Williams v. Epic Sec. Corp.

Citation358 F.Supp.3d 284
Decision Date22 February 2019
Docket Number1:15-cv-05610 (SDA)
Parties WILLIAMS, et al., Plaintiffs, v. EPIC SECURITY CORP. and Selwyn Falk, Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York

Scott Simpson, Beranbaum Menken LLP, Bruce Eric Menken, Beranbaum Menken Ben- Asher & Bierman LLP, New York, NY, for Plaintiffs.

Brian K. Condon, Condon & Associates, PLLC, Nanuet, NY, for Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

STEWART D. AARON, United States Magistrate Judge:

Plaintiffs filed this action asserting claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. , and the New York Labor Law ("NYLL"), Article 6, § 190, et seq . Plaintiffs allege that their employer, Defendant EPIC Security Corp. ("EPIC") and its Vice President, Defendant Selwyn Falk ("Falk") (collectively, the "Defendants"), failed to pay Plaintiffs for the time they spent driving to and from certain worksites, which time they allege was compensable. Plaintiffs generally allege that they were employed as drivers and required each workday to report to EPIC's headquarters1 in Manhattan, pick up a company car, and drive from there to worksites where they worked as security guards. Defendants deny Plaintiffs' allegations; they contend that Plaintiffs were employed as security guards and compensated properly and that Plaintiffs were free to report directly to worksites and that use of a company car was for Plaintiffs' convenience.

The parties consented for all purposes (including trial) to be held before me, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636. (Consent, ECF No. 115.) The Court conducted a bench trial from December 10, 2018 through December 14, 2018, and on January 7, 2019. Having considered all the evidence and assessed the credibility of the witnesses, the Court makes findings of fact and conclusions of law, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52, as set forth in this Opinion and Order.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff David Williams ("Williams") filed this collective action on July 17, 2015. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Initially, EPIC was the only named defendant. (See id .) EPIC filed its Answer on August 12, 2015. (Answer, ECF No. 8.) On November 28, 2016, on consent of the parties, District Judge Hellerstein certified a collective class under the FLSA and approved proposed notices. (Mem. Endorsement, ECF No. 36.)

On August 24, 2017, Plaintiffs filed their First Amended Complaint, which was amended to include Adrian Brown ("Brown") and Hilburn Walker ("Walker") as named Plaintiffs, and Falk as a named Defendant. (See First Am. Compl., ECF No. 98.) On September 11, 2017, Defendants filed their Answer to Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint. (See Answer to First Am. Compl., ECF No. 101.)

Over time, thirty-seven plaintiffs consented to join this action, in addition to the three named Plaintiffs. (See ECF Nos. 41-50, 52-74, 77-78, 80-82.) After discovery, Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that travel time is not compensable and that Plaintiffs' use of a company car was not a requirement of their job. Judge Hellerstein found that there were material issues of fact and denied summary judgment. Williams v. Epic Sec. Corp. , No. 15-CV-05610, 2018 WL 2452757 (S.D.N.Y. May 31, 2018). On July 26, 2018, the parties consented to proceedings before me (Consent, ECF No. 115), and at a conference held on September 7, 2018, a trial was scheduled to commence in December 2018.2 (9/7/18 Order, ECF No. 120.)

On October 30, 2018, Defendants filed a motion in limine seeking permission to call each named and opt-in Plaintiff as a witness at trial. (Not. of Mot., ECF No. 125.) Defendants argued that, "[g]iven the disparity in whether the guards drove to each site, the amount of time they spent driving, and the fact that some guards drove to some sites, and some did not, representative testimony is not appropriate and will not be sufficient in this case." (Defs.' Mem., ECF No. 125-4, at 5.) Plaintiffs opposed the motion, arguing that calling all opt-in Plaintiffs was not necessary and that a representative sample of witnesses' testimony was "more than enough ... for the court to make a determination in this FLSA collective action." (Pls.' Mem., ECF No. 127, at 4.)

By Order dated November 10, 2018, the Court directed the parties to meet and confer regarding the contents of a short (1-2 page) questionnaire to be completed by each Plaintiff whose deposition had not been taken to elicit sworn responses to the most salient issues in the case (e.g. , whether the Plaintiff drove to his or her work site(s) (and how often) and the number of hours traveled). (Text Only Order, ECF No. 129.) Thereafter, each party submitted a proposed questionnaire to the Court. (Letter, ECF No. 130 & accompanying exhibits.)

