Bureerong v. Uvawas, CV95-5958 ABC (BQRx).

Citation922 F. Supp. 1450
Decision Date21 March 1996
Docket NumberNo. CV95-5958 ABC (BQRx).,CV95-5958 ABC (BQRx).
CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
PartiesMalee BUREERONG, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Tavee UVAWAS, et al., Defendants.

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Stewart Kwoh, Julie A. Su, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Los Angeles, CA, Della Bahan, Glenn Rothner, Anthony R. Segall, Rothner, Segall, Bahan & Greenstone, Pasadena, CA, Dan Stormer, Hadsell & Stormer, Inc., Pasadena, CA, Lora Jo Foo, Laura Ho, Asian Law Caucus, San Francisco, CA, Lucas Guttentag, ACLU Immigrants Rights Project, San Francisco, CA, Mark Rosenbaum, ACLU Foundation of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, for Plaintiffs.

Ronald C. Peterson, Caroline L. DeWitt, Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe, Los Angeles, CA, for Defendant Mervyn's.

Scott W. Wellman, Wellman & Warren, Irvine, CA, for Defendant Tomato, Inc.

Robert Ezra, Ezra and Brutzkus, Encino, CA, for Defendant Bigin, Inc. d/b/a The Italian Club.

Steve K. Wasserman, Howard S. Blum, John P. Doyle, Wasserman, Comden & Cassleman L.L.P., Tarzana, CA, for Defendant L.F. Sportswear.

Richard L. Mann, Cynthia E. Fruchtman, Kyle P. Kelley, Richman, Lawrence, Mann, Greene & Chizever, Beverly Hills, CA, for Defendant B.U.M. International, Inc.

ORDER RE: 1.) DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT;

2.) DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS;

3.) DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO STRIKE;

4.) DEFENDANT MERVYN'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

COLLINS, District Judge.

Defendants' motions came on regularly for hearing before this Court on March 18, 1996. After reviewing the materials submitted by the parties, argument of counsel, and the case file, it is hereby ORDERED as follows:

1.) Defendants' motion for a more definite statement is DENIED;

2.) Defendants' motions to dismiss are GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Plaintiffs' fourth and fifth causes of action are hereby DISMISSED with prejudice;

3.) Defendants' motion to strike is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. The Court ORDERS the term "Slave Sweatshop" stricken from the First Amended Complaint; and

4.) Defendant Mervyn's' motion for summary judgment is DENIED without prejudice to a future motion.

I. Background

This action is one of several civil and criminal proceedings1 stemming from allegations that the Plaintiffs, who are immigrant garment workers from Thailand, were falsely imprisoned in a complex in El Monte, California, and employed in a system of involuntary servitude. The substance of Plaintiffs' allegations will be addressed in further detail below. On September 5, 1995, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against Defendants TAVEE UVAWAS, SUNEE MANASULANGKOON, SUPORN VERAYTWILAI, THANES PANTHONG, PRAWIT PHAPHARASUJSERM, SANCHAI PONGPRAPIN, NUTTAPHAN KETWATTHA, MALINEE CHINWALANA, RAMPA SUTHAPRASIT, SUNTON RAWUNGCHAISUNG, and SEREE GRANJAPIREE, all individually, and doing business as SK FASHIONS, S & P FASHIONS, and D & R FASHIONS, for peonage and involuntary servitude, various labor violations, violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act ("RICO"), violation of 42 U.S.C. ? 1985(3), fraud, misrepresentation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, and false imprisonment. Plaintiffs have termed these Defendants the "operators," because they were the individuals or entities who allegedly operated the El Monte facility where the Plaintiffs were held and employed.2

On October 25, 1995, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), adding as Defendants MERVYN'S, TOMATO, INC. ("Tomato"), L.F. SPORTSWEAR, MS. TOPS OF CALIFORNIA, INC. ("Ms. Tops"), TOPSON DOWNS OF CALIFORNIA, INC., F-40 CALIFORNIA, INC. ("F-40"), NEW BOYS, INC. ("New Boys"), BIGIN, INC. ("Bigin"), ITALIAN CLUB, and B.U.M. INTERNATIONAL, INC ("B.U.M."). These Defendants added by the FAC were not directly involved in operating the El Monte facility. Plaintiffs distinguish this set of Defendants by terming them "manufacturer" Defendants. In the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs assert that these Defendants have: (1) failed to pay Plaintiffs a minimum wage or overtime, in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act ("FSLA") (29 U.S.C. ?? 206, 207 & 216(b)) and Cal.Labor Code ?? 1194(a), 1194.2(a), 1197 & 2665(a); (2) employed Plaintiffs to manufacture garments by industrial homework, in violation of 29 U.S.C. ?? 211(d) & 215(a)(5), 29 C.F.R. ? 530.2, and the California Industrial Homework Act (Cal.Labor Code ?? 2650 et seq.); (3) contracted with entities not registered with the state Labor Commissioner, in violation of Cal.Labor Code ?? 2675 & 2677 and Cal.Reg.Code ? 13634; (4) engaged in unfair business practices, in violation of Cal.Bus. & Prof. Code ?? 17200 et seq.; (5) involuntarily deducted wages for transportation board, and outstanding debt, in violation of Cal.Labor Code ? 450 and FLSA ? 3(m); (6) committed negligence per se; (6) committed negligent supervision; and (7) committed negligent hiring. Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief, declaratory relief, unpaid minimum wages, unpaid overtime premiums, restitution, liquidated damages, general damages, treble damages, interest, punitive damages, attorneys' fees, costs, and such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.

