ZHOU v. BEST FOOD IN TOWN I LLC
OPINION FILED. Signed by Judge Robert B. Kugler on 10/31/17. (js)
Case 1:16-cv-03634-RBK-JS Document 56 Filed 10/31/17 Page 1 of 5 PageID: 434
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
ZHOU MING ZHENG,
Civil No. 1:16-3634 (RBK)
BEST FOOD IN TOWN I, LLC;
JIAN LIN CHEN; and LIN YAN
KUGLER, United States District Judge:
THIS MATTER having come before the Court upon defendants Best Food In Town I,
LLC, Jian Lin Chen, and Lin Yan Zhao’s (“Defendants”) motion for summary judgment. For the
reasons set forth in the opinion below, Defendants’ motion is GRANTED.
Zhou Ming Zheng (“Plaintiff”) alleges violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”) and the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law (“NJWHL”) stemming from his employment
with Defendants. See Compl. He was a salaried employee and worked as a kitchen helper for
Defendants with a set monthly wage. His duties included washing and cutting vegetables, frying
and cooking rice, preparing meat, and cleaning. His employment with Best Food in Town ended
by May 2015.
Plaintiff asserts that Defendants engaged in a widespread pattern and practice of failing to
pay employees, including Plaintiff, statutorily-mandated minimum wage and overtime
compensation. He now demands (1) compensation for wages paid at less than the statutory
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minimum wage; (2) unpaid overtime compensation; (3) liquidated damages; (4) pre-judgment
and post-judgment interest; and (5) attorney fees and costs.
A. Summary Judgment Standard
The court should grant a motion for summary judgment when the moving party “shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). An issue is “material” to the dispute if it could alter
the outcome, and a dispute of a material fact is “genuine” if “a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the non-moving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986);
Matsushida Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (“Where the
record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party,
there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.’”) (quoting First National Bank of Arizona v. Cities Service
Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)). In deciding whether there is any genuine issue for trial, the
court is not to weigh evidence or decide issues of fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Because fact
and credibility determinations are for the jury, the non-moving party’s evidence is to be believed
and ambiguities construed in her favor. Id. at 255; Matsushida, 475 U.S. at 587.
Although the movant bears the burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue of
material fact, the non-movant likewise must present more than mere allegations or denials to
successfully oppose summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. The nonmoving party must
at least present probative evidence from which jury might return a verdict in his favor. Id. at 257.
The movant is entitled to summary judgment where the non-moving party fails to “make a
showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on
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which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
A. FLSA Is Inapplicable Because Defendants’ Business Grossed Under $500,000
In order to sustain a suit under the FLSA for minimum wage or overtime violations, the
employee must work for an enterprise or business that “has employees engaged in commerce1 or
in the production of goods for commerce, or that has employees handling, selling, or otherwise
working on goods or materials that have been moved in or produced for commerce by any
person.” 29 U.S.C. § 203(s)(1)(a). This enterprise must have annual gross sales or business “not
less than $500,000.” Id.
Defendants have submitted individual and corporate tax returns to support their argument
that their business does not reach this threshold. These include tax returns from 2013, 2014, and
2015; Defendants’ gross corporate annual revenue ranged from $385,420 to $428,856. Plaintiff
contends that Defendants’ income tax records do not account for the entirety of Best Food in
Town’s sales. Plaintiff alleges unreported cash sales—in short, Plaintiff’s only evidence is an
assertion of tax fraud.
This evidential shortcoming is fatal. In order to survive a summary judgment proceeding,
the non-moving party must at least present probative evidence from which a reasonable jury
might return a verdict in his favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257. Here, Plaintiff has merely made
Defendants’ ambitious assertion that Plaintiff was not “engaged in [interstate] commerce” does
not need to be addressed.
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an assertion. As such, there is no genuine issue of fact with respect to Best Food in Town’s gross
revenues from 2013-2015 and FLSA does not apply to Defendants.
B. This Court Cannot Exercise Supplemental Jurisdiction Over Plaintiff’s NJWHL
Defendants do not qualify as an enterprise under FLSA. Thus, in order to hear Plaintiff’s
NJWHL claims, this Court would have to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. Supplemental
jurisdiction is a “doctrine of discretion.” United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715,
726 (1966). This Court “may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction” when “all claims
over which it has original jurisdiction” are dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). Judicial economy,
convenience, and fairness to the litigants are weighed in determining potential retention of
jurisdiction. In re Paoli R.R. Yard Pcb Litig., 35 F.3d 717, 737 (3d Cir. 1994). There is, however,
a strong policy of allowing state courts to decide state matters. Shaffer v. Bd. of Sch. Directors of
Albert Gallatin Area Sch. Dist., 730 F.2d 910, 912 (3d Cir. 1984).
Unfortunately for Plaintiff, there are no special circumstances present here that justify
supplemental jurisdiction in this case. This is a state law claim best heard in state court.
Plaintiff’s claims should be filed there.
For the reasons set forth above, Defendant’s motion for summary judgment is
s/Robert B. Kugler__
ROBERT B. KUGLER
United States District Judge
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