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Arya v. Taxak

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville

November 17, 2017

MEENU ARYA, ET AL. PLAINTIFF
v.
AJAY TAXAK, ET AL. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on two pending motions.[1] First, Defendants AU Infotech, LLC, AU Wholesale, LLC, and Ajayupu, LLC (“the Ajay Defendants”) filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), [R. 15.], which incorporated the arguments from Ajay Taxak's Motion to Dismiss, [R. 11]. Second, Defendants Sanjay Taxak, Dakshin South Indian Restaurant, Fateh Imports, Inc., Indra International, Subzi Mandi, Midwest Logistics, LLC, Samayra, Inc., Sanprit Resources, Inc., Swades, LLC, Taxak University, Taxak's Gasoline, LLC, Yoway, LLC, and Zayka Foods, LLC (“the Sanjay Defendants”) filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). [R. 16.] Fully briefed, this matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons stated herein, the Ajay LLC Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, [R. 15.], is DENIED, and the Sanjay Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, [R. 16.], is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         This case involves the story of three Indian immigrants and their journey to start a new life in America. The Plaintiffs allege that what looked like an encouraging opportunity at first, revealed itself to be a trap involving unpaid labor and broken promises. The defendants deny these allegations.

         A. Plaintiff Hooda Moves to the United States

         The factual allegations as set out in the Amended Complaint, [R. 12 (Amended Complaint)], and taken as true are as follows. See Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Great Lakes Steel v. Deggendorf, 716 F.2d 1101, 1105 (6th Cir. 1983)). In December of 2009, Sanjay Hooda (“Hooda”) fled to the United States due to a rising tide of violence surrounding political conflict in his home of Haryana, India. [R. 12 at 6.] He briefly settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he was put into contact with Ajay Taxak (“Ajay”), another former citizen of Haryana. [Id.] Plaintiffs state that in November of 2010, Ajay told Hooda over the phone that he could accommodate Hooda with a good job, room and board, and legal assistance with his immigration status if Hooda moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where Ajay resided. [Id.] Plaintiffs allege that shortly after that phone conversation, Ajay promised that if Hooda loaned him $1, 500, Ajay could arrange the job, housing, and legal assistance discussed earlier, and he would repay Hooda once he arrived in Louisville. [Id.] Thereafter, Hooda wired the money to Ajay, and, in January 2011, Hooda moved to Louisville. [Id.]

         After arriving in Louisville, Hooda met Ajay's brother, Sanjay Taxak, and accepted a job at one of the Taxak family' businesses, the Subzi Mandi grocery store. [Id. at 7.] Plaintiffs assert that the job was to pay a rate of approximately $1, 600 per month, along with room and board and legal immigration assistance. [Id.] Plaintiffs claim that after he accepted the job, Ajay collected Hooda's identification-related documentation and the rest of his money, $1, 400, explaining that he would keep them safe. [Id.]

         B. Hooda's Housing

         Plaintiffs describe Hooda's initial housing as an unfurnished back-room of the restaurant, which he shared with eleven other workers. [Id. at 8.] Around 2013, Plaintiffs allege that the Taxak brothers moved Hooda and the other workers to a small house across the street from the grocery where he shared a room with an abusive roommate. [Id.] Furthermore, they state that eight to eleven people lived in the house at various times. [Id.]

         C. Hooda's Work Schedule and Conditions

         Plaintiffs state that from January 2011 until about June 2011 Hooda worked approximately 98 hours per week; from July 2011 to October 2013 he worked approximately 85 hours per week; and from November 2013 until June 2014 he worked approximately 80 hours per week. [Id. at 10.] Plaintiffs allege that all three of these periods involved long hours with only one fifteen minute break per day. [Id. at 9-11.] Furthermore, Hooda was supposed to have Mondays off, but he was often forced to work at one of the other Taxak family ventures, including the family farm. [Id.] Plaintiffs state that Hooda suffers from back pain, but he was consistently denied further breaks by the Taxak brothers. [Id. at 11.] Also, Plaintiffs maintain that the Taxaks kept the store at unbearably cold temperatures, and Sanjay threatened to punish and beat Hooda if he used the heater. [Id.] Allegedly, this caused Hooda to become ill, which the Taxak brothers refused to accept as an excuse for him not to work. [Id.] Plaintiffs assert that Sanjay intimidated and threatened Hooda frequently, and Hooda witnessed him follow through on these threats with co-workers. [Id. at 14.] Plaintiffs allege that Sanjay prevented Hooda from taking another job in 2013 at a gas station by threatening the owner. [Id. at 12-13.]

