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Friday, August 13, 2010

Second Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Judgment for Garment Workers In FLSA Suit

In Ling Nan Zheng v. Liberty Apparel Co. Inc., --- F.3d ---, 2010 WL 3119915 (2d Cir., August 10, 2010), the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment in favor of a group of garment workers. The Court described the case as follows:

Plaintiffs-appellees are 25 Chinese garment workers living and working in New York City's Chinatown. In 1999, they sued Liberty Apparel Company and its principals Albert Nigri and Hagai Laniado (collectively, “the Liberty Defendants”), and others, for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), ... and New York state analogs.... After a lengthy procedural history, the case went to a jury trial, and the principal issue was whether the Liberty Defendants were plaintiffs' “joint employer” for purposes of the FLSA and New York state analogs. The jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs, and following resolution of various post-trial motions, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Sullivan, J.) entered judgment accordingly.

The Liberty Defendants appeal that judgment. In this opinion, we consider their contention that the district court-rather than the jury-should have determined whether the Liberty Defendants were plaintiffs' joint employer. And on that issue, we affirm. We consider the Liberty Defendants' remaining arguments in a summary order filed contemporaneously with this opinion.

Slip op. at 1.

The Court explained that, in the context of a jury trial, "the question whether a defendant is a plaintiff's joint employer is a mixed question of law and fact. Such questions 'involve[ ] the application of a legal standard to a particular set of facts.' ... The jury's role was to apply the facts bearing on the multi-factor joint employment inquiry to the legal definition of joint employer, as that term had been (properly) defined by the district court in the jury charge." Slip op. at 3. Accordingly, the Court found no error in allowing the jury to determine the issue.

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