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Feldman v. Bhrags Home Care, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 13, 2017

ELLA FELDMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
BHRAGS HOME CARE, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ROSLYNN R. MAUSKOPF, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Ella Feldman, employee of defendant Bhrags Home Care, Inc. ("Bhrags"), commenced this action on October 9, 2015, alleging that Bhrags violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 207(a) (2012), the New York State Labor Law ("NYLL"), N.Y. Lab. Law § 652, and the New York State Wage Theft Prevention Act ("WTPA"), N.Y. Lab. Law § 195.1. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1).) Bhrags's alleged violations include the following: (1) failing to pay Feldman overtime wages under the FLSA for work performed in excess of 40 hours in a work week; (2) failing to pay Feldman overtime wages under the NYLL; and (3) failing to provide Feldman with required notices under the WTPA. (See id) On January 28, 2016, Bhrags filed an answer to the complaint. (See Answer (Doc. No. 14).) Subsequently. Bhrags moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(c).[1] (See generally Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 16-1).) For the reasons stated below, Bhrags's motion is granted, and the case is dismissed.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are taken from Feldman's complaint and considered to be true for purposes of this motion for judgment on the pleadings. Bhrags, a not-for-profit corporation operating in the state of New York, provides home health care aid services to the elderly and disabled. (See Compl. at ¶ 4.) Feldman was employed as a Home Health Aide ("HHA") by Bhrags from in or around 2006 "until January 2015." (Id at ¶ 5.)

         Feldman alleges that, during the course of her employment as an HHA, her daily tasks consisted of "providing] home health care aide services - other than companion services - to her assigned patient including, without limitation, doing laundry, shopping, cleaning the apartment, cooking, feeding and bathing the patient." (Id. at ¶ 15.) According to Feldman, the foregoing services took up more than twenty percent (20%) of the time she spent with her assigned patient. (Id) Feldman was compensated for her work at a base rate of $10.00 per hour. (Id at¶ 16.)

         Feldman alleges that she typically worked approximately fifty-six (56) hours per week, (id. at ¶ 14), and that she was wrongfully denied overtime compensation at one and one-half times her base rate of pay for hours worked in excess of forty (40) per week. (\d. at 3-5.)[2]Feldman further alleges that Bhrags failed to provide her with required notices of pay rates and other pay-related details at the time of her hire, upon changes to her wages, and every year prior to February 1. (See Id. at 4). Based upon the foregoing, Feldman claims damages of not less than $31,000. (Id at ¶ 32.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to Rule 12(c), "[a]fter the pleadings are closed ... a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c), Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate only where all material facts are undisputed and "a judgment on the merits is possible merely by considering the contents of the pleadings."" Mennella v. Office of Court Admin., 938 F. Supp. 128, 131 (E.D.N.Y. 1996), affel, 164 F.3d 618 (2d Cir. 1998) (citing Sellers v. M.C Floor Crofters, Inc., 842 F.2d 639, 642 (2d Cir. 1988)). In all other respects, a motion brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) is analyzed under the same standard applicable to a motion under Rule 12(b)(6). See Patel v. Contemporary Classics of Beverly Hills, 259 F.3d 123, 126 (2d Cir. 2001); Burmtte v. Carothers, 192 F.3d 52, 56 (2d Cir. 1999). Thus, the Court's review is limited to the facts alleged or incorporated by reference in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint, and matters of which the Court may take judicial notice. See Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 153 (2d Cir. 2002); Diamond v. Local 807 Labor-Mgmt. Pension Fund, No. 12-CV-5559 (RRM) (VVP), 2014 WL 527898, at *1 n.l (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 7, 2014).

         The Court assumes the truth of the facts alleged, and draws all reasonable inferences in the nonmovant's favor. See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 71 (2d Cir. 2009). In order to withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Carp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); Hayden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 161 (2d Cir. 2010). Although the complaint need not contain "'detailed factual allegations,"" simple "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555); Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66. 72 (2d Cir. 2009).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Companionship Services Under the FLSA

         In 1938, Congress enacted the FLSA to eliminate "labor conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being of workers . . . ." 29 U.S.C. § 202(a); see Reiseck v. Universal Commc 'm of Miami, Inc., 591 F.3d 101, 104 (2d Cir. 2010). Although the FLSA imposes certain "wage and hour" requirements - including overtime pay requirements - on employers, it also contains numerous exemptions. See Reiseck 591 F.3d at 104-05. During Feldman's employment with Bhrags and at all times relevant to Feldman's complaint, the FLSA contained a companionship services exemption, which exempted from its minimum wage and maximum hours requirements any employee who is "employed in domestic service employment to provide companionship services for individuals who (because of age or infirmity) are unable to care for themselves .. . ." 29 U.S.C. §213(a)(15).[3]

         The Department of Labor ("DOL") regulation in cited during Feldman's employment defined the term "companionship services" as "those services which provide fellowship, care, and protection for a person who, because of advanced age or physical or mental infirmity, cannot care for his or her own needs.'" 29 C.F.R. § 552.6 (2014); see 29 U.S.C. § 213 (a)(15) (leaving the term "companionship services'" to be "defined and delimited by regulations of the Secretary [of Labor]"); Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Coke, 551 U.S. 158, 162 (2007) (finding the DOL's regulation valid and binding). The regulation specifies that companionship services "may include household work related to the care of the aged or infirm person such as meal preparation, bed making, washing of clothes, and other similar services." 29 C.F.R. § 552.6. In an opinion letter, the DOL provided additional clarification concerning what types of "other similar services" would be included in the exemption:

[I]t is our opinion that such activities as cleaning the patient's bedroom, bathroom or kitchen, picking up groceries, medicine, and dry cleaning would be related to personal care of the patient and would be they type of household work that would ...

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