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Perez v. Platinum Plaza 400 Cleaners, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

June 16, 2015



PAUL A. CROTTY, District Judge.

On April 24, 2015, the Court awarded Plaintiffs damages for Defendants' violations of federal and state wage and hour laws, following a bench trial on January 20, 2015. Plaintiffs now seek attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), in the amount of $39, 737.50. Defendants do not oppose this request.

Plaintiffs are entitled to attorneys' fees and reimbursement of costs. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law, the prevailing party is entitled to recover costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b); N.Y. Lab. Law § 663(1). In accordance with Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Ass'n v. Cnty. of Albany, 522 F.3d 182, 190 & n.4 (2d Cir. 2007), the Court has reviewed Plaintiffs' attorneys' contemporaneous billing records, resumes, and calculations and considered "1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions; (3) the level of skill required to perform the legal service properly; (4) the preclusion of employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the case; (5) the attorney's customary hourly rate; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) the time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount involved in the case and the results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation and ability of the attorneys; (10) the undesirability' of the case; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar cases;" and the fact that "a reasonable, paying client wishes to spend the minimum necessary to litigate the case effectively." Id. at 186 n.3, 190 (citation omitted). As a result of this review, the Court has determined that the amount of time spent on this case by Plaintiffs' attorneys is reasonable, the requested billing rates for each attorney are reasonable[1] and accordingly, the requested award is reasonable.

Plaintiffs are entitled to $38, 360[2] in attorneys' fees and $1, 377.50 in reasonable costs, for a total of $39, 737.50. The Clerk of Court is directed to enter judgment in the amount above, as well as in the amounts listed in the Court's April 24 order, and to close this case.



HONORABLE PAUL A. CROTTY, United States District Judge.

On January 20, 2015, the Court held a bench trial in this wage-and-hour matter in which Plaintiffs allege violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., and the New York Labor Law ("NYLL), §§ 650 et seq. Plaintiffs Ledia Perez ("L Perez"), Alberto Gonzalez ("Gonzalez"), Humberto Perez ("H. Perez"), and Ali Muro ("Muro")[1] (collectively, "Plaintiffs") each testified, as did Jessie Wu, the manager of Splendid Cleaners. Subsequently, the parties submitted proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, as well as proposed damages calculations. The Court finds for Plaintiffs and award damages in the amounts indicated below.

I. Background

Plaintiffs are former employees of Defendants Platinum Plaza 400 Cleaners, Inc., Platinum Star Enterprises LLC (collectively, d/b/a Splendid Cleaners), and Daisy Huang, the owner of Splendid Cleaners (collectively, "Defendants"). Stipulated Facts ¶¶ 3-10. Splendid Cleaners owns and operates several full service dry cleaners and laundromats, with locations at 409 East 55th Street, 414 East 58th Street, and 552 Hudson Street in New York. Id. ¶ 4. Ledia Perez worked for Defendants washing, packing, ironing, and retouching clothes from 2008 until October 3, 2012. Id. ¶ 7. Alberto Gonzalez worked for Defendants as a delivery person and packer from June 2009 until November 15, 2013. Id. ¶ 8. Humberto Perez worked for Defendants organizing, packing, and retouching clothing from 2009 until October 20, 2012. Id. ¶ 9. Ali Muro worked as a clothing packer and delivery person from May 2007 until December 2007 and then again from December 2008 until April 20, 2013. Id. ¶ 10.

Plaintiffs were paid in cash. Id. ¶ 11. Starting January 25, 2010, Defendants kept handwritten records of Plaintiffs' hours. Id. ¶ 12. Where records exist, Plaintiffs have calculated their damages based on the hours recorded. Androphy Decl. ¶¶ 3-4. For periods for which there are no records, Plaintiffs have calculated damages based on unrefuted testimony. Id. ¶¶ 5-9.

Ledia Perez was paid $400 per week until approximately early 2010, [2] when she was paid $430 per week. Stipulated Facts ¶ 13. At trial, she testified that her recorded start times were not accurate because Defendants required her to arrive thirty minutes early to turn on the cleaning machines. Tr. 51:18-20, 52:1-16, 57:4-13).[3] Humberto Perez was paid $400 per week. Id. ¶ 14. Alberto Gonzalez was paid $400 per week from June 6, 2009 through December 17, 2012 and $460 thereafter. Id. ¶ 15. Ali Muro was paid $400 per week. Id. ¶ 16.

In pre-trial papers and at trial, Plaintiffs argued that they were forced to wait an extra two hours every other Friday to receive their pay, for which they received no compensation. Pl. Pre-Trial Mem. ¶¶ 12, 22, 40) Tr. 42:17-23. At trial, the Court granted Defendants' motion to strike that portion of the claim) finding that there was no productive work being done at that time and that the delay was for the convenience of the plaintiffs and not the defendants. Tr. 95:9-19.

During his testimony, Muro argued that the records of his hours were incorrect. Tr. 28:23-29:20, 33:24-34:24, 34:7-18, 35:10-22, 38:9-40:5. The Court overruled these objections) finding that the records were accurate. Tr. 96:5-14.

In 2010, a consent judgment was entered against Defendants for previous wage and hour violations. See Solis v. Platinum First Cleaners et al., 10 Civ. 9415. The consent judgment includes a list of employees owed money pursuant to the judgment, and states that the order does not affect the ability of employees not listed to recover for any violations, or the ability of listed employees to recover for subsequent violations after December 5, 2009. Id. at 7.[4]

II. Conclusions of Law and Damages Calculations

A. Regular Rate of Pay and Actual Damages

Under the FLSA and the NYLL, all employers must compensate employees for hours worked over forty hours per week at a rate not less than 1.5 times the regular rate of pay. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1); N.Y. Lab. Law § 663(1); N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 12, § 142-2.2.

Plaintiffs argue that their rate of pay should be calculated by dividing the weekly salary rate by forty hours in light of the rebuttable presumption under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") that a flat weekly salary is intended to cover 40 hours per week. Pl. Mem. at 1-2. Plaintiffs assert that such calculations reveal that Defendants have failed to pay Plaintiffs the legally mandated overtime rate. Defendants argue instead that the rate should be calculated by dividing the weekly salary rate by the hours actually worked, revealing instead that some weeks Plaintiffs were overpaid. Def. Mem. at 2-5.

The Court agrees with Plaintiffs and finds that Defendants have not overcome the presumption that a flat weekly salary is intended to compensate employees for forty hours of work per week. "Under both the FLSA and NYLL, ... there is a presumption that such a weekly salary covers only the first forty hours, unless the parties intend and understand the weekly salary to include overtime hours at the premium rate.'" Guallpa v. N.Y. Pro Signs Inc., 2014 WL 2200393, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. May 27, 2014) (quoting Giles v. City of N.Y., 41 F.Supp.2d 308, 317 (S.D.N.Y. 1999)). "An agreement for a fixed weekly salary for more than 40 hours of work per week only complies with the FLSA and Labor Law if there is an explicit understanding between the employer and employee as to regular and overtime rates." Amaya v. Superior Tile and Granite Corp., 2012 WL 130425, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 17, 2012). Here, the record is completely devoid of any evidence of an agreement or understanding between Plaintiffs and Defendants regarding what the weekly salary was intended to cover. ...

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