Shirley Williams v. Mohawk Industries, Inc. , 411 F.3d 1252 ( 2006 )


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  •                                                                                    [PUBLISH]
    
                      IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
    
                                FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
                                 ________________________                         FILED
                                                                         U.S. COURT OF APPEALS
                                        No. 04-13740                       ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
                                                                           SEPTEMBER 27, 2006
                                  ________________________
                                                                            THOMAS K. KAHN
                                                                                 CLERK
                             D.C. Docket No. 04-00003-CV-HLM-4
    
    SHIRLEY WILLIAMS, GALE PELFREY,
    BONNIE JONES, LORA SISSON,
    individually and on behalf of a class,
    
                                                                       Plaintiffs-Appellees,
    
                                                versus
    
    MOHAWK INDUSTRIES, INC.,
    
                                                           Defendant-Appellant.
                                 __________________________
    
                          Appeal from the United States District Court
                             for the Northern District of Georgia
                               _________________________
                                     (September 27, 2006)
    
                               ON REMAND FROM THE
                           UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT
    
    Before ANDERSON, HULL and GIBSON,* Circuit Judges.
    
    PER CURIAM:
    
           *
            Honorable John R. Gibson, United States Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit, sitting by
    designation.
          In this case, plaintiffs-appellees Shirley Williams, Gale Pelfrey, Bonnie
    
    Jones, and Lora Sisson are current or former hourly employees of defendant-
    
    appellant Mohawk Industries, Inc. (“Mohawk”). The plaintiffs filed this class-
    
    action complaint alleging that Mohawk’s widespread and knowing employment
    
    and harboring of illegal workers allowed Mohawk to reduce labor costs by
    
    depressing wages for its legal hourly employees and discouraging worker’s-
    
    compensation claims, in violation of federal and state RICO statutes. The
    
    plaintiffs also alleged that Mohawk was unjustly enriched by the lower wages it
    
    paid, as well as the reduced number of worker’s-compensation claims it paid. The
    
    district court denied in part and granted in part Mohawk’s 12(b)(6) motion, and
    
    this interlocutory appeal followed.
    
          After review and oral argument, this Court affirmed in part and reversed in
    
    part. Williams v. Mohawk Indus., Inc., 
    411 F.3d 1252
     (11th Cir. 2005). Appellant
    
    Mohawk then filed an application for writ of certiorari on two questions:
    
                 1. Whether a defendant corporation and its agents can constitute
          an “enterprise” under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
          Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968 (“RICO”), in light of the
          settled rule that a RICO defendant must “conduct” or “participate in” the
          affairs of some larger enterprise and not just its own affairs.
    
    
    
    
                                             2
                2. Whether plaintiffs state proximately caused injuries to business
          or property by alleging that the hourly wages they voluntarily accepted
          were too low.
    
    The United States Supreme Court granted the appellant’s petition for writ of
    
    certiorari “limited to Question 1 presented by the petition.” Williams v. Mohawk
    
    Indus., Inc., 
    546 U.S.
    __, 
    126 S. Ct. 830
     (2005).
    
          After oral argument, however, the Supreme Court entered a summary, three-
    
    sentence order that (1) dismissed the writ as improvidently granted as to Question
    
    1, and (2) vacated the judgment of our prior opinion and remanded the case to this
    
    Court “for further consideration in light of Anza v. Ideal Steel Supply Corp., ___
    
    U.S., 
    126 S. Ct. 1991
     (2006).” Williams v. Mohawk Industries, Inc., ___ U.S.
    
    ___, 
    126 S. Ct. 2016
     (2006).
    
          This case is now before the Court on remand from the Supreme Court.
    
    After the remand, this Court ordered supplemental briefing as to not only Anza,
    
    but also the intervening decision by the Georgia Supreme Court in Williams
    
    General Corp. v. Stone, 
    280 Ga. 631
    , 
    632 S.E.2d 376
     (2006). After further
    
    consideration, this Court now reinstates its prior opinion in part and modifies it in
    
    part as follows.
    
                                    I. BACKGROUND
    
    
    
    
                                              3
           Mohawk is the second largest carpet and rug manufacturer in the United
    
    States and has over 30,000 employees. According to the plaintiffs, Mohawk has
    
    conspired with recruiting agencies to hire and harbor illegal workers in an effort to
    
    keep labor costs as low as possible.1 For example, according to the plaintiffs’
    
    complaint,
    
           Mohawk employees have traveled to the United States Border, including
           areas near Brownsville, Texas, to recruit undocumented aliens that
           recently have entered the United States in violation of federal law.
           These employees and other persons have transported undocumented
           aliens from these border towns to North Georgia so that those aliens may
           procure employment at Mohawk. Mohawk has made various incentive
           payments to employees and other recruiters for locating workers that
           Mohawk eventually employs and harbors.
    
    Furthermore, “[v]arious recruiters, including Mohawk employees, have provided
    
    housing to these illegal workers upon their arrival in North Georgia and have
    
    helped them find illegal employment with Mohawk.” Additionally, Mohawk
    
    knowingly or recklessly accepts fraudulent documentation from the illegal aliens.
    
    
    
    
           1
             At this point in the litigation, we must assume the facts set forth in the plaintiffs’
    complaint are true. See Anza, __ U.S. __, 126 S. Ct. at 1994 (stating that on a motion to dismiss,
    the court must “accept as true the factual allegations in the amended complaint”); Marsh v.
    Butler County, 
    268 F.3d 1014
    , 1023 (11th Cir. 2001) (en banc) (setting forth the facts in the case
    by “[a]ccepting all well-pleaded factual allegations (with reasonable inferences drawn favorably
    to Plaintiffs) in the complaint as true”). Because we must accept the allegations of plaintiffs’
    complaint as true, what we set out in this opinion as “the facts” for Rule 12(b)(6) purposes may
    not be the actual facts.
    
                                                    4
          The plaintiffs further allege that Mohawk has concealed its efforts to hire
    
    and harbor illegal aliens by destroying documents and assisting illegal workers in
    
    evading detection by law enforcement. According to plaintiffs’ complaint,
    
    Mohawk takes steps to shield those illegal aliens from detection by, among other
    
    things, helping them evade detection during law enforcement searches and
    
    inspections at Mohawk’s facilities.
    
          According to the complaint, Mohawk’s widespread and knowing
    
    employment and harboring of illegal workers has permitted Mohawk to reduce
    
    labor costs. Mohawk has done so by reducing the number of legal workers it must
    
    hire and, thereby, increasing the labor pool of legal workers from which Mohawk
    
    hires. This practice permits Mohawk to depress the wages it pays its legal hourly
    
    workers.
    
          Finally, the plaintiffs allege that Mohawk is “able to save substantial sums
    
    of money” by paying its workers reduced wages. Furthermore, Mohawk knows
    
    that illegal workers are less likely to file worker’s-compensation claims, and,
    
    therefore, Mohawk is able to save additional monies. According to the plaintiffs,
    
    these benefits constitute unjust enrichment under state law.
    
          Mohawk filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint
    
    for failure to state a claim. The district court determined that the plaintiffs had
    
                                               5
    stated a claim under both federal and state RICO statutes, as well as a claim for
    
    unjust enrichment under state law for paying legal workers lower wages because
    
    of the illegal workers Mohawk employed. However, the district court dismissed
    
    the plaintiffs’ unjust-enrichment claim insofar as it was based on the reduced
    
    number of worker’s-compensation claims Mohawk was forced to pay.2
    
                                II. FEDERAL RICO CLAIMS
    
           Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c), it is illegal “for any person employed by or
    
    associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect,
    
    interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in
    
    the conduct of such enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity . .
    