On December 6, 1995, Defendants Ms. Tops, Topson Downs, and F-40 (collectively "Ms. Tops") filed motions to dismiss, for a more definite statement, and to strike portions of Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint. Soon thereafter, on December 18, 1995, Defendant Mervyn's joined in the Ms. Tops motions. On January 16, 1996, Defendant B.U.M. joined in the Ms. Tops motions, and Defendants Tomato, Bigin, and L.F. Sportswear filed their own motion to dismiss ("Tomato motion").3 Defendant Mervyn's filed its own motion to dismiss as well as a motion for summary judgment on the same date. Also on January 16, 1996, Plaintiffs dismissed Defendants F-40, Topson Downs, and Ms. Tops from the action. On January 26, 1996, Defendants Tomato, Bigin, and L.F. Sportswear joined in the Ms. Tops4 and Mervyn's motions to dismiss. Finally, on February 21, 1996, Mervyn's joined in the Tomato, Bigin, and L.F. Sportswear motion to dismiss.

On March 5, 1996, Plaintiffs filed one consolidated Opposition to all of Defendants' motions to dismiss. In addition, Plaintiffs filed Oppositions to Defendants' motions for a more definite statement and to strike. Finally, Plaintiffs filed a Request that Mervyn's' summary judgment motion be denied or continued pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(f). Defendants Mervyn's and B.U.M. filed Reply briefs on March 11, 1996, in which Defendants Tomato, Bigin, and L.F. Sportswear joined.

II. Plaintiffs' Allegations

As stated above, Plaintiffs are immigrants from Thailand who were employed as garment workers, allegedly in conditions amounting to involuntary servitude. FAC ? 5. According to the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs were forced to sew garments inside a facility at 2614 Santa Anita Avenue, El Monte, California ("El Monte facility"). FAC ? 10. Beginning in 1988 and continuing through August 2, 1995, the "operator" Defendants, doing business as SK Fashions, S & P Fashions, and D & R Fashions directly operated this facility and allegedly imprisoned and enslaved Plaintiffs, forcing them to work up to eighteen hours a day or more. FAC ? 11. In addition, the operators allegedly censored Plaintiffs' mail, deprived them of contact with the outside world, subjected Plaintiffs to mental, physical, and economic coercion and cruelty, and restrained Plaintiffs through the use of threats of physical force against the Plaintiffs or their families. FAC ? 12. According to the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs were either not paid at all for their work or were paid below the minimum wage and were not compensated for overtime. FAC ? 16. Payments for transportation were allegedly deducted from Plaintiffs' wages. FAC ? 16. In addition, food and other necessities were allegedly available to Plaintiffs only at grossly inflated prices. FAC ? 16. According to the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs were also forced to live, sleep, and eat at the El Monte facility, where they also worked. FAC ? 10. Plaintiffs allege that the El Monte facility was Plaintiffs' "home" within the meaning of the California Industrial Homework Act (Cal.Labor Code ? 2650(c)). FAC ? 10.

Allegedly, the individual operators and Defendants SK Fashions, S & P Fashions, and D & R Fashions at all times operated a joint integrated business operation out of the El Monte facility and at 1330 W. 11th Place, 1314 W. 12th Place, and 1319 W. 12th Place in Los Angeles ("Los Angeles facilities"). FAC ? 17. As such, the individuals, SK Fashions, S & P Fashions, and D & R Fashions allegedly constituted an "enterprise," as defined by 29 U.S.C. ? 203(r), and a single employer which employed Plaintiffs as industrial homeworkers. FAC ? 17. The specific allegations against the operator Defendants are not directly at issue in these motions.

Defendants Tomato, L.F. Sportswear, Bigin, Ms. Tops, Topson Downs, F-40,5 New Boys,6 Mervyn's and B.U.M. are all corporations engaged in the garment business. As stated above, Plaintiffs term these Defendants "manufacturers."7 Plaintiffs allege that, together with the "operators," these "manufacturer" Defendants acted as Plaintiffs' joint employers "because each exercised meaningful control over the work plaintiffs performed." FAC ? 19. Plaintiffs contend that the operators of the El Monte and Los Angeles facilities were an integral part of the "manufacturers'" business, and that the operators "acted, in effect, as supervisors and managers" for the "manufacturer" Defendants. FAC ? 19. In addition, Plaintiffs assert that the "manufacturer" Defendants have directly or indirectly employed Plaintiffs as industrial homeworkers within the meaning of Cal.Labor Code ? 2650 et seq. ...

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