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Min Sik Park v. Dundee Market III, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 20, 2014

MIN SIK PARK and MI OG PARK, Plaintiff,
v.
DUNDEE MARKET III, INC.; WILLOW MARKET, INC.; CHUL MIN KIM; SANG H. KIM; HO YOUNG HONG; and YOUNG JA HONG, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge.

Plaintiffs, Min Sik Park and Mi Og Park, filed a five-count Complaint against Dundee Market III, Inc. ("Dundee"); Willow Market, Inc. ("Willow"); Chul Min Kim, Sang H. Kim; Ho Young Hong; and Young Ja Hong (collectively, the "Individual Defendants"). Count I alleges violations of the Fair Labor Standard Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §201 et. seq. Count II alleges violations of the minimum wage provision of the Illinois Minimum Wage Law ("IMWL"), 820 ILL. COMP. STAT. 105/1 et seq. Count III alleges violations of the overtime provision of the IMWL. Count IV is a claim for piercing the corporate veil of Dundee and Willow and finding the Individual Defendants personally liable for the obligations of the corporate Defendants. Count V is a claim for unjust enrichment. The Defendants move to dismiss Counts II and III of Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

BACKGROUND

The following is taken from the Complaint, which is assumed to be true for the purposes of a motion to dismiss. See Reger Dev., LLC v. Nat'l City Bank, 592 F.3d 759, 763 (7th Cir. 2010). Plaintiff claims that the Defendants did not pay any wages to Plaintiffs during the course of their employment. ( Id. at ¶ 1.) Plaintiffs further allege that they were working in excess of 40 hours per week and the Defendants did not pay any overtime wages. ( Id. at ¶ 1.) Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants' failure to pay regular and overtime wages was willful and intentional. ( Id. at ¶ 1.) Defendants Ho Young Hong, Young Ja Hong, Chul M. Kim, and Sang H. Kim were the sole governing and dominating personalities of the corporate Defendants: Willow Market, Inc. and Dundee Market III, Inc. ( Id. at ¶ 66.) Defendant Mrs. Hong was the president of Willow Market, Inc. ( Id. at ¶ 69.)

LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 12(b)(6) permits a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint must allege enough facts to support a claim that is "plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007). Facial plausibility exists when the court can "draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). All well-pleaded allegations are presumed to be true, and all inferences are read in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Lavalais v. Village of Melrose Park, 734 F.3d 629, 632 (7th Cir. 2013). This presumption is not extended to legal conclusions, or threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.' Alam v. Miller Brewing Co., 709 F.3d 662, 666 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009)). The complaint must provide a defendant "with fair notice' of the claim and its basis." Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) and Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

ANALYSIS

Plaintiffs claim that Defendants did not pay them minimum wage for any hours they worked and that Defendants did not compensate them for overtime wages for hours they worked in excess of 40 hours per work week. Plaintiffs also claim that Individual Defendants are "employers" as defined by the IMWL and should be held personally liable for any violations of the statute. The Individual Defendants argue that Counts II & III of the Complaint should be dismissed as to them since they do not fall under the definition of "employer" in the IMWL.

No Illinois court of review has addressed this particular point of statutory interpretation. When interpreting an Illinois statute without interpretation from the Supreme Court of Illinois, a federal court predicts how that court would address the issue. Adams v. Catrambone, 359 F.3d 858, 862 (7th Cir. 2004). The primary goal of statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the legislature. People v. Marshall, 950 N.E.2d 668 (Ill. 2011). A statute is construed as a whole and the language is given its plain and ordinary meaning. Id. Words and phrases are considered in light of other relevant provisions in the statute, and a court must avoid rendering any part meaningless or superfluous. Id. It is presumed the legislature did not intend a statute to have absurd, inconvenient, or unjust consequences. Id. at 293. Where the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, the statute applies without the aids of statutory construction. See People v. Davison, 906 N.E.2d 545 (Ill. 2009).

The parties dispute the definition of "employer" in the IMWL. The IMWL defines an "Employer" as:

any individual, partnership, association, corporation, limited liability company, business trust, governmental or quasi-governmental body, or any person or group of persons acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee, for which one or more persons are gainfully employed on some day within a calendar year. An employer is subject to this Act in a calendar year on and after the first day in such calendar year in which he employs one or more persons, and for the following calendar year.

820 ILL. COMP. STAT. 105/3(c).

Individual Defendants argue canons of statutory construction illustrate that personal liability is not available under the IMWL. They argue the definition of "employer" under the IMWL should be interpreted in the same way as the definition of "employer" under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act ("IWPCA"), 820 ILL. COMP. STAT. 115/1 et. seq. The IWPCA defines an "Employer" as:

any individual, partnership, association, corporation, limited liability company, business trust, employment and labor placement agencies where wage payments are made directly or indirectly by the agency or business for work undertaken by employees under hire to a third party pursuant to a contract between the business or agency with the third party, or any person or group of persons acting directly or indirectly in ...

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