    . .” 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c). Thus, in order to establish a federal civil RICO violation
    
    under § 1962(c), the plaintiffs “must satisfy four elements of proof: ‘(1) conduct
    
    (2) of an enterprise (3) through a pattern (4) of racketeering activity.’” Jones v.
    
    Childers, 
    18 F.3d 899
    , 910 (11th Cir. 1994) (quoting Sedima, S.P.R.L. v. Imrex
    
    Co., 
    473 U.S. 479
    , 496, 
    105 S. Ct. 3275
    , 3285 (1985)). These requirements apply
    
    whether the RICO claim is civil or criminal in nature.
    
    
           2
            This Court reviews the denial of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion “de novo, applying the same
    standard as the district court did.” Hoffman-Pugh v. Ramsey, 
    312 F.3d 1222
    , 1225 (11th Cir.
    2002). A complaint should not be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) “unless it appears beyond
    doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim.” Beck v. Deloitte &
    Touche, 
    144 F.3d 732
    , 735 (11th Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
    
                                                   6
           In civil cases, however, RICO plaintiffs must also satisfy the requirements
    
    of 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c). Section 1964(c) states that “[a]ny person injured in his
    
    business or property by reason of” RICO’s substantive provisions has the right to
    
    “recover threefold the damages he sustains . . . .” 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c). Thus,
    
    under § 1964(c), civil RICO claimants, such as the plaintiffs here, must show (1)
    
    the requisite injury to “business or property,” and (2) that such injury was “by
    
    reason of” the substantive RICO violation. We discuss each of these requirements
    
    in turn.
    
    A.     Pattern of Racketeering Activity
    
           As mentioned above, there are four requirements under § 1962(c). Because
    
    elements (3) and (4) – a pattern of racketeering activity – are easily met in this
    
    case (at least at the motion-to-dismiss stage), we address them first.
    
           “A ‘pattern of racketeering activity,’ for purposes of the RICO Act,
    
    ‘requires at least two acts of racketeering activity.’” Cox v. Adm’r U.S. Steel &
    
    Carnegie, 
    17 F.3d 1386
    , 1397 (11th Cir. 1994), modified on other grounds by 
    30 F.3d 1347
     (11th Cir. 1994). “An act of racketeering is commonly referred to as a
    
    ‘predicate act.’ A ‘pattern’ of racketeering activity is shown when a racketeer
    
    commits at least two distinct but related predicate acts.” Maiz v. Virani, 
    253 F.3d 641
    , 671 (11th Cir. 2001) (quotation marks, citations, and brackets omitted). “If
    
                                              7
    distinct statutory violations are found, the predicate acts will be considered to be
    
    distinct irrespective of the circumstances under which they arose.” Cox, 17 F.3d
    
    at 1397 (quotation marks, citations, and emphasis omitted).
    
          According to 18 U.S.C. § 1961(1)(F), “‘racketeering activity’ means any act
    
    which is indictable under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 274
    
    (relating to bringing in and harboring certain aliens), . . . if the act indictable under
    
    such section of such Act was committed for the purpose of financial gain.” In this
    
    case, the plaintiffs have alleged that the defendant has engaged in an open and
    
    ongoing pattern of violations of section 274 of the Immigration and Nationality
    
    Act. In particular, plaintiffs allege that Mohawk has violated and continues to
    
    violate: (1) 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(3)(A), which makes it a federal crime to
    
    “knowingly hire[] for employment at least 10 individuals with actual knowledge
    
    that the individuals are aliens” during a twelve-month period; (2) 8 U.S.C. §
    
    1324(a)(1)(A)(iii), which makes it a federal crime to “conceal[], harbor[], or shield
    
    from detection, or attempt[] to conceal, harbor or shield from detection” aliens that
    
    have illegally entered the United States; and (3) 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv),
    
    which makes it a federal crime to “encourage[] or induce[] an alien to come to,
    
    enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact
    
    that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law.”
    
                                                8
    According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, Mohawk has committed hundreds, even
    
    thousands, of violations of federal immigration laws. Consequently, we conclude
    
    that the plaintiffs have properly alleged a “pattern of racketeering activity.”3
    
    B.     Conduct of an Enterprise
    
           With regard to elements (1) and (2) of the four-part test under § 1962(c), the
    
    plaintiffs must establish “conduct of an enterprise” and that the enterprise had a
    
    common goal. See United States v. Turkette, 
    452 U.S. 576
    , 583, 
    101 S. Ct. 2524
    ,
    
    2528-29 (1981) (“The enterprise is an entity, for present purposes a group of
    
    persons associated together for a common purpose of engaging in a course of
    
    conduct.”). Furthermore, Mohawk “must participate in the operation or
    
    management of the enterprise itself.” Reves v. Ernst & Young, 
    507 U.S. 170
    , 185,
    
    
    113 S. Ct. 1163
    , 1173 (1993).
    
           An enterprise “includes any individual, partnership, corporation,
    
    association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated
    
    in fact although not a legal entity.” 18 U.S.C. § 1961(4). As stated in United
    
    States v. Goldin Industries, Inc., 
    219 F.3d 1271
    , 1275 (11th Cir. 2000), “the
    
    
           3
             There is no dispute that these predicate acts, if they occurred, are related. See Pelletier v.
    Zweifel, 
    921 F.2d 1465
    , 1496-97 (11th Cir. 1991) (“Predicate acts are related if they have the
    same or similar purposes, results, participants, victims, or methods of commission, or otherwise
    are interrelated by distinguishing characteristics and are not isolated events.” (internal quotation
    marks and citation omitted)).
    
                                                      9
    existence of an enterprise is proved by evidence of an ongoing organization,
    
    formal or informal, and by evidence that the various associates function as a
    
    continuing unit.” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Furthermore,
    
    “the definitive factor in determining the existence of a RICO enterprise is the
    
    existence of an association of individual entities, however loose or informal, that
    
    furnishes a vehicle for the commission of two or more predicate crimes, that is, the
    
    pattern of racketeering activity requisite to the RICO violation.” Id.
    
          In this case, the plaintiffs have alleged that Mohawk and third-party temp
    
    agencies/recruiters have conspired to violate federal immigration laws, destroy
    
    documentation, and harbor illegal workers. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that
    
          [e]ach recruiter is paid a fee for each worker it supplies to Mohawk, and
          some of those recruiters work closely with Mohawk to meet its
          employment need by offering a pool of illegal workers who can be
          dispatched to a particular Mohawk facility on short notice as the need
          arises. Some recruiters find workers in the Brownsville, Texas area and
          transport them to Georgia. Others, like TPS, have relatively formal
          relationships with the company in which they employ illegal workers
          and then loan or otherwise provide them to Mohawk for a fee. These
          recruiters are sometimes assisted by Mohawk employees who carry a
          supply of social security cards for use when a prospective or existing
          employee needs to assume a new identity.
    
