Moreno et al v. 194 East Second Street LLC
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER re: 29 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by Mohamed Nazim Kalil and Jose Moreno. For the reasons set forth within, Plaintiffs' summary judgment motion is DENIED. The Court will conduct a hearing on January 18,2013, at 10:00 a.m., in Courtroom 6A of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, 500 Pearl Street, New York, New York, to determine whether Plaintiffs are entitled to have the limitations period equitably tolled. No later th an Friday, January 11, 2013, the parties shall each submit a letter to the Court, in accordance with the Court's Individual Rules and Practices, indicating what witnesses, if any, that party intends to call at the hearing, as well as a list of a ny exhibits that party intends to offer. By separate order, the Court will set a deadline for submission of the parties' joint pretrial order and other filings. The Clerk of Court is directed to terminate Docket No. 29. (Evidentiary Hearing set for 1/18/2013 at 10:00 AM in Courtroom 6A, 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY 10007 before Judge Jesse M. Furman.) (Signed by Judge Jesse M. Furman on 1/4/2013) (ab)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
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JOSE MORENO and MOHAMED NAZIM KALIL,
10 Civ. 7458 (JMF)
OPINION AND ORDER
194 EAST SECOND STREET LLC,
JESSE M. FURMAN, United States District Judge:
Plaintiffs Jose Moreno and Mohamed Nazim Kalil 1 seek summary judgment on their
claims, under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 United States Code, Section 201 et
seq. and the New York Labor Law ("NYLL"), Article 19, Section 650 et seq., that their
employer, Defendant 194 East Second Street, LLC, failed to pay them overtime wages and
retaliated against Kalil for his participation in this lawsuit. 2 Summary judgment is appropriate
where the admissible evidence and the pleadings demonstrate "no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter oflaw." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56( a);
see also Johnson v. Killian, 680 F.3d 234, 236 (2d Cir. 2012) (per curiam). An issue of fact
qualifies as genuine if the "evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a judgment for
the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,248 (1986); accord Roe v.
Although many of the filings in connection with the pending motion spell Plaintiff's
name "Khalil," it is spelled "Kalil" in the Complaint.
Although the Complaint includes a "spread of hours" claim under the NYLL, Plaintiffs
mention the claim only in a single footnote in their Memorandum of Law and do not appear to
move for summary judgment on it. (Pls.' Mem. Law 5 n.3). In any event, to the extent Plaintiffs
do move for summary judgment on the claim, that motion is denied for substantially the same
reasons as those discussed below.
City of Waterbury, 542 F.3d 31, 35 (2d Cir. 2008). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment,
all evidence must be viewed "in the light most favorable to the non-moving party," Overton v.
N. Y State Div. of Military & Naval Affairs, 373 F.3d 83, 89 (2d Cir. 2004), and the court must
"resolve all ambiguities and draw all permissible factual inferences in favor of the party against
whom summary judgment is sought," Sec. Ins. Co. of Hartford v. Old Dominion Freight Line,
Inc., 391 F.3d 77, 83 (2d Cir. 2004).
Applying these standards here, there is no basis for summary judgment as there are
material disputes of fact relating to each of Plaintiffs' claims. With respect to their claims that
Defendant failed to pay them overtime, there are at least two material disputes of fact that
preclude summary judgment. First, there is a dispute over how many hours Plaintiffs actually
worked per week. Citing their own deposition testimony, a handful ofletters from tenants
(which are only arguably admissible), and the testimony of two tenants, Plaintiffs contend that
they worked ninety-one hours per week from July 2001 through August 25, 2010, but were paid
for only forty hours per week. (Pls.' Mem. Law 3, 6 & n.4). There is evidence in the record,
however, that tends to "negate the reasonableness of the inference[s] to be drawn" from
Plaintiffs' evidence, Doo Nam Yang v. ACBL Corp., 427 F. Supp. 2d 327, 335 (S.D.N.Y. 2005)
(quoting Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680, 687-88 (1946))- most
prominently, evidence that Plaintiffs worked at other buildings during the time they claim to
have been working at 194 East Second Street. (Daniels Dep. 11:1-12:25, 15-16:8, 20:18-40:16;
Kalil Dep. 264:6-66:8; Orlando Dep. 22:13-23:25). Plaintiffs question the credibility of
Defendant's evidence and vice versa; that dispute is a quintessential issue for a jury to decide.
Second, there is a dispute over whether the parties had an unwritten agreement that
overtime hours would be paid out as part oftheir salary. See, e.g., Giles v. City ofN.Y, 41 F.
Supp. 2d 308, 317 (S.D.N. Y. 1999) ("There is a rebuttable presumption that a weekly salary
covers 40 hours; the employer can rebut the presumption by showing an employer-employee
agreement that the salary cover[s] a different number of hours."); Berrios v. Nicholas Zito
Racing Stable, Inc., 849 F. Supp. 2d 372, 385 (E.D.N.Y. 2012) (noting that some courts in this
Circuit "have determined that in situations where there is no written employment agreement or
other written instrument memorializing the parties' intentions, the court infers the terms of the
parties' agreement from 'the entire course of their conduct, based on the testimonial and
documentary evidence in the record"' (quoting Moon v. Kwon, 248 F. Supp. 2d 201, 206
(S.D.N.Y. 2002)). On the one hand, Moreno testified that he was an hourly worker. (Moreno
Dep. 69:2-3). On the other hand, there is evidence- including other testimony by Morenothat Plaintiffs were salaried employees before Defendant bought the building and that the parties
continued that arrangement after the change in ownership. (WilfDep. 14:21-15:9; Moreno Dep.
