Laracuente v. Miller et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: Plaintiff Nestor Laracuente, who brought claims for unpaid wages against defendant Hometown Bar-B-Que ("Hometown") under the Fair Labor and Standards Act ("FLSA"), moves to dismiss Hometown's counterclai ms for breach of contract, breach of duty of loyalty, misappropriation, unfair competition, and breach of a loan agreement, arguing that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over these claims. For the following reasons, Laracuente's motio n to dismiss is granted. For the foregoing reasons, Laracuente's motion to dismiss Hometown's counterclaims is granted. Re 29 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction; MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. Ordered by Judge Raymond J. Dearie on 5/17/2016. (Rodriguez, Lori)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
NESTOR L. LARACUENTE,
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
15 CV 155 (RID) (RML)
- against MAJOR OTIS LLC d/b/a HOMETOWN
BAR-B-QUE, WILLIAM DURNEY, and
CHRISTOPHER MILLER, jointly and
DEARIE, District Judge
Plaintiff Nestor Laracuente, who brought claims for unpaid wages against defendant
Hometown Bar-B-Que ("Hometown") under the Fair Labor and Standards Act ("FLSA"), moves
to dismiss Hometown's counterclaims for breach of contract, breach of duty of loyalty,
misappropriation, unfair competition, and breach of a loan agreement, arguing that the Court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction over these claims. For the following reasons, Laracuente's
motion to dismiss is granted.
Nestor Laracuente was the head pit master at Hometown, a barbecue restaurant in
Brooklyn, New York, from September 2013 until December 2014, when he resigned to open his
own barbecue restaurant in suburban Connecticut. On January 12, 2015, Laracuente sued
Hometown under the FLSA, alleging that he worked in excess of forty hours each week but was
not paid overtime wages, in violation of29 U.S.C. §§ 207 and 215(a)(2).
On June 8, 2015, Hometown answered and counterclaimed, contending that Laracuente is
exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA because he qualifies as a bona fide executive,
an administrative employee, and a creative professional under 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(l). Hometown
also claims that Laracuente is liable for breach of contract, breach of duty of loyalty,
misappropriation of proprietary information, unfair competition, and breach of a loan agreement.
In support of its counterclaims, Hometown alleges that Laracuente executed a "Confidentiality,
Intellectual Property and Non-Competition Agreement," in which he agreed not to use or
disclose proprietary information during or after his employment, and not to solicit or divert any
customers or purveyors of Hometown for one year after his termination. Hometown contends
that Laracuente breached this contract by sharing proprietary information regarding cooking
techniques and vendor purchasing agreements with Cody Sperry, the owner of a barbecue
catering business who, along with Laracuente as his partner, opened a barbecue restaurant in
Connecticut on May 15, 2015.
On December 1, 2015, Laracuente moved to dismiss Hometown's counterclaims pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(l), arguing that the Court lacks supplemental
jurisdiction over the counterclaims.
In a civil action in which a district court has original jurisdiction, the court "shall have
supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within
such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of
the United States Constitution." 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). To constitute the same Article III case or
controversy, the "state and federal claims must derive from a common nucleus of operative fact."
United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725 (1966). "In determining whether two disputes
arise from a common nucleus of operative fact," the court considers ''whether the facts
underlying the federal and state claims substantially overlapped or the federal claim necessarily
brought the facts underlying the state claim before the court." Achtman v. Kirby. Mclnemey &
Squire. LLP, 464 F.3d 328, 335 (2d Cir. 2006) (alterations and internal quotation marks omitted).
"[T]he fact of an employment relationship does not establish a common nucleus of
operative fact where it is the sole fact that connects federal and nonfederal claims." Thomas v.
EONY LLC, No. 13-CV-8512 (JPO), 2015 WL 1809085, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 21, 2015); accord
Mori v. El Asset Management. Inc., 15-CV-1991 (AT), 2016 WL 859336, at *3 (S.D.N.Y.
Jan. 28, 2016) (declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over breach of duty counterclaim
in FLSA suit); Torres v. Gristede's Operating Coip., 628 F. Supp. 2d 447, 467-68 (S.D.N.Y.
2012) (declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over faithless servant counterclaim in
Laracuente's federal claim and Hometown's state-law counterclaims do not "derive from
a common nucleus of operative fact." Gibbs, 383 U.S. at 725. Laracuente's FLSA claim is a
straightforward wage and hour action, which will require specific factual determinations as to
Laracuente's hours worked and his rate of pay. In addition, because Hometown asserts that
Laracuente qualifies as a bona fide executive, administrative employee, and creative professional
under the FLSA, other factual determinations relevant to the federal claim include whether
Laracuente was compensated on a salary basis, directed the work of two or more employees, had
the authority to hire and fire, managed the enterprise, exercised discretion and independent
judgment, and performed work requiring invention, imagination, or originality. See 29 C.F.R. §§
541.100, 200, 300.
By contrast, Hometown's state-law counterclaims for breach of contract, breach of duty
of loyalty, misappropriation, unfair competition, and breach of a loan agreement tum on an
unrelated set of facts involving Laracuente's communications with Cody Sperry, the operation of
Laracuente's allegedly competing barbecue restaurant in Connecticut, and the terms of the
"Confidentiality, Intellectual Property and Non-Competition Agreement." To be sure, there is a
minimal intersection between the federal and state claims in that the "Confidentiality, Intellectual
Property and Non-Competition Agreement" may be probative of the nature of Laracuente' s
employment duties, and, conversely, Laracuente's employment duties may be probative of
whether he had access to confidential information. But the connection between the claims ends
there. The facts underlying Laracuente's federal claim and Hometown's counterclaims do not
"substantially overlap," nor does Laracuente's "federal claim necessarily br[ing] the facts
underlying the state claim[s] before the court." Achtman, 464 F.3d at 335 (emphasis added).
Accordingly, Hometown's counterclaims fall outside the Court's supplemental jurisdiction.
For the foregoing reasons, Laracuente's motion to dismiss Hometown's counterclaims is
Dated: Brooklyn, New York
May 17, 2016
RAYMOND J. DEARIE
United States District Judge
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