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Wang v. Fu Leen Meng Restaurant Limited Liability Co.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 23, 2018

QU WANG, Plaintiff,

          KELI LIU HANG & ASSOCIATES PLLC On behalf of Plaintiff


          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         Presently before the Court is the motion of Plaintiff for default judgment in his favor on his claims against Defendants concerning Defendants' failure to pay him the proper regular and overtime wages in violation of the Federal Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and the New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law (“NJWHL”), N.J.S.A. 34:11-56 et seq. For the reasons expressed below, Plaintiff's motion will be granted.


         According to his complaint, [1] from March 23, 2016 to August 14, 2016, Plaintiff, Qu Wang, was employed as a delivery worker by Defendant Fu Leen Meng Restaurant Limited Liability Company d/b/a Fu Leen Meng, a Chinese restaurant. Plaintiff claims that he worked six days a week with Wednesdays off totaling 73 hours per week. Monday through Thursday and on Sunday, Plaintiff worked from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. for twelve hours each day without break; on Friday and Saturday, Plaintiff worked from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. for thirteen hours without break. Plaintiff claims that throughout his employment, he was paid by cash at a fixed rate of $1, 400 per month regardless of the actual hours he worked. Plaintiff also claims that he was never reimbursed for “tools of the trade” expenses related to making deliveries, including $900 he spent on vehicle maintenance.

         Plaintiff alleges that the owners and operators of Fu Leen Meng, Defendants Jian Shao, Lewen Shao, and Yan Ying Shao, knowingly and willfully operated their business with a policy of not paying him the proper minimum wage and the proper overtime wage, and by not reimbursing him for his “tools of the trade” expenses, in violation of the FLSA and NJWHL.

         Plaintiff filed his complaint on November 23, 2016, and it was served on Defendants on December 6, 2016. Defendants failed to appear in the action, and the Clerk entered default at Plaintiff's request on June 21, 2017. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed the instant motion for default judgment, seeking judgment for unpaid wages and an equal amount in the form of liquidated damages, as well as reasonable attorney's fees and costs of the action.


         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         This Court has original federal question jurisdiction over this controversy under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and has supplemental jurisdiction over the New Jersey state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

         B. Default

         The first step in obtaining a default judgment is the entry of default. “When a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the Clerk must enter the party's default.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). The Clerk entered default against Defendants on June 21, 2017.

         C. Default Judgment

         “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2) authorizes courts to enter a default judgment against a properly served defendant who fails to a file a timely responsive pleading.” Chanel v. Gordashevsky, 558 F.Supp.2d 532, 535 (D.N.J. 2008) (citing Anchorage Assoc. v. Virgin Is. Bd. of Tax Rev., 922 F.2d 168, 177 n.9 (3d Cir. 1990)). However, a party seeking default judgment “is not entitled to a default judgment as of a right.” Franklin v. Nat'l Maritime Union of America, 1991 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9819, at *3-4 (D.N.J. 1991) (quoting 10 Wright, Miller & Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2685 (1983)), aff'd, 972 F.2d 1331 (3d Cir. 1992). The decision to enter a default judgment is “left primarily to the discretion of the district court.” Hritz v. Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1180 (3d Cir. 1984).

         Although every “well-pled allegation” of the complaint, except those relating to damages, are deemed admitted, Comdyne I. Inc. v. Corbin, 908 F.2d 1142, 1149 (3d Cir. 1990), before entering a default judgment the Court must decide whether “the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action, since a party in default does not admit mere conclusions of law, ” Chanel, 558 F.Supp.2d at 535 (citing Directv, Inc. v. Asher, No. 03-1969, 2006 WL 680533, at *1 (D.N.J. Mar. 14, 2006)). “Three factors control whether a default judgment should be granted: (1) prejudice to the plaintiff if default is denied, (2) whether the defendant appears to have a litigable defense, and (3) whether defendant's delay is due to culpable conduct.” Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 164 (3d Cir. 2000); United States v. $55, 518.05 in U.S. Currency, 728 F.2d 192, 195 (3d Cir. 1984). If a review of the complaint demonstrates a valid cause of action, the Court must then determine whether plaintiff is entitled to default judgment.

         C. Analysis

         1. Whether Plaintiff has ...

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