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Krupinski v. Laborers Eastern Region Organizing Fund

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 31, 2017



          RICHARD J. SULLIVAN. District Judge.

         Plaintiff Daniel Krupinski ("Krupinski") brings claims for unpaid overtime wages under the New York Labor Law ("NYLL") and for statutory damages under New York's Wage Theft Prevention Act ("WTPA") against his former employer, Defendant Laborers Eastern Region Organizing Fund ("LEROF"). Now before the Court are (1) LEROF's motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 11), and (2) Krupinski's cross-motion for partial summary judgment on the WTPA claim (Doc. No. 17). For the reasons set forth below, LEROF's motion is granted and Krupinski's motion is denied.

         I. Background

         This is Krupinski's second attempt to persuade the Court that he was not a "bona fide administrative employee" exempt from statutory overtime requirements when he worked as an Organizer for LEROF. The Court rebuffed his first attempt several months ago, granting summary judgment for LEROF after finding that Krupinski was indeed an exempt administrative employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), the NYLL's federal analog. Krupinski v. Laborers E. Region Org. Fund, No. 15-cv-982 (RJS), 2016 WL 5800473 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 2, 2016) (Krupinski I). In that case, the Court found that Krupinski met the FLSA's three-part test for exempt administrative employees: he was compensated on a salary basis, his “primary duty [was] the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of [his] employer, ” and his primary duties also “include[d] the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.” 29 C.F.R. § 541.200; Krupinski I, 2016 WL 5800473, at *4-9. On the supposition that the parties were not diverse, the Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Krupinski's state law claims after dismissing his federal claim. Id. at *9-10. Krupinski thereafter brought his NYLL and WTPA claims in New York state court. (See Doc. No. 1.) On December 23, 2016, LEROF removed the state court action to this Court, asserting for the first time federal jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship, since LEROF is a citizen of New Jersey and Krupinski is a citizen of Pennsylvania. (Id.) Because Krupinski I and the present case concern the same parties and rely on the same factual record, the Court will assume the parties' familiarity with most of the facts and procedural history of both cases and limit its discussion to those facts most relevant to these motions.

         A. Facts

         LEROF is a non-profit labor management organization that serves as a regional organizing fund for the Laborers International Union of North America (“LIUNA”).[1] (Def. 56.1 ¶¶ 1, 4.) LEROF's “core mission is to organize non-union workers to increase membership for the local unions [in its geographical territory] and thus increase market share for LIUNA as a whole.” (Id. ¶ 5; see also Id. ¶ 6.) To carry out its mission, LEROF “educat[es] workers about the benefits of union membership and campaign[s] to have workers elect to join LIUNA.” (Id. ¶ 8.)

         LEROF employs a staff of about fifty Organizers to run its organizing campaigns. (Id. ¶ 10; see also Id. ¶ 9 (“The power of LEROF rests in the skills and talents of members who actively participate in organizing campaigns.”).) Organizers' duties “generally include, but are not limited to: house calling non-union workers; house calling union workers; [performing] committee work; assisting in setting up campaigns; conduct[ing] meetings with workers; mobiliz[ing] and empower[ing] workers; participat[ing] in corporate campaign activities; public speaking; information gathering; rallying; picketing; and leafleting.” (Id. ¶ 12.)

         Krupinski, a graduate of Berkeley College with a bachelor's degree in international business, was employed by LEROF as an Organizer from approximately June 2010 to April 2014, when he was terminated. (Doc. No. 16, Ex. A (“Pl. Depo.”) 48:1-3, 11; Def. 56.1 ¶¶ 28-29, 75.) Krupinski's duties generally corresponded with those listed in LEROF's job description for Organizers. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 44; Pl. Depo. 23:21-24:23.) His primary objective was to “[m]otivate, ” “[e]ducate, ” and “[t]rain” construction workers and convince non-union workers to join LIUNA. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 45 (quoting Pl. Depo. 24:11-16); see also Pl. Depo. 29:7-8 (trying to improve the market share was Krupinski's “job almost . . . every day”).) Krupinski's day-to-day duties consisted mainly of “fieldwork” that included demonstrating at non-union worksites (Def. 56.1 ¶¶ 56-59), educating both union and non-union workers about the benefits of union membership (id. ¶¶ 45, 55, 57), speaking with the public about LIUNA's goals (id. ¶ 59), conducting house calls to recruit non-union workers (id. ¶ 49), and assessing targets for house calls (id. ¶¶ 50, 66).