    Given the Rule 12(b)(6) stage of the litigation, the plaintiffs’ complaint must be
    
    taken as true, and it has sufficiently alleged an “enterprise” under RICO; that is an
    
    association-in-fact between Mohawk and third-party recruiters. This Court has
    
                                             10
    never required anything other than a “loose or informal” association of distinct
    
    entities. Mohawk and the third-party recruiters are distinct entities that, at least
    
    according to the complaint, are engaged in a conspiracy to bring illegal workers
    
    into this country for Mohawk’s benefit. As such, the complaint sufficiently
    
    alleges an “enterprise” under RICO.
    
          As for the common purpose, the plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that “[t]he
    
    recruiters and Mohawk share the common purpose of obtaining illegal workers for
    
    employment by Mohawk.” The complaint further alleges that “[e]ach recruiter is
    
    paid a fee for each worker it supplies to Mohawk” and that “Mohawk has made
    
    various incentive payments to employees and other recruiters for locating workers
    
    that Mohawk eventually employs and harbors.” Furthermore, “[t]he acts of
    
    racketeering activity committed by Mohawk have the same or similar objective:
    
    the reduction of wages paid to Mohawk’s hourly workforce.” What is clear from
    
    the complaint is that each member of the enterprise is allegedly reaping a large
    
    economic benefit from Mohawk’s employment of illegal workers.
    
          In United States v. Church, 
    955 F.2d 688
    , 698 (11th Cir. 1992), this Court
    
    concluded that the common purpose of making money was sufficient under RICO.
    
    Because the complaint clearly alleges that the members of the enterprise stand to
    
    gain sufficient financial benefits from Mohawk’s widespread employment and
    
                                              11
    harboring of illegal workers, the plaintiffs have properly alleged a “common
    
    purpose” for the purposes of RICO.
    
          Furthermore, Mohawk “must participate in the operation or management of
    
    the enterprise itself.” Reves, 507 U.S. at 185, 113 S. Ct. at 1173. That is,
    
    Mohawk “must have some part in directing” the affairs of the enterprise. Id. at
    
    179, 113 S. Ct. at 1170. However, the Supreme Court has cautioned that “RICO
    
    liability is not limited to those with primary responsibility for the enterprise’s
    
    affairs . . . .” Id. In their complaint, the plaintiffs allege that “Mohawk
    
    participates in the operation and management of the affairs of the enterprise . . . ,”
    
    which includes some direction over the recruiters. Whatever difficulties the
    
    plaintiffs may have in proving such an allegation, they have sufficiently alleged
    
    that Mohawk is engaged in the operation or management of the enterprise. Again,
    
    at this stage in the litigation, we simply cannot say whether the plaintiffs will be
    
    able to establish that Mohawk had “some part in directing” the affairs of the
    
    enterprise. However, they have alleged sufficient acts to survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
    
    motion.
    
          Accordingly, we conclude that the plaintiffs’ complaint states a claim that is
    
    cognizable under § 1962(c). In so doing, we note that the allegations in this case
    
    are similar to those in cases recently decided by the Second, Sixth, and Ninth
    
                                              12
    Circuits. See Trollinger v. Tyson Foods, 
    370 F.3d 602
     (6th Cir. 2004) (former
    
    employees alleging employer used illegal immigrants in order to depress wages);
    
    Mendoza v. Zirkle Fruit Co., 
    301 F.3d 1163
     (9th Cir. 2002) (legally documented
    
    workers alleging that employers leveraged hiring of undocumented workers in
    
    order to depress wages); Commercial Cleaning Servs., L.L.C. v. Colin Servs. Sys.,
    
    Inc., 
    271 F.3d 374
     (2d Cir. 2001) (company alleging competitor hired
    
    undocumented workers in order to underbid competing firms). In each of these
    
    decisions, the circuit court determined that, at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage, the
    
    plaintiffs had alleged sufficient damages to be permitted to pursue their RICO
    
    claims. Although none of the opinions specifically addressed § 1962(c)’s
    
    requirements, each of these cases has essentially the same factual basis for RICO
    
    liability as the complaint before this Court.
    
          We recognize that the above conclusion puts our circuit in conflict with the
    
    Seventh Circuit’s decision in Baker v. IBP, Inc., 
    357 F.3d 685
     (7th Cir. 2004),
    
    cert. denied, 
    125 S. Ct. 412
     (2004). In Baker, an employees’ class-action lawsuit
    
    alleged that a meat-processing facility conspired with recruiters (and a Chinese aid
    
    group), and violated RICO by employing undocumented, illegal workers in an
    
    effort to drive down employee wages. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the
    
    employees’ union was a necessary party to the lawsuit. Id. at 690-91.
    
                                              13
          However, the Seventh Circuit in Baker also concluded that there was
    
    “another fatal problem” with the complaint. Id. at 691. Although stating that an
    
    “enterprise” arguably existed, the Seventh Circuit determined that there was not a
    
    common purpose among the entities in the enterprise. Id. at 691. Specifically, the
    
    Seventh Circuit stated that the employer “wants to pay lower wages; the recruiters
    
    want to be paid more for services rendered (though [the employer] would like to
    
    pay them less); the Chinese Mutual Aid Association wants to assist members of its
    
    ethnic group. These are divergent goals.” Id. at 691.
    
          In our circuit, however, there has never been any requirement that the
    
    “common purpose” of the enterprise be the sole purpose of each and every
    
    member of the enterprise. In fact, it may often be the case that different members
    
    of a RICO enterprise will enjoy different benefits from the commission of
    
    predicate acts. This fact, however, is insufficient to defeat a civil RICO claim.
    
    Rather, all that is required is that the enterprise have a common purpose. In this
    
    case, the complaint alleges that Mohawk and the recruiters, under Mohawk’s
    
    direction, worked together to recruit illegal workers to come to Georgia and that
    
    they had the common purpose of providing illegal workers to Mohawk so that
    
    Mohawk could reduce its labor costs and the recruiters could get paid. This
    
    commonality is all that this circuit’s case law requires. See Church, 955 F.2d at
    
                                             14
    698. Again, while the plaintiffs may be unable to prove such allegations at trial,
    
    we cannot say at this 12(b)(6) stage of the litigation that they have failed to
    
    properly allege a common purpose.
    
          We recognize that the Baker Court also concluded that there was no way to
    
    establish that the employer “operate[d] or manage[d] th[e] enterprise through a
    
    pattern of racketeering activity.” Baker, 357 F.3d at 691 (emphasis omitted).
    
    However, as this Court has noted, “the Supreme Court has yet to delineate the
    
    exact boundaries of the operation or management test.” United States v. Starrett,
    
    
    55 F.3d 1525
    , 1546 (11th Cir. 1995). Although the exact boundaries have not
    
    been established, it is possible that the plaintiffs will be able to establish that
    
    Mohawk played some part in directing the affairs of the enterprise. Whether the
    
    plaintiffs ultimately establish sufficient evidence to meet the boundaries of the
    
    operation-or-management test is a question best answered at the summary-
    
    judgment stage or at trial. Accordingly, we conclude that the plaintiffs have
    
    sufficiently alleged conduct that may potentially satisfy the operation-or-
    
    management test. As such, the plaintiffs are entitled to continue with their claims
    
    at this juncture.
    
          Having reviewed the four elements of § 1962(c), we turn to § 1964(c).
    
