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Wallace v. Stanton

United States District Court, Second Circuit

July 2, 2013

RACHEL WALLACE, Plaintiff,
v.
STEPHANIE STANTON; and KATHY CALTA; Defendants.

JOHN J. HOKE, ESQ., SMITH HOKE, PLLC, Albany, NY, Counsel for Plaintiff.

DANIEL P. JAFFE, ESQ., HUSCH BLACKWELL LLP, St. Louis, MO, Counsel for Defendants.

DECISION and ORDER

GLENN T. SUDDABY, District Judge.

Currently before the Court, in this labor action filed by Rachel Wallace ("Plaintiff") against Stephanie Stanton and Kathy Calta ("Defendants"), is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). (Dkt. No. 10.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is denied without prejudice, with leave to renew after discovery is completed.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Claims Against Defendants

Generally, liberally construed, Plaintiff's Complaint asserts the following two claims against Defendants, who were two high-ranking employees of Plaintiff's employer, Vertis Communications, Inc. ("Veris"), during the time in question: (1) a claim that Defendants violated New York Labor Law § 198 by not paying Plaintiff for approximately 2, 278.08 hours of overtime at a rate of 1½ times her regular rate pursuant to 12 N.Y.C.R.R. § 142-2.2 between approximately April 11, 2008, and January 23, 2012 (amounting to $81, 981.28 in unpaid compensation); and (2) a claim that Defendant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying Plaintiff for approximately 2, 278.08 hours of overtime at a rate of 1½ times her regular rate pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). ( See generally Dkt. No. 1 [Plf.'s Compl.].)

Generally, these two claims are based on the following factual allegations: (1) Vertis is a foreign business corporation that offered advertising and marketing services throughout the United States during the time in question; (2) Defendant Stanton (as Vertis' Vice President of Media Relations) and Defendant Calta (as Vertis' Chief Marketing Officer) are liable to Plaintiff as her "joint employer" (along with Vertis) during the time in question, by exercising direct operational control over the terms and conditions of Plaintiff's employment; (3) for example, Defendant Stanton (a) directly supervised all of the daily functions of Plaintiff's employment (including approving her work schedule, approving her leave, and ratifying her attendance), (b) had the authority to hire and fire Plaintiff, (c) approved the compensation arrangement for Plaintiff, (d) conducted monthly "forecast reviews" outlining the monthly salaries and wages paid to Plaintiff, (e) directly spoke with Plaintiff throughout the day for purpose of requesting assistance in the discharge of her duties, (f) had access to all of Plaintiff's personnel files, (g) directly controlled Plaintiff's work schedule, and (h) reviewed and approved the terms of Plaintiff's compensation; (4) moreover, Defendant Calta (a) had the authority to hire and fire Plaintiff, (b) controlled Plaintiff's salary, (c) had access to all of Plaintiff's personnel files, (d) determined the employment policies regarding Plaintiff's employment, and (e) was aware of the change in Plaintiff's employment status from non-exempt to exempt on April 11, 2008, and back to non-exempt on January 23, 2012; and (5) from approximately April 11, 2008, to January 23, 2012, Plaintiff was eligible for overtime compensation working an average of 11.2 hours of overtime a week. ( Id. )

Familiarity with the remaining factual allegations giving rise to Plaintiff's claims against Defendants is assumed in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for review by the parties. ( Id. )

B. Parties' Briefing on Defendants' Motion

Generally, in support of their motion to dismiss, Defendants assert the following three arguments: (1) Plaintiff's claims against Defendants should be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), because Plaintiff's Complaint has failed to make a prima facie showing, pursuant to N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 302(a)(1) of New York State's long-arm statute, that (a) Defendants transacted business within New York State, (b) the causes of action arise from that business activity, and (c) an exercise of jurisdiction would offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice; (2) moreover, to the extent that Plaintiff's Complaint relies on Defendants' relationship to Vertis, Plaintiff's Complaint has failed to make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction against Defendants (based on Vertis's contact with New York), because Plaintiff's Complaint does not allege facts plausibly suggesting that Defendants directed Vertis's conduct in New York State for Defendants' own personal benefit; and (3) in the alternative, Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Calta should be dismissed for insufficient service of process pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(5), because the Summons and Complaint were left at Calta's residence with a representative of Calta's cleaning service, who does not reside there, and who cannot be shown by Plaintiff as being an agent authorized by law or appointment to accept service of process on behalf of Plaintiff. ( See generally Dkt. No 10, Attach. 1 [Defs.' Memo. of Law].)

Generally, in response to Defendants' motion, Plaintiff asserts the following three arguments: (1) Defendants are subject to New York State's long-arm jurisdiction pursuant to N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 302(a)(1) because (a) they transacted business in New York State, (b) Plaintiff's claims arose out of those contacts, and (c) an exercise of jurisdiction would not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice; (2) in the alternative, personal jurisdiction is appropriate under an agency theory, applicable where (as here) Defendants directed the corporation's activities in New York State, and those activities were for Defendants' personal benefit (as exemplified by Plaintiff's affidavit testimony that Defendant Stanton relied on Plaintiff to handle all of her travel arrangements, arrange her schedule, and constantly assist her in special projects); and (3) Defendant Calta's argument that Plaintiff's claims against him should be dismissed for insufficient service of process are unfounded because, regardless of whether Defendant Calta was served in accordance with the laws of Maryland, she was served in accordance with the laws of New York, as permitted by Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(e)(1), because (a) the Summons and Complaint was served upon a non-resident of suitable age and discretion at Defendant Calta's abode, and (b) the Summons and Complaint was then promptly mailed to the address. ( See generally Dkt. No. 12 [Plf.'s Opp'n Memo. of Law].)

Generally, in reply to Plaintiff's response, Defendants assert the following three arguments: (1) Plaintiff has not established that either Defendants transacted business in the State of New York because (a) Plaintiff has failed to show that Defendants' travels to New York for one or two meetings relating to their own employment with Vertis was for the purpose of transacting business in New York, and (b) Plaintiff has failed to show that Defendant Stanton's communications with Plaintiff by phone and e-mail were for the purpose of transacting business in New York; (2) even if Defendants did transact business in the State of New York, Plaintiff has failed to establish that her state and federal wage claims arose from the alleged transaction of business (as exemplified by Defendants' affidavit testimony that they were not involved in any decisions regarding Plaintiff's classification as an "exempt" or "non-exempt" employee); and (3) Plaintiff has failed to make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction over Defendants based on Vertis's contacts with the State of New York because (a) Defendants' purported control over Plaintiff does not establish the requisite control over Vertis ...


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