contest the matter, Goya Foods claimed that it meets CAFA’s threshold jurisdictional requirements under either the FAC or PSAC.

The plaintiffs are represented by Berger Montague PC and Vlasac Shmaruk LLC. The defendants are represented by Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.