Zheng V. Liberty Apparel Company Inc

Topics: Supreme Court of the United States, Employment, Labour law Pages: 30 (10176 words) Published: April 13, 2013

Ling Nan ZHENG, Ren Zhu Yang, Yun Zhen Huang, Wen Qin Lin, Sai Bing Wang, Ye Biao Yang, Cui Zhen Lin, Rong Yun Zheng, Hui Fang Lin, Xiu Ying Zheng, Jin Ping Lin, Hui Ming Dong, Yu Bing Luo, Sau Chi Kwok, Sai Xian Tang, Yi Zhen Lin, Rui Fang Zhang, Mei Juan Yu, Mei Ying Li, Qin Fang Qiu, Yi Mei Lin, Mei Zhu Dong, Fung Lam, Xiu Zhu Ye, Sing Kei Lam, and Xue Jin Lin, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. LIBERTY APPAREL COMPANY INC., Albert Nigri, and Hagai Laniado, Defendants-Cross-Claimants-Appellees, Ngon Fong Yuen, 88 Fashion Inc., Top Five Sportswear, Inc., S.P.R. Sportswear, Inc. and 91 Fashion, Inc., Defendants, Lai Huen Yam, a/k/a Steven Yam, 998 Fashions, Inc. and 103 Fashion Inc., Defendants-Cross-Defendants.

No. 02-7826.

Argued:  Jan. 16, 2003. -- December 30, 2003
Before:  WINTER, LEVAL, and CABRANES, Circuit Judges.

James Reif (Margaret A. Malloy, of counsel), Gladstein, Reif & Meginniss, LLP, New York, NY, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.Michael H. Klein, Kestenbaum, Dannenberg & Klein, LLP, New York, NY, for Defendants-Appellees.Jennifer S. Brand, Assistant Attorney General (M. Patricia Smith, Assistant Attorney General, Daniel J. Chepaitis, Assistant Solicitor General, of counsel, Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General of the State of New York, on the brief), Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York, New York, NY, for amicus curiae Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General of the State of New York.Catherine K. Ruckelshaus (Laurence E. Norton, II, Amy Sugimori, of counsel), National Employment Law Project, Inc., New York, NY, for amici curiae Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund and National Employment Lawyers' Association.

This case asks us to decide whether garment manufacturers who hired contractors to stitch and finish pieces of clothing were “joint employers” within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and New York law.   Plaintiffs, garment workers in New York City who were directly employed by the contractors, claim that the manufacturers were their joint employers because they worked predominantly on the manufacturers' garments, they performed a line-job that was integral to the production of the manufacturer's product, and their work was frequently and directly supervised by the manufacturers' agents.   The manufacturers respond that the contractors, who, among other things, hired and paid plaintiffs to assemble clothing for numerous manufacturers, were plaintiffs' sole employers.   Both plaintiffs and the manufacturers moved for summary judgment on the issue of joint employment.

The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Richard Conway Casey, Judge ), applying the four-factor test set forth in Carter v. Dutchess Community College, 735 F.2d 8 (2d Cir.1984), granted the manufacturers' motion, and held that the manufacturers could not be held liable for violations of the FLSA or its New York statutory analogues.   The District Court also declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a surviving New York claim.

We conclude that the District Court erred when it limited its analysis to the four factors identified in Carter.   Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of the District Court and remand the cause to the District Court with instructions concerning further proceedings.


The relevant facts are laid out in Judge Casey's opinion, Zheng v. Liberty Apparel Co., 2002 WL 398663, at *1-2 (S.D.N.Y. Mar.13, 2002), and we recount only those facts necessary to resolve the issues on appeal.   Unless otherwise noted, the facts are undisputed.

Plaintiffs-Appellants are 26 non-English-speaking adult garment workers who worked in a factory at 103 Broadway in New York's Chinatown.   They brought this action against both (1) their immediate employers, six contractors doing business at 103 Broadway (“Contractor Corporations”) and their principals...
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