Raymond v. Mid-Bronx Haulage Corp.

Decision Date31 March 2017
Docket NumberNo. 15 Civ. 5803 (RJS),15 Civ. 5803 (RJS)
PartiesJAMES RAYMOND, MARK LEE, AND JOSEPH LILLARD, Plaintiffs, v. MID-BRONX HAULAGE CORP. AND ARNOLD SIRICO, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
OPINION AND ORDER

RICHARD J. SULLIVAN, District Judge:

Plaintiffs James Raymond, Mark Lee, and Joseph Lillard bring this action against their employers, Mid-Bronx Haulage Corporation ("Mid-Bronx") and Arnold Sirico, alleging that Mid-Bronx improperly withheld overtime and other compensation as required by federal and state wage and hour laws. Now before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Mid-Bronx is exempt from federal, state, and local overtime requirements and that Sirico is not an employer under state or federal law. Also before the Court is Plaintiffs' request for sanctions against Defendants for alleged violations of the federal rules governing discovery. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is denied, and Plaintiffs' request for sanctions is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND
A. Facts

Plaintiffs are current and former drivers who work or worked night shifts for Mid-Bronx, a New York commercial carting company that collects and disposes of garbage and recycled materials.1 (Def. 56.1¶¶ 1, 3-5, 68, 73, 77.) Mid-Bronx serves approximately 2,300 customers throughout New York City and operates a fleet of both "packer" trucks, which are used to pick up commercial waste, and "roll-off" trucks, which are used to pick up recycling and cardboard. (Id. ¶¶ 8-10, 12.) Plaintiffs all drove packer trucks picking up garbage on specified garbage routes. (Id. ¶¶ 69, 74, 78.) Mid-Bronx is registered with the United States Department of Transportation ("DOT") Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which inspects Mid-Bronx vehicles for safety issues and assigns Mid-Bronx a number that is displayed on each of its trucks. (Id. ¶¶ 15-18.)

Mid-Bronx directs its drivers to deliver materials they collect within New York City to one of two putrescible waste transfer stations: Metropolitan Transfer Station ("Metropolitan") and Action Environmental Group ("Action"). (Id. ¶ 66.) Both Metropolitan and Action are located within New York State. (Doc. No. 59 ("Raymond Decl.") ¶ 8; Doc. No. 60 ("Lee Decl.") ¶ 8; Doc. No. 61 ("Lillard Decl.") ¶ 8.) Once Mid-Bronx employees deliver materials to Metropolitan or Action, the materials are intermixed with materials received from other hauling companies. (Raymond Decl. ¶¶ 13-15; Lee Decl. ¶¶ 11-13; Lillard Decl. ¶¶ 12-14.) Action and Metropolitan then separate scrap metal from other materials in order to sell it. (Lillard Decl. ¶¶ 15-16.) The materials are then weighed, sorted, and transported to a disposal site. (Doc. No. 49 ("Verrilli Decl.") ¶ 6.) Metropolitan ultimately transports at least 85% of the materials it receives to out-of-state or international locations (id. ¶¶ 4-5), and Action transports a substantial portion of the waste it receives out of state (Doc. No. 45 ("First Dumornay Decl.") Ex. E; Doc. No. 47 ("Sirico Decl.") ¶ 16).

Arnold Sirico is "an owner and President" of Mid-Bronx (Sirico Decl. ¶ 5) and is the signatory on Plaintiffs' checks (Pl. 56.1 ¶ 29). Sirico represents Mid-Bronx in negotiations with Private Sanitation Union Local 813, International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("Local 813"), which represents drivers employed by Mid-Bronx and has a collective bargaining agreement with Mid-Bronx that sets the terms and conditions of their employment. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22; Sirico Decl. ¶ 5). In 1996, Sirico hired Robert Stark, the Mid-Bronx Supervisor and Night Foreman, who is responsible for the supervision of Mid-Bronx's night shift drivers and shares joint responsibility for staffing drivers for the night shift, coordinating routes, assigning routes and stops, and recommending the hiring of drivers. (First Dumornay Decl. Ex. G ("Stark Dep.") at 13:22-14:2; Def. 56.1 ¶¶ 27-31.) Stark also makes hiring and disciplinary recommendations to Sirico (Stark Decl. ¶ 4), but except in the case of an emergency, all hiring and firing decisions require approval from Sirico (Stark Dep. at 25:8-25). Plaintiffs occasionally discussed matters involving their overtime pay, vacation, and compensation for unused vacation time with Sirico. (Lillard Decl. ¶ 20; Lee Decl. ¶¶ 16, 18.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiffs initiated this action on July 23, 2015, bringing claims for failure to pay overtime compensation in violation of theFair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 207 and 216(b), New York Labor Law ("NYLL") § 663, and New York Codes, Rules and Regulations ("NYCCR") § 142-2.2. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiffs amended their complaint on August 25, 2015 (Doc. No. 8) and on January 5, 2016 (Doc. No. 23), and Defendants answered the second amended complaint on January 15, 2016 (Doc. No. 25). The parties then proceeded to discovery, which concluded on May 20, 2016. (Doc. No. 29.)

