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Chen v. Major League Baseball

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 26, 2014

JOHN CHEN, Plaintiff,
v.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL, ET AL., Defendants

Decided March 25, 2014

Page 450

For John Chen, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff: Juno Emmeline Turner, Justin Mitchell Swartz, Michael Noah Litrownik, Outten & Golden, LLP (NYC), New York, NY.

For Major League Baseball Properties, Inc., The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, doing business as Major League Baseball, Defendants: Elise Michelle Bloom, Joshua Samson Fox, Seth Diamant Kaufman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Proskauer Rose LLP (NY), New York, NY; Mark W. Batten, PRO HAC VICE, Proskauer Rose LLP (Boston), Boston, MA.

OPINION

Page 451

OPINION AND ORDER

John G. Koeltl, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff John Chen brought suit against Defendants Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball (collectively, " defendants" or " MLB" ) under the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ), 29 U.S.C. § § 201 et seq., and the New York Labor Law (" NYLL" ), § § 190 et seq. & 650 et seq., claiming violations of his right to receive a minimum wage. The plaintiff alleges that he worked for MLB as an unpaid volunteer during the week of the July 2013 Baseball All Star Game at an installation for fans at the Javits Center in New York City, and that he is entitled to minimum wage compensation for this work. The plaintiff has moved this Court to grant conditional certification of, and provide court-authorized notice to, a proposed class of similarly situated plaintiffs pursuant to Section 16(b) of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Also before the Court is the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiff's First Amended Class Action Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the reasons explained below, the defendants' motion to dismiss is granted and the plaintiff's motion for collective certification and court-authorized notice is denied as moot.

I.

In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the allegations in the complaint are accepted as true, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the plaintiff's favor. McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2007). The Court's function on a motion to dismiss is " not to weigh the evidence that might be presented at a trial but merely to determine whether the complaint itself is legally sufficient." Goldman v. Belden, 754 F.2d 1059, 1067 (2d Cir. 1985). The Court should not dismiss the complaint if the plaintiff has stated " enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955,

Page 452

167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). " A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). While the Court should construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, " the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Id.

When presented with a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court may consider documents that are referenced in the complaint, documents that the plaintiff relied on in bringing suit and that are either in the plaintiff's possession or that the plaintiff knew of when bringing suit, or matters of which judicial notice may be taken. See Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 153 (2d Cir. 2002); see also Winfield v. Citibank, N.A., 842 F.Supp.2d 560, 564 (S.D.N.Y. 2012).

II.

The following allegations are accepted as true for the purposes of these motions. The July 2013 Baseball All Star Game took place at Citi Field in New York City. (See Am. Compl.¶ 25.) In connection with the All Star Game, MLB put on a series of " All Star Week festivities" throughout New York City, including a race, a concert, a fantasy camp, a parade, and an event called " FanFest." (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 1-3.) FanFest took place at the Javits Center in New York City during the week of the 2013 All Star Game, from July 12 to July 16, 2013. (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 18, 141; Decl. of Elise M. Bloom (" Bloom Decl." ), Ex. C[1] at 1.) The event was described by MLB as " the largest interactive baseball theme park in the world." (Am. Compl.¶ 2.) Activities at FanFest included baseball video games, a simulated baseball dugout, baseball clinics, batting cages, music events, and autograph opportunities. (Am. Compl.¶ 123.)

All of the 2013 All Star Week festivities in New York City were staffed generally with volunteers. (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 1-4.) These individuals were not paid any cash wages for their work, but instead received " in-kind benefits," such as t-shirts, caps, drawstring backpacks, water bottles, baseballs, lanyards, free admission to FanFest for each volunteer and a guest, and a chance to win a ticket to the All Star Game. (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 6, 31, 158.) Admission to FanFest in 2013 was worth approximately $35, and the other in-kind compensation received by the volunteers was worth at least $40. (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 103-04.) In 2013, approximately two thousand volunteers staffed the various All Star Week festivities in New York City. (Am. Compl.¶ 4.)

The plaintiff is an adult residing in New York who worked three shifts, totaling approximately seventeen hours, at FanFest during the 2013 All Star Week. (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 49-50, 157, 162.) Prior to his shifts, the plaintiff attended a mandatory one-hour information session at Citi Field on June 1, 2013 and a mandatory two-hour orientation session at the Javits Center on July 10, 2013. (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 159-160.) During his first shift, on July 12, 2013, the plaintiff stamped the wrists of FanFest attendees after they had signed liability

Page 453

waivers. (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 163, 165.) At his second shift on the following day, the plaintiff handed out bags of paraphernalia to attendees at the entrance, placed paper flyers in bags, and redirected attendees who attempted to exit the event through the entrance. (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 166-69.) During his third shift, on July 16, 2013, the plaintiff alphabetized liability waivers and worked at a " fielding station" instructing attendees to deposit the balls they fielded into buckets before moving to the next station. (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 170-73.) The plaintiff received no cash wages for this work, but did receive in-kind benefits such as a t-shirt, a cap, a drawstring backpack, a water bottle, and a baseball. (Am. Compl.¶ 158.)

On August 7, 2013, the plaintiff filed this lawsuit. On August 15, 2013, the plaintiff filed the present motion for collective certification and court-authorized notice, requesting, among other things, that a proposed collective consisting of himself and similarly situated individuals who worked as volunteers at various All Star Week events since August 7, 2010 be conditionally certified, and that putative plaintiffs receive court-authorized notice of their right to join the lawsuit. After the defendants file a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff filed the First Amended Class Action Complaint on November 25, 2013, and the initial motion to dismiss was denied without prejudice.

In the First Amended Class Action Complaint, the plaintiff alleges that the defendants failed to pay him the minimum wages required by the FLSA and the NYLL for his work at FanFest. (See Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 156-85, 188-96.) The plaintiff also alleges that the defendants failed to comply with the recordkeeping requirements of the FLSA and the NYLL. (See Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 186-87, 197-203.) The ...


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