Minnesota Living Assistance, Inc., doing business as Baywood Home Care Plaintiff- Appellant
Ken B. Peterson, Commissioner, Department of Labor and Industry, State of Minnesota, in his official capacity; John Aiken, Interim Director of Labor Standards, Department of Labor and Industry, State of Minnesota, in his official capacity Defendants - Appellees
Submitted: June 13, 2018
from United States District Court for the District of
Minnesota - Minneapolis
GRUENDER, ERICKSON, and GRASZ, Circuit Judges.
GRUENDER, CIRCUIT JUDGE
case involves two sets of proceedings. In the first, the
Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry ("DLI")
brought an administrative action against Minnesota Living
Assistance, Inc. ("Baywood") for failing to pay
overtime compensation to companionship-services employees in
violation of the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act
("MFLSA"). In the second, the one before us today,
Baywood sued in federal court the Commissioner and the
Director of Labor Standards at the DLI, arguing that the
federal Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") preempts
the MFLSA and that Baywood therefore need not pay state
penalties for any MFLSA violation. The district
court found that the Younger doctrine
required it to abstain while the state proceeding was pending
and dismissed the case. Because we find abstention
appropriate, we affirm.
is a Minnesota corporation that employs domestic-service
workers who provide companionship services. The FLSA and the
MFLSA both provide requirements regarding the minimum wage
and the maximum hours per week that an individual can work
before an employer is required to pay overtime compensation.
But during the relevant time period, there were two pertinent
differences between the statutes: (1) the FLSA standards were
generally more protective than the MFLSA, compare 29
U.S.C. §§ 206(a)(1)(C), 207(a)(1), with
Minn. Stat. §§ 177.24, subdiv. 1(b) (2012), 177.25;
and (2) the FLSA exempted companionship-services employees
from protection, whereas the MFLSA did not, compare
29 U.S.C § 213(a)(15), with Minn. Stat. §
177.23, subdiv. 11.
2014, a Baywood employee filed a complaint alleging that
Baywood violated the MFLSA by failing to pay overtime
compensation to companionship-services employees from March
2012 to March 2014. The DLI conducted an investigation into
Baywood's practices and determined that Baywood had not
paid its companionship-services employees the wages required
by the MFLSA. The DLI issued a compliance order in May 2016.
The order assessed a penalty of $1, 000 for failure to keep
records pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 177.30 and required
Baywood to pay back wages of $557, 714.44 in addition to
liquidated damages of $557, 714.44. The order also indicated
that Baywood should cease its illegal practices and comply
with the MFLSA.
contested the compliance order, so, in August 2016, the DLI
initiated a contested case proceeding before an
administrative law judge ("ALJ") at the Minnesota
Office of Administrative Hearings. In June 2017, the ALJ
issued a report recommending that the DLI Commissioner
enforce the compliance order as to backpay and liquidated
damages but that he deny it as to the determination that
Baywood failed to keep accurate records.
the proceeding before the ALJ was pending, but before the
June recommendation, Baywood filed suit in federal district
court seeking (1) a declaration that the FLSA preempts the
MFLSA and (2) injunctive relief prohibiting the DLI from
further processing, investigating, or adjudicating its claims
against Baywood. The DLI moved to dismiss the complaint,
arguing that the district court should abstain from
exercising jurisdiction under Younger v. Harris, 401
U.S. 37 (1971). The district court granted the DLI's
motion to dismiss under Younger.
review the district court's decision to abstain under
Younger for abuse of discretion. Whether
Younger abstention is appropriate is a question of
law, and the district court abuses its discretion when it
makes an error of law. Geier v. Mo. Ethics
Comm'n, 715 F.3d 674, 678 (8th Cir. 2013) (citing
Plouffe v. Ligon, 606 F.3d 890, 894-95 (8th Cir.
2010) (Colloton, J., concurring)). Although federal
courts have a "virtually unflagging obligation . . . to
exercise the jurisdiction given them," Colo. River
Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800,
817 (1976), exceptions to this obligation exist in limited
circumstances. In Younger v. Harris, the Supreme
Court held that, consistent with our nation's commitment
to the principles of comity and federalism, a federal court
should abstain from exercising jurisdiction in cases where
there is a parallel, pending state criminal proceeding, so
long as certain conditions are met. 401 U.S. 37, 43-46
(1971). Since Younger, the Supreme Court has issued
a series of decisions that have clarified and expanded the
Younger abstention doctrine. See Sprint
Commc'ns, Inc. v. Jacobs, 571 U.S. 69 (2013);
New Orleans Pub. Serv., Inc. v. Council of City of New
Orleans (NOPSI), 491 U.S. 350 (1989); Middlesex Cty.
Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423
lines of inquiry for determining whether Younger
abstention is appropriate emerge from these decisions.
See Sirva Relocation, LLC v. Richie, 794 F.3d 185,
192-93 (1st Cir. 2015) (distilling a three-part taxonomy from
the Court's abstention analyses). First, does the
underlying state proceeding fall within one of the three
"exceptional circumstances" where Younger
abstention is appropriate? See Sprint, 571 U.S. at
78. Second, if the underlying proceeding fits within a
Younger category, does the state proceeding satisfy
what are known as the "Middlesex" factors?
See id. at 81 (discussing Middlesex). And
third, even if the underlying state proceeding satisfies the
first two ...