A pretrial conference was held on November 19, 2018. By Order issued the same day, I granted Defendants' motion in limine giving them permission to call each named and opt-in Plaintiff as a witness at trial, subject to a 15-hour time limit for each side to put on its case.3 (See Order, ECF No. 131.) Further, after reviewing each side's proposed questionnaire, the Court provided to the parties a revised questionnaire in the form of a sworn Declaration (referred to herein as the "Questionnaire Declaration"), which combined elements from both proposed questionnaires. (See id. at 3-5.) The Court ordered that, no later than December 7, 2018, Plaintiffs submit "a sworn questionnaire from each remaining Plaintiff (both named and opt-in), other than those Plaintiffs whose depositions were taken." (Id. at 2.) In its November 19, 2018 Order, the Court also permitted the parties (to conserve time against the 15-hour time limit) to submit direct examination by affidavit no later than December 5, 2018. (Id. at 1.)

On November 21, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a Letter Motion requesting a pre-motion conference to address their anticipated motion for leave to file a Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") to add claims under the NYLL on behalf of eight opt-in Plaintiffs: Sharon Carr, James Foster, Princess Logan-Williams, Jonathan Reece, Israel Rivera, Saul Veliz, Jose Vicent and Samuel Wright.4 (Letter, ECF No. 134.) On November 22, 2018, I denied Plaintiffs' Letter Motion for a conference and directed Plaintiffs to file a formal motion to amend. (Mem. Endorsement, ECF No. 135.)

On November 30, 2018, Plaintiffs filed their motion for leave to file a SAC. (Not. of Motion, ECF No. 139.) In their proposed SAC, Plaintiffs sought to add as named Plaintiffs nine opt-in Plaintiffs,5 the effect of which would be for such Plaintiffs to be permitted to assert claims under the NYLL (which has a longer statute of limitations than the FLSA, as addressed infra ). (Proposed SAC, ECF No. 140-1, ¶¶ 21-29.) In addition, Plaintiffs withdrew their Third Cause of Action (for Spread of Hours Wages under the NYLL) and Fourth Cause of Action (for Wage Statements under the NYLL). (See id. at 17-18.) Otherwise, the allegations of the SAC were identical to the allegations of the First Amended Complaint.

On December 6, 2018, Defendants opposed Plaintiffs' motion to amend. (ECF Nos. 149-50.) Defendants argued that they would be prejudiced by the amendment to add the opt-in Plaintiffs as parties to the NYLL claims since the Defendants did not have an opportunity to take those Plaintiffs' depositions. (Opp. Mem., ECF No. 150, at 2, 5-7.)

On December 7, 2018, the parties appeared for a telephone conference before the Court. (See 12/7/2018 Minute Entry.) During the conference, the Court deferred decision on the motion to amend pending trial. The Court reasoned that, since liability under the FLSA and the NYLL is in large part coextensive, the motion to amend implicated only the statute of limitations and the quantum of damages with respect to the opt-in Plaintiffs. The Court directed the parties to submit proof at trial regarding the nine opt-in Plaintiffs both as if the NYLL claims were being asserted by those Plaintiffs, and as if such claims were not being asserted.

Following the bench trial held from December 10, 2018 through December 14, 2018, and on January 7, 2019, Plaintiffs and Defendants each submitted a post-trial memorandum, as well as a response to one another's memorandum. (ECF Nos. 169, 170, 185 & 187.) In addition, Plaintiffs submitted a spreadsheet (and supplemental spreadsheet) of damages calculations (ECF Nos. 170-2 & 186-1), and Defendants submitted objections and corrections to such spreadsheets. (ECF No. 188.)

In this Opinion, I first address Plaintiffs' motion to amend. Next, I address the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. Finally, I address the amount of damages, if any, to be awarded to each of the Plaintiffs.

PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO AMEND IS GRANTED

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that a court should "freely" grant leave to amend "when justice so requires."6 Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). The decision to grant or deny leave to amend is within the trial court's discretion. See, e.g., Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc. , 401 U.S. 321, 330, 91 S.Ct. 795, 28 L.Ed.2d 77 (1971) (citing Foman v. Davis , 371 U.S. 178, 182, 83 S.Ct. 227, 9 L.Ed.2d 222 (1962) ). The court may deny leave to amend for "good reason," which involves an analysis of the factors articulated in Foman : undue delay, bad faith, futility of amendment, or undue prejudice to the opposing party. See McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp. , 482 F.3d 184, 200 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing Foman , 371 U.S. at 182, 83 S.Ct. 227 ). "Mere delay, however, absent a showing of bad faith or undue prejudice, does not provide a basis for a district court to deny the right to amend." State Teachers Ret. Bd. v. Fluor Corp. , 654 F.2d 843, 856 (2d Cir. 1981) (citations omitted). While the party seeking to amend its pleading must explain any delay, the party opposing the amendment "bears the burden of showing prejudice, bad faith, and futility of the amendment." United States ex rel. Raffington v. Bon Secours Health Sys., Inc. , 285 F.Supp.3d 759, 766...

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