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Pineda v. Tokana Cafe Bar Restorant Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 30, 2017

JOSE HERNANDEZ PINEDA, et al., Plaintiffs,


          J. PAUL OETKEN, District Judge

         Plaintiffs Jose Hernandez Pineda, Moises Luna Rodriguez, and Natalio Pastor Cristobal allege that Defendants failed to pay their minimum and overtime wages, violating both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York Labor Law (NYLL). Plaintiffs have served all Defendants[1]; Defendants have not answered the complaint or otherwise appeared in this action and certificates of default have been filed as to each Defendant. (Dkt. Nos. 14-16, 21, 31-34.) Plaintiffs now move for default judgment in the amount of $131, 826.28. (Dkt. No. 42.) For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

         I. Background

         Defendants operate a full-service restaurant doing business as Little Rascal and located at 163 Elizabeth Street, New York, New York. (Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 16.) Defendants Atilgan, Feyzioglu, and Gundogdu owned and controlled Little Rascal and had the power to set the wages and hours of its employees. (Id. ¶¶ 17-25.) Plaintiffs allege that they were employed by Little Rascal to work as cooks, dishwashers, cleaners, and deliverymen in 2014 and 2015. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28, 32-33, 37-38.) They allege that they each worked over eighty hours per week, and a spread of hours greater than ten approximately six days per week. (Dkt. No. 43 at 7.)

         Plaintiffs claim that Little Rascal never paid them overtime for the hours they worked over forty hours per week, and never paid spread-of-hours compensation. (Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 42-43.) They also claim that Little Rascal did not pay Plaintiff Pastor Cristobal for the one hour per week when he purchased groceries for the restaurant. (Id. ¶ 44.) And Little Rascal never provided Plaintiffs with a notice and acknowledgment at the time of hiring or statements of their payment of wages at the time of payment. (Id. ¶¶ 45-46.)

         Plaintiffs provide calculations of the amount owed. For Plaintiff Hernandez Pineda, this amounts to $11, 665.36 in overtime and $1, 671.43 in spread-of-hours pay. (Dkt. No. 43 at 9.) For Plaintiff Luna Rodriguez, this amounts to $9, 200.00 in overtime and $2415.00 in spread-of-hours pay. (Id.) And for Plaintiff Pastor Cristobal, this amounts to $11, 665.36 in overtime, $2, 737.71 in spread-of-hours pay, and $524.29 in unpaid wages (for the grocery shopping). (Id. at 10.) The overtime figures are calculated by multiplying an average number of overtime hours per week by the number of weeks work by the overtime pay-rate; the spread-of-hours figures are calculated by multiplying the days per week with spread greater than ten hours by the applicable minimum wage by the number of weeks. (Id. at 9-10.)

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Because Defendants have failed to answer the complaint, they have conceded Plaintiffs' well-pleaded allegations of liability. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(6); S.E.C. v. Razmilovic, 738 F.3d 14, 19 (2d Cir. 2013). But because a party in default does not admit conclusions of law, the Court must determine whether those allegations establish a sound legal basis for liability. Jemine v. Dennis, 901 F.Supp.2d 365, 373 (E.D.N.Y. 2012) (citing Au Bon Pain Corp. v. Artect, Inc., 653 F.2d 61, 65 (2d Cir. 1981)). Moreover, to secure a default judgment for damages, the plaintiff must produce evidence sufficient to establish damages with “reasonable certainty.” Cement & Concrete Workers Dist. Council Welfare Fund v. Metro Found. Contractors, Inc., 699 F.3d 230, 235 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Credit Lyonnais Sec. (USA), Inc. v. Alcantara, 183 F.3d 151, 155 (2d Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted)). District courts have “much discretion” to determine whether to hold an inquest on damages; an inquest is not mandatory, and a plaintiff's damages may be established by “detailed affidavits and documentary evidence.” Id. at 234 (quoting Tamarin v. Adam Caterers, Inc., 13 F.3d 51, 54 (2d Cir. 1993)).

         B. Allegations in Support of Liability

         To state a FLSA minimum wage claim, a plaintiff must allege that she was the defendant's employee, that her work involved intestate activity, and that she worked hours for which she did not receive minimum and/or overtime wages. Zhong v. August August Corp., 498 F.Supp.2d 625, 628 (S.D.N.Y. 2007); see also Lundy v. Catholic Health Sys. of Long Island, Inc., 711 F.3d 106, 114 (2d Cir. 2013) (“[T]o survive a motion to dismiss [a FLSA overtime claim], Plaintiffs must allege sufficient factual matter to state a plausible claim that they worked compensable overtime in a workweek longer than 40 hours.”).[2]

         First, the Court finds that Plaintiffs are employees for FLSA purposes. See Irizarry v. Catsimatidis, 722 F.3d 99, 104-05 (2d Cir. 2013) (explaining that courts look to the “economic reality” of a working relationship to determine employee status for FLSA purposes); Brock v. Superior Care, Inc., 840 F.2d 1054, 1058-59 (2d Cir. 1988) (listing factors relevant to the analysis). Their work in Defendants' restaurant was fully controlled by Defendants; Plaintiffs were not working independently. (Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 26-38.) Moreover, all Defendants were employers of Plaintiffs, as they had supervision and control over their work and their payment, and had the power to hire and fire them. See Irizarry, 722 F.3d at 103-04 (defining employers for FLSA purposes).

         Second, an employee is covered by FLSA if she is “employed in an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce.” 29 U.S.C. §§ 206, 207(a)(1). “Commerce” is defined as “commerce . . . between any State and any place outside thereof.” 29 U.S.C. § 203(b). Plaintiffs here have alleged that Little Rascal is an enterprise engaged in commerce, therefore their work is covered by the FLSA. (Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 51.)

         Third, Plaintiffs must allege that they did not receive minimum and overtime wages. To state a FLSA minimum wage claim, it is sufficient for a plaintiff to allege facts about her salary and working hours, such that a simple arithmetical calculation can be used to determine the amount owed per pay period. Zhong, 498 F.Supp.2d at 629. Likewise, to state a FLSA overtime claim, a plaintiff must allege only that she worked compensable overtime in a workweek longer than forty hours, and that she was not properly compensated for that overtime. Nakahata v. N.Y.-Presbyterian Healthcare Sys., Inc., 723 F.3d 192, 201 (2d Cir. 2013) (“To plead a plausible FLSA overtime claim, Plaintiffs must provide sufficient detail about the length and frequency of their unpaid work to support a reasonable inference that they worked more than forty hours in a given week.”). Plaintiffs allege that they worked a regular schedule of over eighty hours per week-84.5 hours for Hernandez Pineda, 80 hours for Luna Rodriguez, and 84.5 hours for Pastor ...

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