Charlot v. Ecolab, Inc.

Decision Date27 March 2015
Docket NumberNo. 12–CV–4543 KAMVMS.,12–CV–4543 KAMVMS.
Citation97 F.Supp.3d 40
PartiesAnthony CHARLOT, Alan Remache and Jose Tejada, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. ECOLAB, INC., Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York

Artemio Guerra, Michael J.D. Sweeney, Getman & Sweeney, PLLC, New Paltz, NY, Justin Mitchell Swartz, Molly A. Brooks, Sally J. Abrahamson, Outten & Golden LLP, New York, NY, for Plaintiffs.

Jeffrey W. Brecher, Jackson Lewis, P.C., Justin Robert Marino, Littler Mendelson, P.C., Noel P. Tripp, Jackson Lewis LLP, Melville, NY, Shirley Lerner, Susan K. Fitzke, John H. Lassetter, Andrew J. Voss, Littler Mendelson, PC, Minneapolis, MN, Amy S. Ramsey, Angela I. Rochester, John A. Ybarra, Littler Mendelson, P.C., Chicago, IL, for Defendant.


MATSUMOTO, District Judge:

The named plaintiffs Anthony Charlot, Alan Remache, and Jose Tejada (collectively, the “Named Plaintiffs or Plaintiffs) brought this individual, collective, and class action against Ecolab, Inc. (defendant) for various alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., the New York Labor Law, N.Y. Lab Law §§ 650 et seq.; and its supporting regulations, N.Y. Comp.Codes R. & Regs. tit. 12, Pt. 142 (collectively, the “New York Wage Laws”); and the New Jersey Wage–and–Hour Laws. N.F.S.A. §§ 34:11–56a et seq.; its supporting regulations, N.J. Admin. Code §§ 12:56–1.1 et seq.; and the New Jersey Wage Payment Law, N.J.S.A. §§ 34:11–4.1 –33.6 (collectively, the “New Jersey Wage Laws”).

The Plaintiffs moved for leave to amend their complaint to add additional named plaintiffs and their respective individual and representative state law claims and to have those new individual and representative state law claims relate back to September 11, 2012, the date the original complaint was filed. (See ECF No. 122, Plaintiffs' Memorandum in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend (“Pls. Mem.”).) Specifically, the motion to amend concerns four proposed named plaintiffs that have opted into the FLSA collective action and their respective individual and representative state claims from four states: Illinois, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Washington (collectively, the “Proposed Named Plaintiffs). (R & R at 5.) Each of these Proposed Named Plaintiffs filed a Consent to Sue form concerning their FLSA claims between April 2013 and March 2014. (Id. )

Defendant Ecolab consented to the addition of proposed individual and representative Pennsylvania and Washington state claims. (R & R at 6; ECF No. 124, Defendant's Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend (Def. Opp.) at 2.) Defendant, however, opposed the Plaintiffs' motion to add the proposed Illinois and North Carolina state individual and representative class claims, on grounds of futility and prejudice.1 Defendant contends the Illinois state claim under the IMWL are barred by the first-filed action against defendant pending in Illinois. See Schneider v. Ecolab, No. 14–CV–1044 (N.D.Ill. Feb. 13, 2014). (R & R at 8.)

Moreover, defendant argued that the state claims should not relate back to the original complaint, because defendant did not have notice of the Named Plaintiffs' intent to amend its complaint to add these state claims until April 15, 2014, the date defendant received a copy of the Proposed Amended Complaint. (R & R at 2.) On July 16, 2014, Magistrate Judge Vera M. Scanlon heard oral argument on the motion to amend, (ECF No. 126, Transcript of Oral Argument (“Tr.”)), after which the parties submitted supplemental letter briefs in accordance with Judge Scanlon's order. (Tr. 732:21–74:6; ECF No. 132, Named Plaintiffs' Post–Argument Letter; ECF No. 133, Defendant's Post–Argument Letter.)

By Order dated September 16, 2014, this court referred the Named Plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend to Judge Scanlon for a report and recommendation. (See Order Referring Motion dated 9/16/14.) After considering the parties' submissions and their arguments before the court, Judge Scanlon issued a Report and Recommendation on December 12, 2014, recommending that this court grant in part and deny in part the Named Plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend the complaint. (ECF No. 159, Report and Recommendation (the “R & R”).) Specifically, Judge Scanlon recommended that this court permit the Plaintiffs to amend the complaint to add the Proposed Named Plaintiffs and their respective individual and representative state claims, but only to the extent that the statute of limitations for each claim had not expired as of April 15, 2014, the date that defendant admittedly received notice of the proposed amended complaint. (R & R at 51.) In reaching this conclusion, Judge Scanlon found that the Plaintiffs' proposed North Carolina and Illinois claims were neither futile nor prejudicial to defendant under Rule 15(a), nor were the Illinois claims barred by the first-filed rule in light of the pending action against defendant in the United States District Court in the Northern District of Illinois. (See R & R at 6–20.)

