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Leier v. Lincoln Limousine Luxury Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

January 3, 2018

DOUGLAYR LEIER, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
LINCOLN LIMOUSINE BROKERAGE INC., d/b/a LINCOLN LIMOUSINE, INC., LINCOLN LIMOUSINE LUXURY INC., LYNBROOK CAR AND LIMO INC., and MOHAMED M. ALMOGAZI, in his individual and professional capacities, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          PAMELA K. CHEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Douglayr Leier filed this action pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New York Labor Law (“NYLL”), on behalf of herself and similarly situated employees and former employees of Defendants Lincoln Limousine Brokerage Inc., d/b/a Lincoln Limousine, Inc., Lincoln Limousine Luxury Inc., Lynbrook Car and Limo Inc. (collectively, “Lincoln Limousine”), and Defendant Mohamed M. Almogazi (together with Lincoln Limousine, “Defendants”). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants are liable to Plaintiff and similarly situated persons for violations of the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the FLSA and NYLL, as well as additional violations of the NYLL and New York common law. Before the Court is Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment, which seeks dismissal of Plaintiff Leier's claim for unpaid overtime under the FLSA and the NYLL. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendants operate a limousine transportation business in the New York and New Jersey area using a mixed fleet of town cars, sport utility vehicles, limousines, passenger vans, and buses that accommodate between four and fifty-nine passengers, depending on the type of vehicle. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt., Dkt. 89-4, ¶¶ 1, 4; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt., Dkt. 92, ¶¶ 8, 11, 15; Dkt. 91-6.) Plaintiff Leier worked for Defendants as a limousine driver from the beginning of August 2013 until the end of November 2013. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt., ¶ 2.) During that time, Plaintiff drove a variety of Defendants' vehicles, ranging from four-passenger town cars to eight- or ten-passenger limousines, and regularly transported clients to and from destinations throughout New York and New Jersey. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt., ¶¶ 3-6; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt., ¶¶ 3-6, 17.)[1] The weight of each of the vehicles that Plaintiff drove was under 10, 000 pounds. (Dkt. 91-6.)

         Plaintiff filed this action on May 19, 2014, alleging that Defendants were liable to her and similarly situated Lincoln Limousine drivers for violations of various provisions of the FLSA and NYLL. (Dkt. 1.) On December 4, 2015, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion to conditionally certify this action as a collective action for unpaid overtime under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). (Dkt. 65.) One person filed a written consent to opt into this action pursuant to Section 216(b). (Dkt. 72.)[2]In the instant motion, Defendants seek summary judgment dismissing Plaintiff's claim for unpaid overtime under the FLSA and the NYLL, arguing that Plaintiff was at all relevant times exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA and the NYLL pursuant to the so-called “motor carrier exemption” set forth in 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(1).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate where the submissions of the parties, taken together, “show[] 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); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986) (summary judgment inquiry is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law”). A dispute of fact is “genuine” if “the [record] evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         The initial burden of “establishing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact” rests with the moving party. Zalaski v. City of Bridgeport Police Dep't, 613 F.3d 336, 340 (2d Cir. 2010). Once this burden is met, however, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to put forward some evidence establishing the existence of a question of fact that must be resolved at trial. Spinelli v. City of N.Y., 579 F.3d 160, 166-67 (2d Cir. 2009); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A mere “scintilla of evidence” in support of the nonmoving party is insufficient; “there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant].” Hayut v. State Univ. of N.Y., 352 F.3d 733, 743 (2d Cir. 2003) (quotation omitted; alteration in original). In other words, “[t]he nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Caldarola v. Calabrese, 298 F.3d 156, 160 (2d Cir. 2002) (quotation omitted).

         In determining whether a genuine issue of fact exists, the court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. Major League Baseball Props., Inc. v. Salvino, Inc., 542 F.3d 290, 309 (2d Cir. 2008). The Court also construes any disputed facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157-59 (1970). However, “the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48.

         DISCUSSION

         The FLSA requires all covered employers to pay overtime wages to employees who work more than forty hours in a single workweek, unless the employee is subject to one or more exemptions set forth in the FLSA and related regulations. Bilyou v. Dutchess Beer Distrib., Inc., 300 F.3d 217, 221-222 (2d Cir. 2002). The burden to prove an exemption is on the employer, and the exemptions are “narrowly construed against the employers seeking to assert them and their application limited to those establishments plainly and unmistakably within their terms and spirit.” Id. at 222 (quoting Arnold v. Ben Kanowsky, Inc., 361 U.S. 388, 392 (1960)).

         Here, Defendants assert that Plaintiff was exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA by virtue of the motor carrier exemption. Under the motor carrier exemption, 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(1), the overtime requirements of the FLSA do not apply to “any employee with respect to whom the Secretary of Transportation has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service pursuant to the provisions of [the Motor Carrier Act, ] section 31502 of Title 49.” Section 31502 of Title 49 states that the Secretary of Transportation “may prescribe requirements for . . . qualifications and maximum hours of service of employees of, and safety of operation and equipment of, a motor carrier.” 49 U.S.C. § 31502(b)(1).

         Plaintiff concedes that she was subject to the Secretary of Transportation's jurisdiction to prescribe requirements for qualifications and maximum hours of service. (Pl.'s Br. at 8.) Nonetheless, Plaintiff argues that she does not fall within the motor carrier exemption because she is a “covered employee” under a 2008 amendment to the Motor Carrier Act, the SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Act of 2008 (“TCA”), PL 110-244, June 6, 2008, 122 Stat. 1572. In relevant part, Section 306 of the TCA provides that “Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act . . . [i.e., the overtime requirements of the FLSA] . ...


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