ASHLEY HICKS and KRISTIN RAYMOND, on behalf of themselves and all other employees similarly situated, Plaintiffs.
T.L. CANNON MANAGEMENT CORP., et al., Defendants.
DECISION and ORDER
THOMAS J. McAVOY, Senior District Judge.
Plaintiffs, Ashley Hicks and Kristin Raymond (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), bring this action on behalf of themselves and all other employees similarly situated for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. ("FLSA"), and the Minimum Wage Act of the New York Labor Law ("NYLL"), Art. 19 § 650 et seq., against T.L. Cannon Corp., d/b/a Applebee's or Applebee's Bar and Grill, as well as several of its corporate and individual affiliates, and individual owners and officers of the defendant organizations (collectively, "Defendants"). Defendants own and operate fiftyfour Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar Restaurants ("Applebee's") located throughout New York State. Plaintiffs claims concern tipped employees who assert that they were paid tipped wages below the minimum wage even though they spent more than 20% of their time working on non-tipped job duties.
Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration of the June 4, 2013 Decision and Order of the Hon. Michael A. Telesca, United States District Judge for the Western District of New York, that transferred this action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404 (a), or, in the alternative, to transfer the matter back to the Western District of New York pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). See Pls. Mot., dkt. # 95. Defendants oppose the motion, Plaintiffs filed a reply, and the parties presented oral arguments on August 23, 2013.
Upon consideration of the parties' written and oral arguments, and upon examination of the merits, the Court grants Plaintiffs' motion and transfers the matter to the Western District of New York pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).
Plaintiffs commenced this action in the Western District of New York on September 24, 2012. See Compl. dkt. # 1. An amended complaint was filed on April 10, 2013. See Am. Compl. dkt. # 82. Although neither a FLSA conditional class nor a Rule 23 class action has been certified, 452 employees working at Defendants' various restaurants located throughout New York State have signed consent forms to become party plaintiffs in this action.
a. Original Transfer Motion
On June 4, 2013, Judge Telesca granted Defendants' motion to transfer this matter to this District pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1404 (a). See Transfer Dec. & Order, dkt. no. 93. Familiarity with this Decision and Order is presumed. For present purposes, it suffices to say that the transfer decision was based in large measure on what was seen as an interrelationship between this case and the potential class claims in Roach, et al. v. T.L. Cannon Corp., et al., Case No. 10-cv-00591 (N.D.N.Y)(" Roach "). See e.g. Transfer Dec. & Order, pp. 4-5; 11; 11-12; 12; and 13-14.
Because the operative decision in this matter turns on this case's relationship to the claims in Roach, some background of Roach is in order.
Plaintiffs Matthew Roach, Melissa Longo, Garrett Titchen, and Christina Apple, four former Applebees employees, commenced an action against T.L. Cannon Corp., as well as several of its corporate and individual affiliates, that collectively own and operate sixtyone Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar Restaurants located throughout New York and portions of Connecticut. In their Amended Complaint, the Roach plaintiffs assert violations of the FLSA and the NYLL arising from the alleged existence of systemic, companywide policies and practices in place at Defendants' Appelebee's restaurants, resulting in violations of the FLSA and NYLL, and estimated to have affected thousands of current and former Applebee's employees. Shortly after commencing the action, Plaintiffs moved for leave to pursue a collective action for purposes of their FLSA claim, and for Fed.R.Civ.P. 23 class certification with respect to their NYLL claims. That motion resulted in a partial approval of Plaintiffs' request to pursue their FLSA claim as a collective action, limited to the Applebee's Front Street, Binghamton, New York restaurant. The remaining portions of the motion, however, were denied without prejudice to renewal following discovery.
Plaintiffs' renewed their motion for companywide collective action FLSA certification and Rule 23 class certification with regard to the NYLL claims. Roach, dkt. no. 91. The renewed motion was referred to the Hon. David E. Peebles, United States Magistrate Judge. In a Report, Recommendation, and Order dated March 5, 2013, Magistrate Judge Peebles ordered that a FLSA collective action be conditionally certified, and recommended that certain NYLL claims be certified as class action claims pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Roach Rep. Rec. & Ord., dkt. no. 109.
In considering objections to Magistrate Judge Peebles' recommendations concerning the NYLL claims, the Court denied Rule 23 class certification of any NYLL claim. See Roach 03/29/13 Dec. & Ord., pp. 4-11, dkt. no. 114. Plaintiffs have appealed this decision. See Roach, dkt. no. 122 (Certified Order of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granting leave to appeal the order denying Plaintiffs' motion for class certification); Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(f)(allowing interlocutory appeals from decision granting or denying Rule 23 class-action certification, ...