Although Judge Scanlon recommended that Plaintiffs' motion to amend be granted, Judge Scanlon found that the Plaintiffs did not demonstrate fair notice or mistake and, thus, recommended against granting the relation back of the state claims pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(B), 15(c)(1)(C). Accordingly, Judge Scanlon limited her recommendation that this court permit the Plaintiffs to amend their complaint to add state law claims that were timely as of April 15, 2014. (R & R at 51.)

On January 14, 2015, the Named Plaintiffs timely filed their objections to Judge Scanlon's R & R.2 (ECF No. 190, Named Plaintiffs' Objections to R & R (“Pls. Objs.”).) On February 5, 2015, defendant Ecolab filed its response to the Named Plaintiffs' Objections to Judge Scanlon's R & R, urging this court to adopt Judge Scanlon's R & R in its entirety, but did not otherwise object.3 (ECF No. 194, Defendant's Response to the Named Plaintiffs' Objections (“Def. Resp.”).) On February 13, 2015, the Named Plaintiffs' filed a Reply to defendant's response.4 (ECF No. 195, Named Plaintiffs' Reply to Defendant's Response (“Pls. Reply”).)

I. Factual Background

The court presumes familiarity with the underlying facts of this case, which have been set forth comprehensively in Judge Scanlon's December 14, 2014 R & R, and are adopted herein. (R & R at 1–5.)

II. Standard of Review

In reviewing a report and recommendation, the district court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). The district court “shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Where “the objecting party makes only conclusory or general objections, or simply reiterates the original arguments, the Court will review the report and recommendation strictly for clear error.” Zaretsky v. Maxi–Aids, Inc., No. 10–CV–3771, 2012 WL 2345181, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. June 18, 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Soley v. Wasserman, 823 F.Supp.2d 221, 228 (S.D.N.Y.2011). Furthermore, even on de novo review of specific objections, the court “will not consider ‘arguments, case law, and/or evidentiary material which could have been, but were not, presented to the magistrate judge in the first instance.’ VOX Amplification Ltd. v. Meussdorffer, 50 F.Supp.3d 355, 370, 2014 WL 4829578, at *11 (E.D.N.Y.2014) ; Brown v. Smith, No. 09–CV–4522, 2012 WL 511581, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 15, 2012).5

III. Discussion

Presently before the court is the Report and Recommendation issued by Magistrate Judge Scanlon on December 14, 2014, the Named Plaintiffs' objections and defendant's response.

Neither party objects to Judge Scanlon's recommendation that the court allow the Named Plaintiffs to amend their complaint to add the Proposed Named Plaintiffs and their individual and representative state claims pursuant to Rule 15(a)(2). Plaintiffs, however, object to Judge Scanlon's recommendation denying the relation back of claims. In particular, neither party objects to the R & R's finding that the proposed additional state claims under Illinois and North Carolina state law are not futile or prejudicial pursuant to Rule 15(a). Furthermore, the parties do not object to the finding that defendant's “invocation of the first-filed rule as a basis for denying the Named Plaintiffs' motion to amend ... does not bar the motion to amend to add Illinois state law claims, given the status of Illinois class discovery” in Schneider v. Ecolab, No. 14–CV–1044 (N.D. Ill. Feb 13, 2014). (R & R at 9–12.) Nor do the parties object to the R & R's finding that defendant failed to establish futility with regard to the Illinois and North Carolina state claims, because outstanding factual and legal questions existed rendering resolution at this stage of the proceedings inappropriate. (R & R at 14, 18–19.)

Additionally, neither party objects to Judge Scanlon's finding that the Proposed Named Plaintiffs' individual FLSA and state claims are timely, with the exception of Mr. Riggs' Washington state law claims that pre-date April 15, 2011,6 and that the Named Plaintiffs' should be permitted to amend the complaint to include the Proposed Named Plaintiffs and their timely individual and representative state claims. The court has reviewed the aforementioned portions of Judge Scanlon's Report and Recommendation to which no objections were filed and finds no clear error.

A. The Named Plaintiffs' Objections

The Named Plaintiffs' objections are limited to Judge Scanlon's recommendation that this court deny the Named Plaintiffs' request to relate back the proposed individual and representative state law claims to the date of the original complaint, September 11, 2012. Specifically, the Named Plaintiffs argue that the R & R was...

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