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Williams v. Preeminent Protective Services, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

April 27, 2017

CHRISTIE WILLIAMS Plaintiff,
v.
PREEMINENT PROTECTIVE SERVICES, INC. and LURLINE BELL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          GLASSER, Senior United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Christie Williams (“Williams” or “Plaintiff”) brings claims against Defendants Preeminent Protective Services, Inc. (“Preeminent”) and Lurline Bell, Preeminent's chief executive officer (“Bell, ” together the “Defendants”), for unpaid wages and retaliation under New York Labor Law (N.Y.L.L.) §§ 190 and 215, [1] respectively, and for unjust enrichment. Jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. This Court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and/or improper venue in Williams v. Preeminent Protective Servs., Inc., 81 F.Supp.3d 265 (E.D.N.Y. 2015), familiarity with which is assumed. Defendants now move for summary judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         The following material facts, drawn from the parties' Local Civil Rule 56.1 Statements and evidentiary submissions, are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

         Overview of Preeminent and Hiring of Williams

         Defendant Preeminent provides “physical security services” in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and the state of Nevada, primarily to federal and local government entities. ECF 38, Defendants' Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Undisputed Facts (“Def. Rule 56.1 St.”) at ¶ 1. When bidding on a contract, Preeminent submits proposals to government agencies that are seeking a contractor for security services, and the agency awards the contract based on the most favorable bid. Id. at ¶¶ 2-3.

         In May 2013, Williams began working for Preeminent. Id. at ¶ 10; ECF 39-3, Plaintiff's Local Rule 56.1 Counterstatement (“Pl. Rule 56.1 St.”) at ¶ 8. Williams and Bell had met in 2001 and were personal friends for a number of years. Def. Rule 56.1 St. at ¶ 7. Williams worked primarily from her home in Brooklyn, New York (id. at ¶ 12; Pl. Rule 56.1 St. at ¶ 5), and Preeminent provided Williams with a company laptop, cell phone and email address to perform her duties. Def. Rule 56.1 St. at ¶ 13.

         Williams' Role at Preeminent

         Williams was responsible for Preeminent's communications and marketing needs, which included creating a text message and email alert system to communicate with Preeminent employees, designing brochures and catalogues, and updating the Preeminent website. Id. at ¶ 14; Pl. Rule 56.1 St. at ¶¶ 8, 14. The parties dispute the extent to which Williams was also engaged in business development. The record includes emails indicating that Williams' title was “Corporate Communications and Business Development Manager” (ECF 38-6, 38-10, 39-1 at Ex. C), and that, at minimum, she was involved with coordinating the contract proposal process, reaching out to and scheduling meetings with potential business contacts (ECF 38-6, 39-1 at Ex. C), and was a member of Preeminent's “Business Development and Contract Management” team, engaged in “proposal writing.” ECF 38-12; see also ECF 39-2 at Ex. 1, 39-1 at Ex. B. Williams says that Bell trained her to draft proposals, and that Preeminent paid for Williams to attend business development training. Pl. Rule 56.1 St at ¶¶ 15, 55.

         Williams' Compensation

         Preeminent compensated Williams $1, 000 bi-weekly. Id. at ¶¶ 8, 14. According to Williams, this salary was low in light of her responsibilities. ECF 39-2, Declaration of Christie Williams (“Williams Aff.”), at ¶ 9. To make up the difference, she says that Bell agreed to pay her a commission on the contracts she was involved in procuring. Id. The agreement was never committed to writing, but Williams testified that she and Bell verbally agreed that Preeminent:

was going to provide a lump sum commission on the first few large contracts and that subsequent commission checks would be distributed annually to supplement my annual salary . . . and that that commission would be between .3 and .5 percent.

ECF 39-4, Ex. A, Deposition of Christie Williams (“Williams Dep.”) at 226:2-9; see also Id. 286:7-12; Pl. Rule 56.1 St at ¶ 8. Williams testified that she and Bell discussed this arrangement during a number of conversations, beginning in June 2013, but she could not identify a specific date on which the agreement was finalized. Williams Dep. at 228:2-5; 237:18-240:13. Williams testified that “[i]f any contract that I was involved in brought in revenue for the company, I was going to be compensated for it.” Id. at 272:19-273:3.

         Conversely, Bell swears that she never offered to pay any commission to Williams, and that Preeminent does not pay commissions on contracts. ECF 38-3, Affidavit of Lurline Bell (“Bell Aff.”) at ¶¶ 23, 26.

         The USDA Proposal

         In June 2013, Preeminent bid on a contract with the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) by submitting a joint proposal with a subcontracting company, called SecTek. Def. Rule 56.1 St. at ¶ 18; Williams Dep. at 163:10-16. The evidence indicates that the final proposal was submitted to the USDA sometime between January 8 and January 13, 2014.[2]

         The parties dispute the role Williams played in generating the USDA proposal. Williams claims that she researched the “decision makers” at USDA and SecTek, that she proactively reached out to SecTek to make an initial contact, and then worked with SecTek to generate the final proposal. Pl. Rule 56.1 St at ¶ 19; ECF 39-1 at Ex. C. The record includes email correspondence corroborating her claims. ECF 38-6; 39-1 at Ex. C. Conversely, Defendants say that Williams was not substantively involved with the USDA proposal; instead, she only performed administrative tasks, such as emailing the final proposal to the government agency. Def. Rule 56.1 St. at ¶ 20.

         Williams' Termination

         Bell claims that by December 2013, Williams had been missing deadlines and completing projects late, and that she was preoccupied by other obligations, including caring for her infant daughter and searching for other employment. Id. at ¶¶ 26-28. Bell says she considered terminating Williams at that time, but Williams agreed to improve her performance. Id. at ΒΆ 28. There is no evidence in the ...


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