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Son v. Reina Bijoux

October 7, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shira A. Scheindlin, U.S.D.J.



Hyunmi Son ("Son") brings suit against her former employer, Reina Bijoux, Inc., Bijoux World, Inc., Jien Youn, Inhee Park and Sung Min Kim (collectively, "Defendants") alleging discrimination on the basis of race and unlawful retaliation in violation of section 1981 ot Title 42 of the United Sttes Code, the New York City Human Rights Law, the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), and the New York Labor Law. Son alleges that her statutory rights were violated as a result of racial discrimination and retaliatory discharge arising out of her employment. Additionally, Son alleges that the defendants owe her for unpaid overtime and liquidated damages under the FLSA.

Defendants now move to dismiss Son's first cause of action, for racially discriminatory conduct in violation of section 1981, and Son's third cause of action, for retaliation in violation of the FLSA. For the following reasons, defendants' motion to dismiss is granted.


Son, a Korean-born female, is a former employee of the defendants.*fn2

She was hired in August 2010 to serve as a book-keeper and in-house bill collector for the defendants' jewelry business.*fn3 Defendants are Korean-born residents of the United States.*fn4 Son alleges that "despite Plaintiff's unblemished work history during the time she was employed by Defendants, Defendants came to view Plaintiff negatively due to her unwillingness to conform to Defendants' stereotypes about Koreans and their actual or alleged willingness to provide their employers the 'courtesy' of additional work without being paid."*fn5 Son alleges that the defendants "were so comfortable exploiting Koreans . . . that they required their Korean employees to work overtime without compensation even more often than they required their Hispanic employees . . . to work overtime without compensation."*fn6
When Son began her employment, she was to receive $400 per week, or $10 per hour for a 40-hour work week.*fn7 In October 2010, she began to receive $500 per week, or $12.50 per hour.*fn8 Throughout her employment, Son was expected to work a substantial amount of overtime, for which she was not compensated.*fn9 By January 2011, Son was working approximately 12.5 hours of overtime per week without compensation.*fn10 On January 25, 2011, Sung Min Kim, the store's manager, informed Son that in addition to these 12.5 uncompensated hours per week, she would from then on be required to work Saturdays without additional compensation.*fn11 When Son protested, Kim informed her that she would be terminated if she insisted on being compensated for working overtime.*fn12 During this conversation, Kim intimated that "even though overtime may be paid by other employers, the non-payment of overtime is something Koreans understand and accept."*fn13
The next day, January 26, 2011, Son met with both Kim and Jien Youn, the store's owner and General Manager.*fn14 She recorded each of these conversations with her cellular phone.*fn15 Son later had these conversations translated from Korean to English and transcribed by an independent certified translation service.*fn16 When Son asked Kim why she was required to work on Saturdays without pay, Kim stated, "[T]hat is why we work with Koreans. . . . Koreans understand each [sic] about this kind of courtesy."*fn17 When Son asked Youn the same question, she stated, "That is why we hire Koreans. . . . [R]egular hours are Monday through Friday, but when busy, employees should come to work to prepare a show. There is no additional pay."*fn18 During the course of these meetings, Youn and Kim terminated Son's employment.*fn19 Youn then refused to allow Son to work through the week and informed her that she was required to leave that day.*fn20


In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court evaluates the sufficiency of the complaint under the "two-pronged approach" suggested by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal.*fn21

First, a court "'can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.'"*fn22

"Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice" to withstand a motion to dismiss.*fn23 Second, "[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief."*fn24 To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the allegations in the complaint must meet a standard of "plausibility."*fn25 A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."*fn26

Plausibility "is not akin to a probability requirement;" rather, plausibility requires "more than a sheer possibility that a ...

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