69:25-70:23, 158:8-19). These disputes preclude the grant of summary judgment to Plaintiffs on
their claim that Defendant violated the FLSA and the NYLL by failing to pay them overtime.
Because there is no basis to find as a matter of law that Defendant violated the FLSA, it follows
that there is no basis to grant summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claim that Defendant violated the
FLSA "willfully." See also Berrios, 849 F. Supp. 2d at 391 ("Courts within this Circuit have left
the question ofwillfulness to the trier of fact.").
In addition, there is a material dispute of fact precluding summary judgment on Kalil's
retaliation claim. The evidence is certainly sufficient to support a prima facie case of retaliation
insofar as Kalil was terminated little more than two weeks after engaging in protected activity namely, sending a letter, through counsel, to Defendant claiming violations of the FLSA and the
NYLL. See, e.g., Lore v. City of Syracuse, 670 F.3d 127, 157 (2d Cir. 2012) (describing the
elements of a prima facie retaliation claim). Defendant, however, has proffered a legitimate nonretaliatory reason for Kalil's termination: namely, that he was fired as a result of disciplinary
problems, including several near-altercations with Defendant's representatives and a failure to
comply with instructions to remove a television from the lobby. (See WilfDep. 7:13-12:25,
7 & Ex. C). It is for a jury to decide whether these "legitimate, non-discriminatory
reasons proffered by the defendant were false, and that more likely than not [retaliation] was the
real reason for the employment action." Mullins v. City ofN Y., 626 F.3d 47, 53-54 (quoting
Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 42 (2d Cir. 2000)); see, e.g., Zhengfang Liang v
Vineet Kapoor, 09-CV-1306 (JFB) (ETB), 2012 WL 5988766, at *20 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 29, 2012)
(denying summary judgment where there was a disputed issue of fact as to whether defendants'
proffered reasons for terminating the plaintiff were a pretext for retaliation); Schan.field v. Sojitz
Corp. ofAm., 663 F. Supp. 2d 305, 344 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (finding that a dispute as to the issue of
pretext was sufficient to raise a triable issue of fact for the jury on a retaliation claim).
Finally, citing Defendant's alleged failure to post a notice explaining the FLSA, Plaintiffs
contend that the applicable statute of limitations for their compensation claims should be
"equitably tolled," thereby allowing them to recover for the full ten years of their employment.
(Pls.' Mem. Law 8 & n.5 (quoting 29 C.F.R. § 516.4)). Equitable tolling '"applies only in the
rare and exceptional' case." Lanzetta v. Florio's Enters., 763 F. Supp. 2d 615, 622 (S.D.N.Y.
2011) (quoting Bertin v. United States, 478 F.3d 489, 494 n.3 (2d Cir. 2007)). "The relevant
question" where a claim of equitable tolling is made "is 'whether a reasonable plaintiff in the
circumstances would have been aware of the existence of a cause of action,' and 'despite all due
diligence he [wa]s unable to obtain vital information bearing on the existence ofhis claim."' Id.
(quoting Veltri v. Bldg. Serv. 32B-J Pension Fund, 393 F.3d 318, 323 (2d Cir. 2004), and Valdez
ex rel. Donely v. United States, 518 F.3d 173, 182 (2d Cir. 2008)). Thus, the failure to provide
an employee with the notice required by the FLSA, as alleged here, "may be a sufficient basis for
tolling, ... but only if that failure contributed to the employee's unawareness of his rights." !d.
at 622-23 (quoting citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
In this case, the record is inadequate to determine whether Defendant's alleged failure to
post the required notice "contributed" to Plaintiffs' unawareness of their rights. For example, as
Defendant argues, Plaintiffs may well have learned about their rights under the labor laws
through one ofthe other jobs that they held during the relevant periods. (Def.'s Opp'n Mem. 2021 ). As Defendant shows, there is also evidence in the record that suggests both Plaintiffs were
aware that they were entitled to overtime compensation before 2010. (Kalil Dep. 65:9-25, 93:1797:23; Moreno Dep. 49:19-50:2, 51:12-52:13, 53:6-25). Where there are disputed issues of fact
relating to the availability of equitable tolling, and those disputes are "separable from the merits
of the underlying claims," the proper course is for the Court to hold an evidentiary hearing to
resolve the issue. Wen Liu v. Mount Sinai Sch. of Med., No. 09 Civ. 9663 (RJS), 2012 WL
4561003, at *7 & n.5 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 24, 2012) (citing cases). Accordingly, although the Court
is skeptical that Plaintiffs will be able to show that the extraordinary measure of equitable tolling
is warranted here, it will nonetheless hold an evidentiary hearing to decide the question.
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiffs' summary judgment motion is DENIED. In
addition, it is hereby ORDERED that the Court will conduct a hearing on January 18,2013, at
10:00 a.m., in Courtroom 6A of the United States District Court for the Southern District of
New York, 500 Pearl Street, New York, New York, to determine whether Plaintiffs are entitled
to have the limitations period equitably tolled. No later than Friday, January 11, 2013, the
parties shall each submit a letter to the Court, in accordance with the Court's Individual Rules
and Practices, indicating what witnesses, if any, that party intends to call at the hearing, as well
as a list of any exhibits that party intends to offer.
By separate order, the Court will set a deadline for submission of the parties' joint pretrial
order and other filings. The Clerk of Court is directed to terminate Docket No. 29.
Dated: January 4, 2013
New York, New York
United States District Judge
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