         As required by LEROF, Krupinski attended a number of training sessions both before and during his employment as an Organizer. For his initial training, he participated in LEROF's “Voice 1” and “Voice 2” classes, in which “[O]rganizers are taught labor history, economics, politics[, ] and ‘house calling, ' with an emphasis on simulations and role playing.” (Id. ¶ 69.) Krupinski later attended LEROF's “Two Day Training, ” an “intensive training in labor history, economics, politics, immigration, basic labor law and picketing, house-calling, and organizing techniques.” (Id. ¶ 70; see also Pl. Depo. 44:16-45:12, 47:19-22 (indicating that Krupinski attended this training “a dozen” times and eventually served as an assistant teacher).) In addition, LEROF sent Krupinski and other Organizers to outside conferences to learn more about union market share and techniques for job-site demonstrations. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 71; Pl. Depo. 45:13-47:15.) LEROF also offered further training through LEROF University and Cornell University's Industrial Labor Relations School, but Krupinski was terminated before he was able to take advantage of those opportunities. (Def. 56.1 ¶¶ 73-74; Pl. Depo. 47:23-25.) Krupinski suggested, however, that he had less need for further training than some other Organizers, since he already held a bachelor's degree in international business. (Pl. Depo. 48:1-5.)

         B. Procedural History

         As noted above, Krupinski initiated this action in New York State Supreme Court, New York County, on November 17, 2016, asserting claims under New York state law. (See Doc. No. 1.) On December 23, 2016, LEROF removed the case to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446. (Id.) After a pre-motion conference on January 19, 2017, LEROF filed its motion for summary judgment on January 27, 2017, asserting that Krupinski was an exempt administrative employee under the NYLL and was not entitled to statutory damages under the WTPA. (Doc. Nos. 11-16.) Thereafter, Krupinski filed his opposition and cross-motion for partial summary judgment on February 27, 2017 (Doc. Nos. 17-21), and LEROF filed its reply and opposition to the cross-motion on March 6, 2017 (Doc. No. 23).

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). There is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact” where (1) the parties agree on all facts (that is, there are no disputed facts); (2) the parties disagree on some or all facts, but a reasonable fact-finder could never accept the nonmoving party's version of the facts (that is, there are no genuinely disputed facts), see Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); or (3) the parties disagree on some or all facts, but even on the nonmoving party's version of the facts, the moving party would win as a matter of law (that is, none of the factual disputes are material), see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         In determining whether a fact is genuinely disputed, the court “is not to weigh the evidence but is instead required to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, to draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party, and to eschew credibility assessments.” Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 854 (2d Cir. 1996). Nevertheless, to show a genuine dispute, the nonmoving party must provide “hard evidence, ” D'Amico v. City of New York, 132 F.3d 145, 149 (2d Cir. 1998), “from which a reasonable inference in [its] favor may be drawn, ” Binder & Binder PC v. Barnhart, 481 F.3d 141, 148 (2d Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Conclusory allegations, conjecture, and speculation, ” Kerzer v. Kingly Mfg., 156 F.3d 396, 400 (2d Cir. 1998), as well as the existence of a mere “scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmoving party's] position, ” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252, are insufficient to create a genuinely disputed fact. A moving party is “entitled to judgment as a matter of law” on an issue if (1) it bears the burden of proof on the issue and the undisputed facts meet that ...

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