    C.    Injury to “Business or Property” Interest Under RICO
    
                                               15
          As indicated above, RICO’s civil-suit provision states that “[a]ny person
    
    injured in his business or property by reason of” RICO’s substantive provisions
    
    has the right to “recover threefold the damages he sustains . . . .” 18 U.S.C. §
    
    1964(c). “The terms ‘business or property’ are, of course, words of limitation
    
    which preclude [certain forms of] recovery.” Doe v. Roe, 
    958 F.2d 763
    , 767 (7th
    
    Cir. 1992). However, RICO is to be “liberally construed,” Sedima, 473 U.S. at
    
    497-98, 105 S. Ct. at 3285-86 (1985). Accordingly, we must determine whether
    
    the plaintiffs have a “business or property” interest that could be injured under
    
    RICO. We need not reach whether plaintiffs have a property interest because
    
    plaintiffs clearly have alleged a business interest affected by Mohawk’s alleged
    
    RICO violations.
    
          Indeed, this case is similar to the Ninth Circuit’s Mendoza decision, where
    
    legally documented agricultural workers sued fruit growers under RICO alleging
    
    that the growers depressed wages by hiring illegal workers. In Mendoza, the
    
    defendant claimed that the employees would have to show a “‘property right’ in
    
    the lost wages[] by showing that they were promised or contracted for higher
    
    wages.” Mendoza, 301 F.3d at 1168 n.4. The Ninth Circuit concluded that this
    
    argument was misplaced, pointing out that the plaintiffs’ claim did not implicate
    
    procedural due process. Id. Rather, the Ninth Circuit concluded that “what is
    
                                             16
    required is precisely what the employees allege here: a legal entitlement to
    
    business relations unhampered by schemes prohibited by the RICO predicate
    
    statutes.” Id. (citations omitted). Given that a relationship clearly exists between
    
    plaintiff workers and their employer, Mohawk, we conclude that a similar business
    
    interest exists in this case, and that the employees’ alleged injury to their business
    
    interests satisfies the business-interest requirement. Consequently, the plaintiffs
    
    have alleged a sufficient injury to a business interest to pursue their RICO claims.
    
    D.    “By Reason Of” the Substantive RICO Violations
    
          We now turn to the “by reason of” requirement contained in § 1964(c). The
    
    “by reason of” requirement implicates two concepts: (1) a sufficiently direct injury
    
    so that a plaintiff has standing to sue; and (2) proximate cause. See Trollinger,
    
    370 F.3d at 612 (“RICO’s civil-suit provision imposes two distinct but
    
    overlapping limitations on claimants – standing and proximate cause.”); Green
    
    Leaf Nursery v. E.I. DuPont De Nemours & Co., 
    341 F.3d 1292
    , 1307 (11th Cir.
    
    2003), cert. denied, 
    124 S. Ct. 2094
     (2004) (“[O]ne or more of the predicate acts
    
    [in a RICO claim] must not only be the ‘but for’ cause of the injury, but the
    
    proximate cause as well.” (citations omitted)); Mendoza, 301 F.3d at 1168-72
    
    (concluding that the plaintiffs had satisfied both “statutory” and “constitutional”
    
    
    
    
                                              17
    standing requirements of RICO). Despite some significant overlap, we address the
    
    proximate cause and standing concepts separately.4
    
           (i)     Proximate Cause
    
           It is well-established that RICO plaintiffs must prove proximate causation in
    
    order to recover. Anza v. Ideal Steel Supply Corp., __ U.S. __, 
    126 S. Ct. 1991
    
    (2006); Holmes v. Sec. Investor Prot. Corp., 
    503 U.S. 258
    , 
    112 S. Ct. 1311
     (1992);
    
    Cox, 17 F.3d at 1399 (citations omitted). Anza makes clear that courts should
    
    scrutinize proximate causation at the pleading stage and carefully evaluate
    
    whether the injury pled was proximately caused by the claimed RICO violations.
    
    See Anza, __ U.S. at __, 126 S. Ct. at 1997.
    
    
    
    
           4
            As the Sixth Circuit aptly explained,
           the two concepts overlap and that is particularly true in the context of civil RICO
           claims. As a general matter, they overlap because a plaintiff who lacks standing
           to vindicate a derivative injury also will be unable to show proximate cause. And
           as a matter of RICO law, the two concepts overlap because they both grow out of
           the “by reason of” limitation in RICO – namely, the requirement that claimants
           establish that their injury was “by reason of” a RICO predicate act violation. The
           “by reason of” limitation, in other words, bundles together a variety of “judicial
           tools,” some of which are traditionally employed to decide causation questions
           and some of which are employed to decide standing questions. Holmes, 503 U.S.
           at 268, 112 S. Ct. [at 1318] (“Here we use ‘proximate cause’ to label generically
           the judicial tools used to limit a person's responsibility for the consequences of
           that person's own acts. At bottom, the notion of proximate cause reflects ideas of
           what justice demands, or of what is administratively possible and convenient.”)
           (quotation omitted) . . . .
    Trollinger, 370 F.3d at 613.
    
                                                   18
           More importantly, in Anza, the United States Supreme Court instructed that
    
    “[w]hen a court evaluates a RICO claim for proximate causation, the central
    
    question it must ask is whether the alleged violation led directly to the plaintiff’s
    
    injuries.” Anza, __ U.S. at __, 126 S. Ct. at 1998. This central question stems
    
    from the Supreme Court’s earlier decision in Holmes, which examined “the
    
    common-law foundations of the proximate-cause requirement” and specifically the
    
    “demand for some direct relation between the injury asserted and the injurious
    
    conduct alleged.” Anza, __ U.S. at __, 126 S. Ct. at 1996 (quoting Holmes, 503
    
    U.S. at 269, 112 S. Ct. at 1318). Although Anza does not require plaintiffs to
    
    show that the injurious conduct is the sole cause of the injury asserted, Anza does
    
    emphasize that in RICO cases there must be “some direct relation” between the
    
    injury alleged and the injurious conduct in order to show proximate cause. Id.5
    
           In evaluating whether the requisite causal connection exists, Anza also
    
    instructs that courts should consider the “motivating principle[s]” behind the
    
    directness component of the proximate-cause standard in RICO cases. “One
    
    
           5
            Anza also explains that “Congress modeled § 1964(c) [in the RICO statute] on the civil-
    action provision of the federal antitrust laws, § 4 of the Clayton Act.” __ U.S. at __, 126 S. Ct. at
    1996 (quotation marks and citation omitted). In both federal RICO and federal antitrust cases,
    “proximate cause is not . . . the same thing as a sole cause,” and it is enough for the plaintiff to
    plead and prove that the defendant’s tortious or injurious conduct was a “substantial factor in the
    sequence of responsible causation.” Cox v. Adm’r U.S. Steel & Carnegie, 
    17 F.3d 1386
    , 1399
    (11th Cir. 1994) (RICO), modified on other grounds by 
    30 F.3d 1347
     (11th Cir. 1994).
    
                                                     19
    motivating principle is the difficulty that can arise when a court attempts to
    
    ascertain the damages caused by some remote action.” Anza, __ U.S. at __, 126 S.
    
    Ct. at 1997. Stated another way, “the less direct an injury is, the more difficult it
    
    becomes to ascertain the amount of plaintiff’s damages attributable to the
    
    violation, as distinct from other, independent factors.” Holmes, 503 U.S. at 269,
    
    112 S. Ct. at 1318. This remoteness concern is heightened when RICO suits are
    
    brought by economic competitors seeking damages for lost sales because those
    
    types of claims, “if left unchecked, could blur the line between RICO and the
    
    antitrust laws.” Anza, __ U.S. at __, 126 S. Ct. at 1998.
    
