United States District Court, D. New Jersey
SUSAN D. WIGENTON, District Judge.
Before this Court are Defendants Capri Training Center, Inc. ("Capri") and Anne. E. Muenster-Sinton's ("Muenster-Sinton") (collectively referred to as "Defendants") and plaintiff April Atkins's ("Atkins" or "Plaintiff") filings regarding the following six pending motions: 1) Motion to Conditionally Certify Collection Action and to Authorize Notice of Pendency and Consent to Join ("Motion for Conditional Certification"); 2) Motion to Dismiss, which was converted to one for Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) ("Motion for Summary Judgment"); 3) Cross Motion to Stay ("Motion to Stay"); 4) Motion to Strike Plaintiff's April 25, 2014 Notice of Supplemental Authority ("Motion to Strike"); 5) Motion to Strike Plaintiff's July 31, 2014 Notice of Supplemental Authority ("Motion to Strike II"); and 6) Cross Motion for Time to Conduct Discovery Pursuant to Rule 56(d) ("Cross Motion for Time to Conduct Discovery").
This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Venue is proper in this District pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). This Court, having considered the parties' submissions, decides this matter without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78.
For the reasons set forth below, this Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, DENIES the Cross Motion for Time to Conduct Discovery, and DENIES Defendants' Motions to Strike, Plaintiff's Motion to Conditionally Certify, and Defendants' Motion to Stay as moot.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Capri is a for-profit corporation that includes beauty schools. (Compl. ¶ 10.) Atkins attended one of four New Jersey licensed beauty schools owned by Capri. (Compl. ¶ 9; Def. Br. 1.) Muenster-Sinton owned and controlled Capri Institute and the Capri Training Centers. (Compl. ¶ 71.) While she was a student, Atkins worked at Capri's clinic ("the Clinic") in Clifton, NJ, and provided services for paying customers in an effort to satisfy her statutorily required clinical training for a license in cosmetology. (Compl. ¶¶ 61, 66.) Atkins also performed "janitorial, clerical, [and] logistical functions that were essential and necessary" to the Clinic's continued operation. (Compl. ¶ 68(d); Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Facts Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 ("Defs.' Facts") ¶ 15.) Atkins logged over 500 hours at the Clinic and did not get paid for services rendered. (Compl. ¶¶ 5, 66.) According to her academic record, Atkins attended class for 27.5 hours per week. (Defs.' Facts ¶ 16.) On August 3, 2012, Atkins completed the training program at Capri and obtained her New Jersey license to practice cosmetology. (Defs.' Facts ¶ 5.)
Atkins alleges that she and other students performing similar tasks are considered "employees" of Defendants under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and/or New Jersey State labor laws, and are therefore legally entitled to wages for services provided. ( See generally Compl. ¶¶ 4-5.)
On November 12, 2013, Atkins, individually and on behalf of similarly situated plaintiffs, commenced this action against Defendants. (Compl. ¶ 1.) On January 7, 2014, Plaintiff filed the Motion for Conditional Certification regarding the collection action and authorization notice of pendency and consent to join. (Dkt. No. 3.) On January 31, 2014, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Dkt. No. 13.) On February 18, 2014, Defendants filed opposition and a cross motion to stay Plaintiff's Motion for Conditional Certification until the resolution of the then pending Motion to Dismiss. (Dkt. No. 17.) On April 25, 2014, Plaintiff filed a notice of supplemental authority in support of Plaintiff's opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (Dkt. No. 25.) On May 15, 2014, Defendants responded by filing a Motion to Strike the supplemental authority. (Dkt. No. 26.) On June 10, 2014, this Court converted Defendants' pending Motion to Dismiss to one for summary judgment, and subsequently the parties filed additional briefs regarding the Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 30.) On June 24, 2014, Plaintiff filed opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment and a Cross Motion for Time to Conduct Discovery. On July 7, 2014, Defendants filed opposition. On July 31, 2014, Plaintiff filed a notice of additional supplemental authorities, and on August 8, 2014, Defendants filed the Motion to Strike II to strike the supplemental authority submitted on July 31, 2014. On August 12, 2014, Plaintiff's filed opposition to the Motion to Strike II, and on August 26, 2014, Defendants filed a reply to that motion.
Motion for Summary Judgment (Upon Conversion from Motion to Dismiss)
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d) "[i]f, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c), matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56. All parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). The court has complete discretion to accept such materials beyond the pleadings. See In re Kiwi Intern. Air Lines, Inc., 344 F.3d 311, 315 n.3 (3d Cir. 2003); Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 2d § 1366, at 491 (1990). However, should it so choose, the court is required to convert the motion to one for summary judgment and provide the parties notice and a reasonable opportunity to present all relevant material. See, e.g., In re Rockefeller Ctr Properties Sec. Litig., 184 F.3d 280, 287-89 (3d Cir. 1999); Rose v. Bartle, 871 F.2d 331, 339-43 (3d Cir. 1989).
Summary judgment is appropriate where the movant establishes 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). A factual dispute between the parties will not defeat a motion for summary judgment unless it is both genuine and material. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). A factual dispute is "genuine" if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248. The dispute is not "genuine" if it merely involves "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). A factual dispute is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
The moving party bears the burden to prove that if the evidentiary material of record were reduced to admissible evidence in court, it would be insufficient to permit the nonmoving party to carry its burden of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). Once the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmovant who must set forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial and may not rest upon the mere allegations, speculations, unsupported assertions or denials of its pleadings. Shields v. Zuccarini, 254 F.3d 476, 481 (3d Cir. 2001). "The nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and, by affidavits or other evidence, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Ivan v. Cnty. of Middlesex, 595 F.Supp.2d 425, 447 (D.N.J. 2009) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). "Conclusory statements, general denials, and factual allegations not based on personal knowledge [are] insufficient to avoid summary judgment." Olympic Junior, Inc. v. David Crystal, Inc., 463 F.2d 1141, 1146 (3d Cir. 1972)(internal citations omitted).
"In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.'" Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). Further, the nonmoving party is required to "point to concrete evidence in the record which supports each essential element of its case." Black Car Assistance Corp. v. New Jersey, 351 F.Supp.2d 284, 286 (D.N.J. 2004). If the nonmoving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which... [it has] the burden of proof, " then the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23.
Conditional Collective Action Certification
The Third Circuit has stated that "conditional certification is not really a certification. It is actually the district courts exercise of [its] discretionary power, upheld... to facilitate the sending of notice to potential class members, and is neither necessary nor sufficient for the existence of a representative action under [the] FLSA." Zavala v. Wal Mart Stores Inc., 691 F.3d 527 (3d 2012) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted); Adami v. Cardo Windows, Inc., CIV. 12-2804 JBS/JS, 2014 WL 320048 at *7 (D.N.J. Jan. 29, 2014); Symczyk v. Genesis HealthCare Corp., 656 F.3d 189, 194 (3d Cir.2011).
A motion for conditional certification need not be ruled on immediately. See generally Goldman v. RadioShack Corp., CIV.A. 2:03-CV-0032, 2003 WL 21250571 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 16, 2003). When a court is faced with the task of ruling on multiple motions, in the name of administrative efficiency, the court may first address other pending motions before ruling on a motion for conditional certification. Beery v. Quest Diagnostics, Inc., 12-CV-00231, 2013 WL 3441792 (D.N.J. July 8, 2013) ...