         D. Hooda's Compensation

         Overall, Plaintiffs assert that the wages paid to Hooda were significantly below the amount required by federal and Kentucky minimum wage laws. [Id. at 12.] Plaintiffs claim that Hooda was not paid until June of 2011. [Id. at 11.] Allegedly he was paid $1, 600 per month for June and July of 2011, but he did not receive payment for the month of August. [Id.] From August onward, Plaintiffs state that Hooda's wages steadily increased to where he was paid $2, 500 per month from March 2014 through June 2014. [Id. at 11-12.] Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants never provided Hooda with back pay for missing wages, never gave Hooda pay records, failed to post notices describing state and federal wage laws in the grocery or the restaurant, and refused to pay Hooda back the $2, 900 initially taken from him. [Id. at 12.] Furthermore, Plaintiffs maintain that, despite Hooda's inquiries, Sanjay only took Hooda to see a lawyer once and to one or more court dates, but the lawyer eventually stopped representing Hooda due to Sanjay not paying him or bringing Hooda to their meetings. [Id. at 13.] Allegedly, Ajay told Hooda he would be arrested for his immigration status if he tried to report the defendants to law enforcement authorities. [Id. at 12.]

         E. Plaintiffs Meenu and Narender Arya Move to the United States

         What started as a temporary visit to the United States for Meenu and Narender Arya in April of 2013, allegedly ended as a permanent re-location to Louisville when Sanjay offered the couple employment at his restaurant, Dakshin. [Id. at 14]. Plaintiffs state that Sanjay promised them a wage of $600 per week, lodging, food, and immigration legal assistance. [Id. at 14-15.] The Aryas accepted his offer. [Id.]

         F. The Aryas Housing

         Plaintiffs state that the Aryas moved into the same small, unfurnished house as Hooda. [Id.] Plaintiffs allege that it was an unsafe and hostile environment, especially once Meenu became pregnant in February of 2014. [Id. at 15.] It was around this same time that the Plaintiffs recall Sanjay collected their passports so the attorney he was to hire for them could process their immigration paperwork. [Id.] Plaintiffs claim that Sanjay never hired legal assistance to represent the Aryas as he promised. [Id. at 19.]

         Eventually, around March or April of 2014, the Plaintiffs allege that the unhealthy living conditions in the house caused the Aryas to feel like they could no longer live there. [Id. at 19.] When they confronted Sanjay about it, he allegedly refused to help them re-locate and threatened to physically harm Narender if he complained again. [Id.]

         G. The Aryas' Work Schedule and Conditions

         Similar to Hooda, the Plaintiffs describe the Aryas' weekly schedule as a six day work week consisting of long hours and few breaks. [Id. at 16.] The Plaintiffs state that the typical work day consisted of a first shift from 10:00 A.M. to 2:30 P.M., followed by a second shift that would last from 4:45 P.M. to between 10:00 and 11:00 P.M., but sometimes 12:30 or 1:00 A.M. if they had to cook for the other workers. [Id.] Plaintiffs allege that they were not permitted to take time off work, even in circumstances where they needed to see a doctor due to illness. [Id. at 17.] They claim that Sanjay told them to keep working or they would never get immigration assistance. [Id.] Plaintiffs also allege that Sanjay regularly observed the workers at the restaurant, and he was verbally abusive toward the Aryas on these occasions. [Id.]

         H. The Aryas' Compensation

         The Plaintiffs allege that the wages the Aryas received fall significantly below what is required under federal and Kentucky minimum wage laws. [Id. at 20.] Furthermore, they claim that the Aryas did not receive compensation for their first month of work in December 2013. [Id. at 17.] When they asked for payment, the Plaintiffs allege that Sanjay lied to the Aryas, saying that this was a “trial period, ” and their wages were going toward housing, food, taxes, and immigration lawyers (which were never hired). [Id. at 18.] Allegedly, from January 2013 to April 2014, Sanjay paid Meenu approximately $1, 200 per month, which would be less than the law requires, as well as what was promised. [Id.] Plaintiffs state that Narender received twenty to fifty dollars in tips each day, but these were unfairly distributed among employees. [Id. at 18-19.]