          Another consideration is the risk of duplicative recoveries. “The
    
    requirement of a direct causal connection is especially warranted where the
    
    immediate victims of an alleged RICO violation can be expected to vindicate the
    
    laws by pursuing their own claims.” Anza, __ U.S. at __, 126 S. Ct. at 1998. As
    
    also aptly expressed in Holmes, “directly injured victims can generally be counted
    
    on to vindicate the law as private attorneys general, without any of the problems
    
    attendant upon suits by plaintiffs injured more remotely.” Holmes, 503 U.S. at
    
    269-70, 112 S. Ct. at 1318.
    
          Turning back to this case, we conclude that the plaintiffs have alleged
    
    sufficient proximate cause to withstand defendant Mohawk’s motion to dismiss.
    
                                              20
    According to their complaint, Mohawk has hired illegal workers “[i]n an effort to
    
    keep labor costs as low as possible.” Furthermore, “Mohawk’s employment and
    
    harboring of large numbers of illegal workers has enabled Mohawk to depress
    
    wages and thereby pay all of its hourly employees, including legally employed
    
    workers who are members of the class, wages that are lower than they would be if
    
    Mohawk did not engage in this illegal conduct.” Again, the complaint alleges that
    
    “Mohawk’s widespread employment and harboring of illegal workers has
    
    substantially and unlawfully increased the supply of workers from which Mohawk
    
    makes up its hourly workforce. This unlawful expansion of the labor pool has
    
    permitted Mohawk to depress the wages that it pays all its hourly employees . . . .”
    
    The plaintiffs also allege that “[o]ne purpose and intended effect of Mohawk’s
    
    widespread employment and harboring of illegal workers is to deprive Mohawk’s
    
    hourly workforce of any individual or collective bargaining power” and that they
    
    “were injured by direct and proximate reason of Mohawk’s illegal conduct.”
    
          Given these allegations, which we must assume are true at this Rule
    
    12(b)(6) stage of the litigation, it is clear that the plaintiffs have alleged a
    
    sufficiently direct relation between their claimed injury and the alleged RICO
    
    violations. In short, according to the complaint, Mohawk’s widespread scheme of
    
    knowingly hiring and harboring illegal workers has the purpose and direct result
    
                                                21
    of depressing the wages paid to the plaintiffs. Simply put, wholesale illegal hiring
    
    depresses wages for the legal workers in north Georgia where Mohawk is located.
    
    According to plaintiffs, Mohawk’s illegal conduct had a substantial and direct
    
    effect on wages that Mohawk pays to legal workers. See DeCanas v. Bica, 
    424 U.S. 351
    , 356-57, 
    96 S. Ct. 933
    , 937 (1976) (explaining that “acceptance by illegal
    
    aliens of jobs on substandard terms as to wages and working conditions can
    
    seriously depress wage scales and working conditions of citizens and legally
    
    admitted aliens”).6 While DeCanas is not a RICO case, plaintiffs point out that the
    
    Supreme Court has already recognized a direct correlation between illegal hiring
    
    and lower wages.
    
           In response, Mohawk asserts that other economic factors contribute to the
    
    plaintiffs’ wages, that illegal hiring is just one of myriad factors affecting wages,
    
    and that therefore plaintiffs have not satisfied Anza’s proximate-cause
    
    requirements. However, plaintiffs persuasively reply that Mohawk’s argument
    
    ignores that Mohawk’s conduct has grossly distorted those normal market forces
    
    by employing literally thousands of illegal, undocumented aliens at its
    
    
           6
              The Supreme Court quoted this same point in Sure-Tan, Inc. v. NLRB, 
    467 U.S. 883
    ,
    892-93, 
    104 S. Ct. 2803
    , 2809 (1984) (quoting same, and adding that a “primary purpose in
    restricting immigration is to preserve jobs for American workers; immigrant aliens are therefore
    admitted to work in this country only if they ‘will not adversely affect the wages and working
    conditions of the workers in the United States similarly employed.’” (citation omitted)).
    
                                                   22
    manufacturing facilities in north Georgia, thus depriving plaintiffs of “business
    
    relations unhampered by schemes prohibited by the RICO predicate statutes.”
    
    Plaintiffs submit that their complaint focuses on only what is happening in the
    
    particular narrow labor market that Mohawk dominates in north Georgia. We
    
    agree with plaintiffs that their complaint alleges a sufficiently direct injury to
    
    satisfy Anza and Holmes, especially given the recognition of a direct correlation
    
    between illegal hiring and lower wages.
    
          More importantly, as plaintiffs point out, in both Holmes and Anza, the
    
    Supreme Court emphasized that dismissal was appropriate because a more direct
    
    victim could bring suit. For example, the Anza plaintiff alleged that National
    
    Steel Supply, a competitor, had stopped paying sales taxes to the New York tax
    
    authority, submitted fraudulent documents to the tax authority, and used its tax
    
    savings to lower prices. The plaintiff sued for treble damages for sales lost to
    
    National. The Supreme Court concluded that New York, which lost the tax
    
    revenue due to National’s fraudulent conduct, was the direct victim who could
    
    bring suit and not the plaintiff. Anza, __ U.S. at __, 126 S. Ct. at 1997. Indeed,
    
    the state of New York could “be expected to pursue appropriate remedies.” Id. at
    
    __, 126 S. Ct. at 1998. National’s decision to lower prices to its customers and
    
    win sales from the plaintiff was “entirely distinct from the alleged RICO
    
                                               23
    violation” of mail and wire fraud as to taxes owed to the New York tax authority.
    
    Id. at __, 126 S. Ct. at 1997.
    
          Likewise, in Holmes, the plaintiff’s injury was merely derivative of a prior
    
    injury to third parties (broker dealers) who had filed their own suit. Holmes, 503
    
    U.S. at 271, 273, 112 S. Ct. at 1319-20; see also Associated Contractors v. Cal.
    
    State Council of Carpenters, 
    459 U.S. 519
    , 541, 
    103 S. Ct. 897
    , 910 (1983)
    
    (identifying alternative plaintiffs with more direct claims).
    
          The concerns expressed in Anza and Holmes are not present in this case.
    
    There is no more direct injured party who could bring suit. Mohawk posits the
    
    United States as the only other victim because of its interest in enforcing
    
    immigration laws. But as plaintiffs aptly point out, the United States is
    
    responsible for all federal criminal laws which includes RICO’s other predicate
    
    acts. Under Mohawk’s theory, the United States would arguably be the most
    
    direct victim of all RICO predicate, criminal acts. Congress, however,
    
    criminalized the employment of illegal workers in part to protect legal workers. It
    
    is consistent with civil RICO’s purposes — to expand enforcement beyond federal
    
    prosecutors with limited public resources — to turn victims (here, Mohawk’s legal
    
    workers) into prosecutors as private attorneys general seeking to eliminate illegal
    
    hiring activity by their own employer. See Rotella v. Wood, 
    528 U.S. 549
    , 557,
    
                                              24
    
    120 S. Ct. 1075
    , 1082 (2000) (acknowledging that the very “object of civil RICO
    
    is . . . to turn [victims] into prosecutors, private attorneys general dedicated to
    
    eliminating racketeering activity” (quotation marks and citation omitted)); see also
    
    Reiter v. Sonotone Corp., 
    442 U.S. 330
    , 344, 
    99 S. Ct. 2326
    , 2333 (1979) (private
    
    antitrust suits “provide a significant supplement to the limited resources available
    
    at the Department of Justice”).
    
