United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MICHAEL A SHIPP. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court upon Defendants Chapei LLC
d/b/a Wok Empire ("Chapei") and Cha Lee Lo's
(/'Ms. Lo") (collectively, "Defendants")
Motion for Judgment on Partial Findings pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(c). (See
July 10, 2019 Trial Tr. (Trial Tr. IF') 36:21-37:7;
95:4-5.) Plaintiffs Weigang Wang ("Mr. Wang") and
Hailong Yu ("'Mr. Yu") (collectively,
"Plaintiffs") opposed. (Id. 43:17-45:3;
98:17-99:24.) The Court has carefully considered the
parties' arguments and conducted a two-day bench trial.
For the reasons set forth below, and other good cause shown,
the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants'
Motion for Judgment on Partial Findings.
initiated this lawsuit against Defendants for wage and hour
violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C.
§201, et seq. ("FLSA") and New Jersey
Wage and Hour Law, N.J.S.A. 34:11 to -56a, et seq.
("NJWHL"). The Court held a bench trial on
July 9, 2019 and July 10, 2019. Plaintiffs called two
witnesses as part of their case-in-chief-Mr. Wang and Mr. Yu.
Defendants called one witness as part of their
moved for a Judgment on Partial Findings at the close of
Plaintiffs" casein-chief. (Trial Tr. [I 36:21-37:7.) The
Court reserved on the Motion until the close of evidence as
permitted under Rule 52(c) (id 46:22-47:9), and
Defendants renewed their Motion at the close of
Defendants' case-in-chief (id 95:4-5).
If a party has been fully heard on an issue during a nonjury
trial and the court finds against the party on that issue,
the court may enter judgment against the party on a claim or
defense that, under the controlling law, can be maintained or
defeated only with a favorable finding on that issue. The
court may, however, decline to render any judgment until the
close of evidence. A judgment on partial findings must be
supported by findings of fact and conclusions of law as
required by Rule 52(a).
judgment pursuant to Rule 52(c) is appropriate whe[n] the
plaintiff fails to make out a prima facie case or whe[n] the
Court determines that the preponderance of the evidence goes
against the plaintiffs claim." Lee v. Kim, No.
12-316, 2013 WL 4522581, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 27, 2013)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted); cf.
Vazquez v. Caesar's Paradise Stream Resort. 524
Fed.Appx. 831. 833 (3d Cir. 2013) (reviewing the district
court's grant of a Rule 52(c) motion that the defendant
raised at the close of the plaintiffs case-in-chief and then
renewed at the close of evidence). "'Unlike Rule 50,
under Rule 52(c), the court does not consider the evidence in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party, but rather
weighs the evidence, resolves any conflicts!, ] and
determines for itself where the preponderance of the evidence
lies." Kim, 2013 WL 452258] at *3 (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).
Findings of Fact
following section constitutes the Court's factual
findings only as it pertains to Defendants' Motion for
Judgment on Partial Findings. See red. R. Civ. Proc.
52(c) (requiring the Court to base its disposition on
findings of fact and conclusions of law as required by Rule
52(a)). The Court, therefore, only makes factual findings
with respect to Plaintiffs' FLSA claims and declines to
make factual findings with respect to Plaintiffs' MJWHL
claims. The below Findings of Fact are derived from facts
stipulated to in the final pre-trial order, as well as the
parties' trial exhibits, and the witnesses' trial
Background of Chapei
Chapei is a New Jersey limited liability company. (Final
Pre-trial Order, Stipulated Facts. ECF No. 84.)
Lo has the authority to hire and fire Chapei employees, as
well as determine Chapei employees' working hours and pay
rates. (Trial Tr. II 61:5-19.)
During the time period in question, Chapei operated seven
Chinese "fast food" restaurants, which were located
inside ShopRite supermarkets. (July 9, 2019 Trial Tr.
("Trial Tr. I") 17:19-18:4.)
During the relevant time period, all Chapei locations were
located within the following New Jersey towns: Aberdeen,
Brick Township,  Lawrenceville, Middletown, Neptune,
Somerville, and Toms River. (Trial Tr. I 16:22-17:1; Trial
Chapei's vendors included Heng Long, located in Union,
New Jersey, and Kenkau Market, located in Somerville. New
Jersey. (Trial Tr. II 58:9-59:4.)
2012, two employees worked at the following Chapei locations:
Aberdeen, Brick Township, Lawrenceville, Middletown, and
Somerville. (Trial Tr. II 63:2-21.)
any given time in 2012, one or two employees worked at
Chapei's Neptune location. (Id.)
any given time in 2012, three employees worked at
Chapei's Toms River location. (Id.)
number of employees located at each Chapei location generally
did not change between 2012-2015. (Id. 64:4-6.)
Chapel's Payment System
Chapei paid its employees by check once per month.
(Id. 17:3-8; 58:9-14.)
Each paycheck covered the employee's work for the prior