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Martinez v. Midtown Cleaner, Inc.

United States District Court, Second Circuit

October 29, 2013

VICTOR MARTINEZ, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MIDTOWN CLEANER, INC., et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

LORNA G. SCHOFIELD, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Victor Martinez, Esmelin Gonzaga and Juan Ramirez, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, bring this action against two corporations that are drycleaners in Manhattan, Byung Y. Kim, their owner, and John Doe defendants. Plaintiffs' claims arise under the Federal Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), the New York Labor Law ("NYLL"), and the New York Wage Theft Prevention Act ("NYWTPA"). Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Approval of Collection Action Notice ("Motion to Certify").

For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs' Motion to Certify is granted in its entirety.

I. Background

On April 23, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a Class Action Complaint against thirteen Defendants, alleging violations of the FLSA, NYLL and NYWTPA. On June 27, 2013, Plaintiffs filed the Amended Class Action Complaint, asserting claims against two corporate and eleven individual defendants (the "Defendants"). In the Complaint, Plaintiffs allege the following facts:

Plaintiff Martinez worked full time as a packer and delivery employee at Midtown Cleaner, Inc. and Midtown Cleaners II, Inc. (collectively "Midtown") in New York City from December 10, 2012, to April 26, 2013. During his employment, he worked Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and on Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., for a total of approximately 68 hours per week. Martinez was paid a salary of $400 per week in cash every week at the end of his Saturday shift. Despite working the aforementioned hours, he was not paid at a level satisfying the minimum wage, nor was he paid overtime compensation or premium wages for days in which he worked more than 10 hours. Martinez did not sign in or out of his job, nor did he use a punch-card or scanner. Additionally, Martinez was terminated at the end of his shift the day after Defendant. Kim received a copy of the original Complaint in this action.

Plaintiff Gonzaga worked full time as a delivery employee for the Defendants from March 19, 2013, to April 12, 2013. During his first week of work, he was scheduled for the same hours as Martinez, and was paid $450 in cash. Subsequently, he did not work on Saturdays and received only $375 in cash for his 57.5 hour work week. Like Rodriguez, he did not sign, scan or punch into or out of work in any way. During his time working for the Defendants, Gonzaga received an hourly wage of $6.72 per hour during his first week, and $6.52 per hour in

subsequent weeks. Like Martinez, Gongaza was never paid minimum wage for his hours worked, overtime pay for his hours worked in excess of 40, or premium wages for days in which he worked a spread of more than 10 hours.

Plaintiff Ramirez was employed full time as a cashier and stock clerk by the Defendants from March 11, 2013, to the present. He worked the same hours as Martinez, and received a salary of $600 per week in cash. Despite working approximately 68 hours per week he did not receive overtime compensation, or premium wages for days in which he worked more than 10 hours. Ramirez did not sign in or out of his job, nor did he use a punch-card or scanner.

While employed by the Defendants, all three Plaintiffs worked with other employees who similarly were not paid at a level satisfying the minimum wage, not paid overtime, nor premium wages for days in which they worked a spread of at least 10 hours. Both corporate Defendants are owned and operated by Defendant Kim, who personally supervised the Plaintiffs and controlled the day-to-day operations of both stores.

Based on the foregoing allegations, Plaintiffs advance the following claims: First, Defendants withheld minimum wages, overtime pay and pay for all hours worked from the Plaintiffs and those similarly situated at the two stores for a period of six years prior to the filing of the Original Complaint, in knowing violation or willful disregard of the FLSA. Second, Defendants knowingly withheld the same payments as well as a "spread of hours" premium for each day worked 10 or more hours from Plaintiffs and other New York employees who were similarly situated within six years of the filing of the Original Complaint, in willful violation of the NYLL. Third and fourth, Plaintiff Martinez alleges violation of the FLSA and the NYLL for retaliatory termination. On July 2, 2013, Plaintiffs moved for conditional certification of the action as a collective action and court facilitation of notice.

II. Discussion

A. Legal Standard for Conditional Certification

Although the Second Circuit has never offered a definitive standard for the conditional certification of collective actions under the FLSA, it has endorsed the two-step approach widely used by the district courts in this circuit and by other circuit courts. Myers v. Hertz Corp., 624 F.3d 537, 554-555 (2d Cir. 2010) ("[T]he district courts of this Circuit appear to have coalesced around a two-step method, a method which... we think is sensible."); see also Sandoz v. Cingular Wireless LLC, 553 F.3d 913, 915 n.2 (5th Cir. 2008); Morgan v. Family Dollar Stores, Inc., 551 F.3d 1233 (11th Cir. 2008); Comer v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 454 F.3d 544, 546-47 (6th Cir. 2006). "The first step involves the court making an initial determination to send notice to potential opt-in plaintiffs who may be similarly situated' to the Plaintiffs with respect to whether a FLSA violation has occurred." Myers, 624 F.3d at 555. The second step, typically taken upon the completion of discovery, requires the court to determine, "on a fuller ...


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