          Anza’s concern about speculative damages, “intricate, uncertain injuries,”
    
    and unwieldy apportionment are not implicated in this case because plaintiffs
    
    allege an injury fundamentally different from that in Anza. The plaintiff in Anza
    
    was a competitor suing for damages for lost opportunity or lost sales. In contrast,
    
    plaintiffs are Mohawk’s own employees who seek to recover the diminution in
    
    wages they receive directly from Mohawk. Further, Anza’s concern about
    
    blurring the line between RICO and antitrust laws is wholly missing here.
    
          We also recognize that Mohawk asserts that the cause of plaintiffs’ alleged
    
    harms is a set of actions (paying lower wages) “entirely distinct” from the alleged
    
    RICO violation (hiring illegal workers). We disagree. As noted earlier, it has
    
    long been recognized that hiring illegal workers on substandard wage terms
    
    depresses the wage scales of legal workers. Moreover, plaintiffs are not suing
    
    about the hiring of illegal workers on the west coast depressing the wages of legal
    
                                               25
    workers on the east coast. Rather, plaintiffs’ complaint is a narrow one about a
    
    single employer’s – Mohawk’s – hiring of thousands of illegal workers at its
    
    manufacturing facilities in north Georgia depressing the wages of legal workers of
    
    the same employer, Mohawk, at the same manufacturing facilities in the same
    
    limited geographical area. Accordingly, under the particular factual circumstances
    
    of this case, we conclude that plaintiffs’ complaint satisfies the direct relationship
    
    requirement imposed by Holmes and Anza’s interpretation of the “by reason of”
    
    language in the federal RICO statute.
    
          Our conclusion is consistent with the two other circuits to have addressed
    
    this proximate cause issue in RICO decisions involving schemes to depress wages
    
    of legal workers by widespread hiring of illegal workers. See Trollinger, 370 F.3d
    
    at 619; Mendoza, 301 F.3d at 1171-72.
    
          In Trollinger, the Sixth Circuit considered a situation in which former Tyson
    
    employees at a poultry processing plant sued their former employer under RICO,
    
    alleging that the use of illegal workers permitted the employer to lower wages via
    
    the collective-bargaining agreement with the union representing the employees.
    
    The Sixth Circuit, reviewing the district court’s dismissal of the employees’
    
    complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), determined that “at this preliminary stage in the
    
    proceeding” it could not conclude that there was no likelihood of success on the
    
                                              26
    merits. Id. at 619. The Sixth Circuit explained that it remained possible that the
    
    legal-worker plaintiffs might prove the following allegations in their complaint:
    
           (1) that Tyson hired sufficient numbers of illegal aliens to impact the
           legal employees’ wages; (2) that each additional illegal worker hired
           into the bargaining unit by Tyson has a measurable impact on the
           bargained-for wage-scale; (3) that the illegal immigrants allegedly
           brought into this country through Tyson’s efforts allowed Tyson not to
           compete with other businesses for unskilled labor; and (4) that Tyson’s
           legal workers did not “choose” to remain at Tyson for less money than
           other businesses offered, but had no choice in the matter given the hiring
           needs of the other businesses in the area and the influx of illegal
           immigrants at Tyson’s facilities. While Tyson’s proximate-cause
           argument may well carry the day at the summary-judgment stage, it
           requires more assistance than the complaint alone provides.
                   One other circuit has reached the same result on somewhat similar
           facts . . . Mendoza . . . .
    
    Trollinger, 370 F.3d at 619.7
    
           Although the plaintiffs’ evidence in this case may not ultimately prove the
    
    proximate-cause requirement, we conclude that the plaintiffs’ complaint states a
    
    sufficiently direct relation between their alleged injury and Mohawk’s alleged
    
    unlawful predicate acts to withstand Mohawk’s motion to dismiss. Consequently,
    
    we join the Sixth and Ninth Circuits in concluding that employees such as the ones
    
    
    
           7
             As noted earlier, in Mendoza, the Ninth Circuit was faced with a similar suit in which
    legally documented agricultural workers sued fruit growers under RICO alleging that the growers
    depressed wages by hiring illegal-immigrant workers. 301 F.3d at 1166. Under almost the exact
    same legal theory as advanced in this case, the Mendoza Court concluded that the plaintiffs’
    “causation allegations are sufficient at this stage.” Id. at 1172.
    
                                                  27
    in this case have alleged sufficient proximate cause to proceed with their RICO
    
    claims.
    
          (ii)   Statutory Standing
    
          Lastly, we address RICO’s statutory standing limitation that also grows out
    
    of the “by reason of” limitation in § 1964(c). “[T]he test for RICO standing is
    
    whether the alleged injury was directly caused by the RICO violation, not whether
    
    such harm was reasonably foreseeable.” Bivens Gardens Office Bldg., Inc. v.
    
    Barnett Banks of Fla., Inc., 
    140 F.3d 898
    , 908 (11th Cir. 1998); see also Sedima,
    
    473 U.S. at 496-97, 105 S. Ct. at 3285 (“[T]he plaintiff only has standing if, and
    
    can only recover to the extent that, he has been injured in his business or property
    
    by the conduct constituting the violation” and the plaintiff’s damages must “flow
    
    from the commission of the predicate acts.”); Green Leaf Nursery, 341 F.3d at
    
    1307 (stating that plaintiffs must show a “direct relation between the injury
    
    asserted and the injurious conduct” and that we ask “whether the alleged conduct
    
    was ‘aimed primarily’ at a third party” (quotation marks and citations omitted));
    
    Bivens, 140 F.3d at 906 (concluding that a party whose alleged injuries result from
    
    “the misfortunes visited upon a third person by the defendant’s acts lacks standing
    
    to pursue a claim under RICO” (quotation marks and citation omitted)); Pelletier
    
    v. Zweifel, 
    921 F.2d 1465
    , 1497 (11th Cir. 1991) (stating that the plaintiff has
    
                                             28
    RICO standing if he shows “a causal connection between his injury and a
    
    predicate act”).8 Thus, we must evaluate whether the plaintiffs’ injury is
    
    sufficiently direct to give plaintiffs standing to sue for Mohawk’s alleged RICO
    
    violations.
    
           Both the Sixth and Ninth Circuits have expressly concluded that legal
    
    workers have sufficiently direct injuries for RICO standing in similar cases.
    
    Trollinger, 370 F.3d at 615-18; Mendoza, 301 F.3d at 1170. The Ninth Circuit’s
    
    Mendoza decision is particularly well-reasoned and instructive on the statutory
    
    standing issue.
    
           As mentioned earlier, the Mendoza plaintiffs were legal workers who
    
    claimed that the purpose and result of the defendants’ scheme of hiring
    
    undocumented immigrants was to depress the wages of legally documented
    
    employees. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the plaintiffs had statutory standing
    
    because “we are unable to discern a more direct victim of the illegal conduct.”
    
