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Zheng v. Liberty Apparel Co.

355 F.3d 61 (2003)

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Zheng v. Liberty Apparel Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

355 F.3d 61 (2003)

Facts

Liberty Apparel Company (Liberty) (defendant) was a garment-manufacturing company. Liberty employees designed garment patterns, created sample garments, purchased the necessary fabric for the garments, and cut the fabric. Liberty then delivered the cut fabric to contractors who employed workers to sew and finalize the garments. These garment-assembly workers were paid by the piece for their work. Ling Nan Zheng and 25 other workers (the workers) (plaintiffs) worked in a garment factory in New York City. The workers’ immediate employers were six contractors who contracted with Liberty and other garment manufacturers to perform assembly work. The workers claimed that they spent roughly 70 to 75 percent of their worktime assembling Liberty garments and that Liberty employees visited the factory between two and four times per week to supervise the workers. The Liberty employees inspected the finished garments and told the workers if any corrections needed to be made. The workers brought an action against the contractors and Liberty in federal district court alleging that the workers were not being paid appropriate wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York law. The workers asserted that although they were directly employed by the contractors, Liberty should be considered their joint employer for purposes of liability under the FLSA and New York law because the workers primarily worked on Liberty garments, performed a function integral to Liberty’s manufacturing business, and worked under Liberty’s supervision. However, Liberty argued that the contractors should be considered the workers’ sole employers. The district court granted summary judgment in Liberty’s favor after concluding that Liberty did not have sufficient control over the workers to be considered the workers’ joint employer. The workers appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cabranes, J.)

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