On July 22, 2016, Defendants filed the instant motion seeking summary judgment on the grounds that (1) Defendants are exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA, NYLL, and NYCCR because they fall within the Motor Carrier Act exemption to the FLSA, and (2) Sirico is not an employer for the purposes of the FLSA, NYLL, or NYCCR. (Doc. No. 51.) In their opposition brief filed August 29, 2016, Plaintiffs also asked the Court to sanction Defendants for omitting two witnesses from their initial disclosures and for failing to produce an adequate corporate representative for Mid-Bronx in violation of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26(a) and 30(b)(6). (Doc. No. 57.) The motion was fully briefed by September 15, 2016. (Doc. No. 70.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Pursuant to Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment should be rendered "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). There is "no genuine dispute as to any material fact" where (1) the parties agree on all facts (that is, there are no disputed facts); (2) the parties disagree on some or all facts, but a reasonable fact-finder could never accept the nonmoving party's version of the facts (that is, there are no genuinely disputed facts), see Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); or (3) the parties disagree on some or all facts, but even on the nonmoving party's version of the facts, the moving party would win as a matter of law (that is, none of the factual disputes are material), see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

In determining whether a fact is genuinely disputed, the court "is not to weigh the evidence but is instead required to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, to draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party, and to eschew credibility assessments." Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 854 (2d Cir. 1996). Nevertheless, to show a genuine dispute, the nonmoving party must provide "hard evidence," D'Amico v. City of New York, 132 F.3d 145, 149 (2d Cir. 1998), "from which a reasonable inference in [its] favor may be drawn," Binder & Binder PC v. Barnhart, 481 F.3d 141, 148 (2d Cir. 2007). "Conclusory allegations, conjecture, and speculation," Kerzer v. Kingly Mfg., 156 F.3d 396, 400 (2d Cir. 1998), as well as the existence of a mere "scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmoving party's] position," Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252, are insufficient to create a genuinely disputed fact. A moving party is "entitled to judgment as a matter of law" on an issue if (1) it bears the burden of proof on the issue and the undisputed facts meet that burden; or (2) the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof on the issue and the moving party "'show[s]' - that is, point[s] out . . . - that there is an absence of evidence [in the record] to support the nonmoving party's [position]." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).

III. DISCUSSION
A. The Motor Carrier Act Exemption

The FLSA requires employers to pay overtime wages to certain employees who work more than forty hours in a week. 29 U.S.C. § 207. However, the FLSA is subject to certain exemptions, including the Motor Carrier Act exemption (the "MCA exemption"), which exempts motor private carriers for whom the Secretary of Transportation may prescribe requirements for qualifications and maximum hours of service when needed to promote safety of operations under 49 U.S.C. § 31502. 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(1). The parties do not dispute that Mid-Bronx is a "motor private carrier" as defined in 49 U.S.C. § 13102(15). However, the Secretary of Transportation only has jurisdiction over, and the MCA exemption only applies to, carriers engaged in the transportation of passengers, property, or both "between a place in . . . a State and a place in another State . . . [or] a State and another place in the same State through another State . . . ." 49 U.S.C. § 13501. Thus, to invoke the MCA exemption to the FLSA, Defendants must prove that Plaintiffs operated "motor vehicles in the transportation on the public highways of passengers or property in interstate or foreign commerce within the meaning of the [MCA exemption]." Cruz v. AAA Carting & Rubbish Removal, Inc., 116 F. Supp. 3d 232, 246 (S.D.N.Y. 2015). The parties dispute whether (1) garbage constitutes "property" for the purposes of the MCA exemption, and (2) Plaintiffs transported garbage in interstate commerce within the meaning of the MCA. Exemptions to the FLSA are "narrowly construed against the employers seeking to assert them and their application [is] limited to those establishments plainly and unmistakably within their terms and spirit." Arnold v. Ben Kanowsky, Inc., 361 U.S. 388, 392 (1960). The employer has the burden of establishing its entitlement to such an exemption. Id. at 394 n.11; see also Martin v. Malcolm Pirnie, Inc., 949...

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