    Mendoza, 301 F.3d at 1170. The Ninth Circuit explained:
    
           The documented employees here do not complain of a passed-on harm.
           They allege that the scheme had the purpose and direct result of
    
    
           8
             This Court has more often evaluated the “by reason of” requirement primarily as part of
    its proximate-cause analysis, as opposed to the distinct concept of standing. However, despite
    significant overlap, we must also examine whether the plaintiffs’ injury is sufficiently direct to
    permit standing.
    
                                                    29
          depressing the wages paid to them by the growers. Thus, as the district
          court correctly determined, “plaintiffs have stated a claim that they are
          the direct victims of the illegal hiring scheme.”
          ...
                 We also note that the undocumented workers cannot “be counted
          on to bring suit for the law’s vindication.” As the district court noted,
          the fact that RICO specifically provides that illegal hiring is a predicate
          offense indicates that Congress contemplated the enforcement of the
          immigration laws through lawsuits like this one.
    
    Id. (internal citations omitted). The Ninth Circuit further stated that
    
          the workers must be allowed to make their case through presentation of
          evidence, including experts who will testify about the labor market, the
          geographic market, and the effects of the illegal scheme. Questions
          regarding the relevant labor market and the growers’ power within that
          market are exceedingly complex and best addressed by economic
          experts and other evidence at a later stage in the proceedings.
    
    Id. at 1171.
    
          Plaintiffs’ complaint clearly alleges that Mohawk has engaged in
    
    widespread and knowing hiring and harboring of illegal aliens with the express
    
    purpose and direct result of lowering the wages of legal workers. For example, the
    
    complaint alleges that “[o]ne purpose and intended effect of Mohawk’s
    
    widespread employment and harboring of illegal workers is to deprive Mohawk’s
    
    hourly workforce of any individual or collective bargaining power.” The plaintiffs
    
    also allege that “[t]he acts of racketeering activity committed by Mohawk have the
    
    same or similar objective: the reduction of wages paid to Mohawk’s hourly
    
    
    
                                              30
    workforce.” Furthermore, the plaintiffs “were injured by direct and proximate
    
    reason of Mohawk’s illegal conduct.” Given this stage of the litigation, we
    
    conclude that the plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that Mohawk’s illegal
    
    conduct was aimed primarily at them. Consequently, the district court correctly
    
    denied Mohawk’s 12(b)(6) motion as it relates to the plaintiffs’ federal civil RICO
    
    claim.
    
                                   III. STATE LAW RICO
    
             Under the Georgia RICO statute, “[i]t is unlawful for any person, through a
    
    pattern of racketeering activity or proceeds derived therefrom, to acquire or
    
    maintain, directly or indirectly, any interest in or control of any enterprise, real
    
    property, or personal property of any nature, including money.” O.C.G.A. 16-14-
    
    4(a). Unlike federal civil RICO, the Georgia RICO statute does not require proof
    
    of an “enterprise.” Cobb County v. Jones Group, P.L.C., 
    460 S.E.2d 516
    , 520-21
    
    (Ga. Ct. App. 1995). Rather, under Georgia RICO, the plaintiffs need only
    
    establish racketeering activity; that is, “a plaintiff must show that the defendant
    
    committed predicate offenses (set forth in O.C.G.A. § 16-14-3(9)) at least twice.”
    
    Id. at 521 (quotation marks and citation omitted).
    
             With regard to their state-law RICO claim, the plaintiffs rely on 18 U.S.C. §
    
    1546 (relating to the fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents) for
    
                                               31
    their predicate offenses.9 Despite being limited to § 1546, the plaintiffs have
    
    alleged sufficiently numerous violations to satisfy the racketeering activity
    
    requirement under Georgia state law. In fact, according to the complaint,
    
    “Mohawk has committed hundreds, probably thousands, of violations of . . . 18
    
    U.S.C. § 1546 as part of its pattern of racketeering activity.”
    
            There are, however, two issues under the Georgia RICO statute that warrant
    
    further discussion: (1) whether a corporation is a “person” who may be sued for
    
    purposes of the Georgia RICO statute; and (2) whether the plaintiffs have
    
    sufficiently alleged proximate cause to have standing to bring a Georgia RICO
    
    suit.
    
    A.      Whether Corporations May be Sued Under Georgia RICO
    
            The Georgia Supreme Court recently answered the precise question of
    
    whether a corporation may be sued under the Georgia RICO statute. See Williams
    
    Gen. Corp. v. Stone, 
    280 Ga. 631
    , 
    632 S.E.2d 376
     (2006). The Georgia Supreme
    
    Court noted that the prohibitions in the Georgia RICO Act apply to “any person”
    
    
            9
            According to O.C.G.A. § 16-14-3(9)(A)(xxix), “racketeering activity” is defined as
    “conduct defined as ‘racketeering activity’ under 18 U.S.C. Section 1961(1)(A), (B), (C), and
    (D).” The only “racketeering activity” contained in 18 U.S.C. § 1961(1)(A), (B), (C), or (D) on
    which the plaintiffs rely is § 1546. To the extent the plaintiffs attempt to rely on § 1324, as they
    do with their federal civil RICO claims, such a claim is barred under the Georgia RICO statute
    because § 1324 is listed as a “racketeering offense” in 18 U.S.C. § 1961(1)(F), and not in
    subsections (A), (B), (C), or (D).
    
                                                     32
    under O.C.G.A. § 16-14-4. Williams, 280 Ga. at 631, 632 S.E.2d at 377. The
    
    term “person,” however, is not defined in the definition section of the Georgia
    
    RICO Act. See O.C.G.A. § 16-14-3 (definition section). The Georgia Supreme
    
    Court pointed out that, nonetheless, the Georgia legislature had “set forth the
    
    desired application of the term [person] in the definition section promulgated for
    
    use in the title [Title 16] which includes the Georgia RICO Act.” Williams, 280
    
    Ga. at 631, 632 S.E.2d at 377. The Georgia Supreme Court explained that the
    
    definition section for use in Title 16 of the Georgia Code is O.C.G.A. § 16-1-
    
    3(12). Id. The Georgia Supreme Court then quoted § 16-1-3(12), which provides
    
    that “person” includes an individual, a public or private corporation, an
    
    incorporated association, government, government agency, partnership, or
    
    unincorporated association. Id. at 632, 632 S.E.2d at 377. Additionally, the
    
    Georgia Supreme Court observed that “the definition section of the entire Georgia
    
    Code notes that ‘person’ includes a corporation,” citing O.C.G.A. § 1-3-3(14). Id.
    
    at 632, 632 S.E.2d at 378 (quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, the Georgia
    
    Supreme Court concluded that a corporation is subject to and may be sued under
    
    Georgia’s RICO Act. Id. at 631, 632 S.E.2d at 377.
    
          The Georgia Supreme Court in Williams also expressly rejected the
    
    argument, which Mohawk makes here, that O.C.G.A. § 16-2-22, which places
    
                                             33
    limits on corporate criminal liability, should apply to civil suits which stem from
    
    criminal law violations. Id. at 632-33, 632 S.E.2d at 378. Instead, the Georgia
    
    Supreme Court expressly held that “O.C.G.A. § 16-2-22 does not pertain to civil
    
    suits brought under the Georgia civil RICO Act.” Id. In light of Williams, we
    
    conclude that Mohawk, a corporation, may be sued under the Georgia RICO
    
    statute.10 We now turn to the next question of standing.
    
