Restaurant Supply Driver’s Federal FLSA Claims Shown the Exit Ramp on MSJ Ruling
Finding not a “scintilla” of evidence to support claims of minimum wage violations, a New York federal district court in Yu Sen Chen et al v. MG Wholesale Distribution Inc. et al, 16-cv-04439 (E.D.N.Y.) dismissed a proposed collective action (and refused to exercise supplemental jurisdiction of the corresponding state law claims). In doing so, the district court relied on simple arithmetic and the plaintiff’s own admissions.
Basis of Complaint
After spending more than a decade working as a truck loader and driver’s helper for a restaurant supply distribution company in Queens, New York, the named plaintiff filed a putative collective action alleging minimum wage and overtime violations under federal and state law. In doing so, he claimed he worked 12 hours per day, six days per week, for a set salary of approximately $600/week.
Allegations Taken with a Grain of Salt
Last year, the named plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the overtime claims. Discovery ensued on the remaining claims. During the course of discovery, the plaintiff alleged he worked approximately 72 hours per week (although he claimed that at times he may have worked upwards of 77 hours). He testified his salary was approximately $600/week. While the named plaintiff claimed the times sheets utilized in the litigation were falsified (and he thus worked much more), the Court applied plaintiff’s testimony regarding hours worked.
Applying basic arithmetic, and accepting as fact that the named plaintiff worked 72 hours per week (or even 77 hours per week), he earned more than the $7.25 federal minimum wage, the Court ruled. As a result, no federal minimum wage claim existed, making the prospective collective action ripe for dismissal. The Court also refused to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims (minimum wage and spread of hours claims).
While the information discovered regarding hours worked may have suggested potential issues under state law, simple math proved there was no minimum wage claim under the FLSA. This finding was enough to divest the court of subject matter jurisdiction, and the Court punted on the state law claims. This lesson should not be lost on any employer (regardless of the industry). Employers facing a collective action should not overlook the possibility of attacking the pleadings of the federal claims. If a court dismisses those claims, the employer may live to fight the state law claims another day (assuming the plaintiff even re-files them). So pay attention to simple math; it may prove to be your salvation.