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Jayquan Brown v. New York City Department

December 12, 2012

JAYQUAN BROWN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION; AND JOSHUA LAUB, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Paul A. Crotty, United States District Judge:

USDC SDNY

DOCUMENT

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Jayquan Brown ("Brown" or "Plaintiff") performed services at Banana Kelly High School ("Banana Kelly") from October 2007 through December 23, 2010. He claims that the Department of Education ("DOE"), which manages Banana Kelly, failed to pay him minimum wage and overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq.; and claims that Banana Kelly Principal Joshua Laub, in his personal capacity, is liable under the New York Labor Law, N.Y. Lab. Law §§ 650 et seq. The parties cross-move for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, grants Defendant summary judgment on the FLSA claim, and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining New York Labor Law claim.

BACKGROUND

Banana Kelly is a New York City public high school in managed by DOE. (DOE 56.1 ¶ 2.) At all times relevant to this action, Joshua Laub served as Principal of Banana Kelly; Dean Daniel Jerome was the Director of Student Life. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 9.) In January 2006, Brown graduated from the New School for Arts and Sciences, a high school that shared space with Banana Kelly. (Id. ¶ 21.) After graduation, Brown maintained ties with Banana Kelly and occasionally came in to visit former teachers. (Id. ¶ 23.) In October 2007, when Plaintiff expressed an interest in mentoring students, Jerome offered Plaintiff the opportunity to do so at Banana Kelly. (Id. ¶¶ 24-26.) Neither Brown nor Jerome raised the issue of compensation at this time, and neither discussed Brown's employee status. (Id. ¶¶ 32, 34.) No one interviewed Brown about his background or qualifications. (Id. ¶ 30.) Laub described the position as a "volunteer internship," which Plaintiff accepted. (Brown 56.1 ¶ 15.)

Thereafter, Brown went to Banana Kelly and continued at the school for more than three years, finally leaving in December 23, 2010. (DOE 56.1 ¶ 2.) During his time at the school, with minor exceptions, Plaintiff reported five days a week throughout the academic year. (Brown 56.1 ¶ 85.) He started at approximately 9:30 A.M. and stayed late to help, leaving anywhere between 4:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M., and occasionally later. (Welikson Dec. Ex. C Brown Dep. 147:20 to 148:17, 152:12-22.)*fn1 Beginning in January 2010, Plaintiff assisted with a Saturday program at Banana Kelly that was designed to help students prepare for exams and classes. (Brown 56.1 ¶¶ 80, 86.) At these Saturday sessions, Plaintiff organized student arrivals, took attendance, performed office tasks and ensured that students reported to their assigned teacher. (Id.) Brown provided services during the 2009 summer session as well. (Id. ¶ 88.)

Brown can point to no evidence that he ever submitted to the normal, legal requirements for employment by the Department of Education: application, interview, background check, job classification, and assignment. Instead, Plaintiff argues that he was an employee at Banana Kelly, not a volunteer, because he expected compensation for his services. (Brown 56.1 ¶ 56.) Plaintiff occasionally asked Jerome and Laub for money and in response, received small amounts of cash, meals and Metrocards. (Id. ¶¶ 60-62.) Plaintiff's requests precipitated conversations in which Plaintiff asked to be put on the payroll and given a paid position. (Id. ¶¶ 55, 63.) Jerome and Laub responded by encouraging Plaintiff to search for positions outside of Banana Kelly. (Id. ¶ 55.) Although Laub told Plaintiff that there was not enough money in the budget to pay him, (id. ¶ 53), according to Plaintiff, Laub promised that he would attempt to search the budget for the funding. (Okoronkwo Dec. Ex. 13, Brown Dep. at 188:4-20.) Further, Plaintiff argues that he was led to believe that Banana Kelly would offer him a stipend. In 2010, Laub informed that I-Team that the administration was applying for a $170,000 grant to support the I-team, perhaps as a "stipend" for the interns. (Id.¶¶ 57, 58.) The school never received the funding and Brown was never placed on the payroll.

Plaintiff believed that while at Banana Kelly, he was a part of its Intervention Team ("I-Team"). Principal Laub and Dean Jerome tasked the I-team which with student conflict resolution and enforcement of school rules. (Id. ¶¶ 10-13, 16.) The Team "intervene[d], between teachers and kids, having trouble in the classroom, and [tried] to bring them together and work together in a comfortable environment." (Id. ¶ 11.) As part of conflict resolution, the I-team often held mediation sessions. (Id. ¶ 17.) The I-team also greeted students in the morning, monitored the hallways, supervised students during lunch, escorted students back to their classrooms, and supervised dismissal. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff contends that he was presented to students, parents and teachers as an I-team "staff member." (Brown 56.1 ¶ 21.) He performed the same tasks, including monitoring students during lunch and dismissal, (DOE 56.1 ¶ 38), escorting disruptive students from their classrooms to Jerome's office (id. ¶ 39), conducting mediations (id. ¶ 40) and breaking up verbal and physical fights between students (id.). Significantly, however, while the rest of the members of the I-team were paid, Plaintiff was not. (Id. ¶ 33.)

Despite their conversations, Jerome did not offer Plaintiff mentoring opportunities when Brown first started. (Brown 56.1 ¶ 52.) Plaintiff performed administrative tasks for the school, including answering phones in Jerome's office, printing out students' schedules, distributing progress reports and report cards, and determining students' emergency contact information. (DOE 56.1 ¶ 41.) Brown also assisted with lunch detention, lunch duty, dismissals and monitoring hallways. (Id. ¶¶ 38-39; Brown 56.1 ¶ 26.) Brown provided classroom coverage for teachers (Brown 56.1 ¶ 28) and performed miscellaneous tasks that included escorting students from one area of the school to another and unlocking classroom and bathroom doors. (Id. ¶ 46.) After school, Brown fielded calls from Banana Kelly's parents and students about disciplinary problems. (Id. ¶ 76.) Starting in 2010, Brown was allowed to mentor a small group of students. (Brown 56.1 ¶ 23.) Plaintiff maintains that Defendants used his services to combat staffing challenges at Banana Kelly. (Brown 56.1 ¶ 5, 9.)

While at Banana Kelly, Plaintiff applied for a variety of positions outside of the school, including as a school aide, at a school cafeteria, and at Building Educated Leaders for Life, an afterschool program. (DOE 56.1 ¶ 65, 73, 88.) Plaintiff informed others at Banana Kelly that he was searching for positions and requested letters of recommendation. (Id. ¶¶ 67, 70.) On December 23, 2010, Principal Laub met with Brown and explained that Brown could no longer come to Banana Kelly. (Id. ¶¶ 94-95.) At the time, the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District ("SCI") was investigating Plaintiff for having made inappropriate comments made to a freshmen girl, and instructed Laub not to allow Plaintiff back to Banana Kelly. (Id. ¶¶ 95-97.) Plaintiff left and terminated his association with Banana Kelly.*fn2

DISCUSSION

A. SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Summary judgment may be granted where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A fact is material if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of producing evidence on each material element of its claim or defense demonstrating that it is entitled to relief. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "In moving for summary judgment against a party who will bear the ultimate burden of proof at trial, the movant's burden will be satisfied if he can ...


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