    B.     Standing to Pursue State-Law RICO Claims
    
           As with Federal RICO claims, under Georgia’s RICO statute, “[a]ny person
    
    who is injured by reason of any violation of” Georgia’s RICO statute “shall have a
    
    cause of action for three times the actual damages sustained . . . .” O.C.G.A. § 16-
    
    14-6(c) (emphasis added). “[B]ecause the state RICO act is modeled upon and
    
    closely analogous to the federal RICO statute,” Georgia courts “look to federal
    
    authority” in determining RICO standing. Maddox v. So. Eng’g Co., 
    500 S.E.2d 591
    , 594 (Ga. Ct. App. 1998) (quotation marks and citation omitted). We already
    
    have concluded that the plaintiffs have alleged sufficient injury to pursue their
    
    federal RICO claims, and accordingly, we conclude that they have alleged a
    
    sufficient injury to pursue their state RICO claims as well. Although under
    
    
           10
             In interpreting a state law, federal courts apply the decisions of that state’s highest
    court. See CSX Transp., Inc. v. Trism Specialized Carriers, Inc., 
    182 F.3d 788
    , 789 (11th Cir.
    1999).
    
                                                    34
    Georgia law the plaintiffs are limited to predicate acts arising out of 18 U.S.C. §
    
    1546, we conclude that the plaintiffs’ allegations are neither indirect nor too
    
    remote to satisfy Georgia’s proximate-cause requirement under state-law RICO.
    
    See Maddox, 500 S.E.2d at 594 (“In short, the language ‘by reason of’ imposes a
    
    proximate causation requirement on the plaintiff.” (citation omitted)); id. (A
    
    plaintiff “must show a causal connection between his injury and a predicate act.”
    
    (citation omitted)).11
    
                                  IV. UNJUST ENRICHMENT
    
           The plaintiffs’ complaint claims that Mohawk’s illegal conduct permits it
    
    “to reap substantial wage savings” because Mohawk pays plaintiffs lower wages
    
    than it would otherwise be forced to pay. Therefore, according to the plaintiffs’
    
    complaint, Mohawk has been unjustly enriched under state law. Plaintiffs also
    
    claim that Mohawk has been unjustly enriched because the hiring of illegal aliens
    
    has led to a reduced number of worker’s-compensation claims. Both of plaintiffs’
    
    state-law unjust-enrichment claims fail.
    
    
    
    
           11
              Plaintiffs also seek injunctive relief under the Georgia RICO Act which allows any
    “aggrieved person” to sue for injunctive relief, without requiring an injury “by reason of” the
    illegal conduct. Compare O.C.G.A. § 16-14-6(b) with O.C.G.A. § 16-14-6(c). Thus, we need
    not discuss Anza and Mohawk’s proximate-cause arguments as to plaintiffs’ claims for
    injunctive relief under the Georgia RICO Act.
    
                                                   35
          Here, the plaintiffs were all paid an agreed-upon wage. In essence, the
    
    plaintiffs have a contract to work for the defendant and were paid the agreed-upon
    
    wage. In Georgia, “[u]njust enrichment is an equitable concept and applies when
    
    as a matter of fact there is no legal contract . . . .” St. Paul Mercury Ins. Co. v.
    
    Meeks, 
    508 S.E.2d 646
    , 648 (Ga. 1998) (quotation marks and citation omitted);
    
    see Bonem v. Golf Club of Ga., Inc., 
    591 S.E.2d 462
    , 467-68 (Ga. Ct. App. 2003).
    
    In this case, there was a legal contract as a matter of fact (i.e., if the plaintiffs were
    
    not paid, they could sue for breach of the employment contract). See, e.g.,
    
    SurgiJet, Inc. v. Hicks, 
    511 S.E.2d 194
    , 195 (Ga. Ct. App. 1999); Brazzeal v.
    
    Commercial Cas. Ins. Co., 
    180 S.E. 853
    , 853 (Ga. Ct. App. 1935). Therefore,
    
    there can be no unjust enrichment. Consequently, the plaintiffs’ unjust-enrichment
    
    claim as it related to Mohawk’s purported savings from lower wages should have
    
    been dismissed.
    
          As for plaintiffs’ claims that hiring illegal workers resulted in fewer
    
    worker’s-compensation claims, there is no reasonable allegation that this fact,
    
    even if true, is connected to the plaintiffs receiving lower wages. To put it another
    
    way, the fact that Mohawk may have increased profits by lowering the number of
    
    worker’s-compensation claims it paid is not related to what wages Mohawk paid
    
    
    
    
                                                36
    the plaintiffs. Consequently, the district court correctly determined that the
    
    plaintiffs did not have standing to assert this claim.
    
                                     V. CONCLUSION
    
          For all the above reasons, we conclude that the district court properly denied
    
    Mohawk’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion as it related to both the plaintiffs’ federal and
    
    state RICO claims. Furthermore, the district court properly dismissed the
    
    plaintiffs’ unjust-enrichment claim as it related to worker’s compensation.
    
    However, the district court should have also dismissed the plaintiffs’ unjust-
    
    enrichment claim as it related to the agreed-upon wages that plaintiffs received.
    
          AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED
    
    FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS.
    
    
    
    
                                              37
    

Document Info

DocketNumber: 04-13740

Citation Numbers: 411 F.3d 1252

Filed Date: 9/27/2006

Precedential Status: Precedential

Modified Date: 3/3/2016

Authorities (35)

Beck v. Deloitte & Touche , 144 F.3d 732 ( 1998 )

CSX Transportation v. Trism , 182 F.3d 788 ( 1999 )

Green Leaf Nursery v. E.I. DuPont De Nemours , 341 F.3d 1292 ( 2003 )

Shirley Williams v. Mohawk Industries, Inc. , 411 F.3d 1252 ( 2005 )

De Canas v. Bica , 424 U.S. 351 ( 1976 )

Reiter v. Sonotone Corp. , 442 U.S. 330 ( 1979 )

United States v. Turkette , 452 U.S. 576 ( 1981 )

Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Carpenters , 459 U.S. 519 ( 1983 )

Sure-Tan, Inc. v. NLRB , 467 U.S. 883 ( 1984 )

Sedima, SP RL v. Imrex Co. , 473 U.S. 479 ( 1985 )

Holmes v. Securities Investor Protection Corporation , 503 U.S. 258 ( 1992 )

Reves v. Ernst & Young , 507 U.S. 170 ( 1993 )

Rotella v. Wood , 528 U.S. 549 ( 2000 )

Mohawk Industries, Inc. v. Williams , 547 U.S. 516 ( 2006 )

Anza v. Ideal Steel Supply Corp. , 547 U.S. 451 ( 2006 )

Ronald O. Pelletier v. Gary D. Zweifel, Ronald O. Pelletier ... , 921 F.2d 1465 ( 1991 )

United States v. Frank Church, Carl Louis Coppola , 955 F.2d 688 ( 1992 )

Jane Doe v. John Roe, and Roe and Roe, Limited , 958 F.2d 763 ( 1992 )

leslie-ray-cox-rm-cox-larry-driver-barry-nichols-john-bullard-robert-w , 17 F.3d 1386 ( 1994 )

Gordon Jones and Laura Jones v. John H. Childers and Talent ... , 18 F.3d 899 ( 1994 )

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