         Allegedly, the Aryas confronted Sanjay several times about his failure to pay what he promised and the uneven distribution of tips. [Id. at 19.] They recall that Sanjay replied with the familiar excuse that he was using that money to pay taxes and immigration attorneys. [Id.] Plaintiffs claim that by May and June of 2014, Sanjay stopped paying them entirely. [Id.]

         I. Plaintiffs Leave Louisville

         On June 26, 2014, Plaintiffs state that Narender once again confronted Sanjay about the payment of wages, legal assistance, and the abusive behavior of Hooda's roommate. [Id. at 20.] Allegedly, Sanjay swore at Narender and accused him of asking too many questions. [Id.] When Narender told Sanjay not to swear at him, Plaintiffs allege that Sanjay dragged Narender by the collar through the restaurant and hit him in the neck. [Id.] The Plaintiffs recall that the next day they tried, unsuccessfully, to contact Sanjay for the return of their passports. [Id.] They claim that when the Aryas arrived at the restaurant they were met by Sanjay's nephew, Singh, who physically beat Narender while scolding him for talking to Sanjay disrespectfully and asking so many questions. [Id.] Plaintiffs further allege that when the visibly pregnant Meenu yelled at him to stop, Singh shoved her to the floor and tried to kick her in the abdomen but was blocked by Narender. [Id. at 21.] Plaintiffs state that Hooda was working that morning and tried to intervene, but backed off when Singh threatened to beat him up too. [Id. at 21.]

         Plaintiffs allege that Sanjay acknowledged the fact that he had his nephew attack them. [Id.] They state that Sanjay then returned the Aryas' passports and threatened that he would break their hands and legs if he saw them again. [Id.] Plaintiffs claim that Sanjay also showed Hooda his gun and threatened to shoot him. [Id.] Plaintiffs recall that Hooda then called a friend who took the Aryas to the hospital so they could have their injuries treated, which is where they filed a police report. [Id.] Allegedly, the Aryas then left for Chicago, but Hooda remained in Louisville in order to retrieve his passport, immigration documentation, and money from Sanjay. [Id. at 22.] Plaintiffs allege that Sanjay told Hooda he did not have his documentation and he would break Hooda's legs if he ever saw him again. [Id.] Allegedly, Hooda then left Louisville and joined the Aryas in Chicago. [Id.]

         On April 10, 2017, Plaintiffs filed the Amended Complaint, which contains fourteen causes of action involving minimum wage and overtime compensation violations, a human trafficking violation, promissory estoppel, quantum meruit, unjust enrichment, fraud, intentional interference with a prospective contractual relation, and conversion. [R. 12.] The following month, the Ajay LLC Defendants and the Sanjay Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, [R. 15], and a Partial Motion to Dismiss, [R. 16], respectfully.

         STANDARD

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In order to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a party must “plead enough ‘factual matter' to raise a ‘plausible' inference of wrongdoing.” 16630 Southfield Ltd. P'ship v. Flagstar Bank, F.S.B., 727 F.3d 502, 504 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A claim becomes plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must presume all of the factual allegations in the complaint are true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc., 552 F.3d at 434 (citing Great Lakes Steel, 716 F.2d at 1105). “The court need not, however, accept unwarranted factual inferences.” Id. (citing Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir. 1987)). Should the well-pleaded facts support no “more than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” then dismissal is warranted. Iqbal, 556 U.S at 679. The Court may grant a motion to dismiss “only if, after drawing all reasonable inferences from the allegations in the complaint in favor of the plaintiff, the complaint still fails to allege a plausible theory of relief.” Garceau v. City of Flint, 572 F. App'x. 369, 371 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677- 79).

         DISCUSSION

         In their Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs assert fourteen causes of action. [R. 12]. The Court will address each in turn, weighing them against the standard articulated above. However, first, the Court will address the introductory arguments surrounding the claims against different entities that involve the defendants.

         I. Legal ...


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