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Collins v. Kohl's Department Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

June 11, 2018

STACY COLLINS, individually and on behalf of other similarly situated individuals, Plaintiffs,
v.
KOHL'S DEPARTMENT STORES, INC., and KOHL'S CORPORATION, Defendants.

          RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Stacy Collins (“Plaintiff”), individually and on behalf of other similarly situated individuals, filed a Complaint in this Court against Kohl's Department Stores, Inc., and Kohl's Corporation (“Defendants” or “Kohl's”) on January 11, 2018. Compl., ECF No. 1. On March 15, 2018, Kohl's moved to transfer this case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Division (“Eastern District of Wisconsin”), arguing that the Eastern District of Wisconsin would be the most convenient venue. Mot. to Transfer, ECF No. 12.

         For the reasons discussed below, the motion to transfer is GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Ms. Collins, who lives in Connecticut, allegedly worked for Kohl's from June 2008 until October 19, 2017, in Enfield, Connecticut, and Manchester, Connecticut. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 12.

         Kohl's is a Delaware corporation with a principal place of business in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. Id. ¶¶ 13-14. Kohl's owns and operates approximately 1, 155 retail stores throughout the country. Id. ¶¶ 15, 18.

         A. Factual Allegations

         In June 2008, Kohl's allegedly hired Ms. Collins to work in its store in Enfield, Connecticut. Compl. ¶ 17. After going through management training, Ms. Collins allegedly was assigned to be the Children, Footwear and Home Assistant Store Manager. Id.

         In 2014, Kohl's allegedly transferred Ms. Collins to its store in Manchester, Connecticut, where she also worked as the Children, Footwear and Home Assistant Store Manager until approximately July 2015. Id.

         In August 2015, Kohl's allegedly assigned Ms. Collins to be an Assistant Store Manager of Human Resources and Operations in its Manchester, Connecticut, store. Id. She worked in that position until October 19, 2017. Id.

         Ms. Collins alleges that Kohl's employs four types of Assistant Store Managers in its stores across the country: Assistant Store Manager of Human Resources and Operations; Children, Footwear, and Home Assistant Store Managers; Apparel and Accessories Assistant Store Managers; and Overnight Freight and Replenishment Assistant Store Managers. Id. ¶ 20. Ms. Collins alleges that the responsibilities for all types of Assistant Store Managers are essentially the same: to “perform mostly the non-exempt labor of the stores in which they work, including unloading trucks, unpacking merchandise, filling on-line orders, stocking shelves, customer service and operating cash registers.” Id. ¶ 21.

         Ms. Collins alleges that Kohl's classifies the Assistant Store Managers (“ASMs”) as exempt from overtime, and that it pays them a weekly salary with no overtime compensation for working more than forty hours in a week. Id. ¶ 22. The ASMs allegedly each report to a Store Manager, who is allegedly “the real management authority of the store, ” and who may schedule the ASM to work up to forty-five hours per week, but allegedly often schedule the ASM for fifty or more hours. Id. ¶ 23. In particular, Ms. Collins alleges, during the holiday season in November, December, and the first part of January, “Defendants schedule ASMs [to work] for six days and 54 hours per week.” Id. ¶ 24. ASMs are also allegedly scheduled once annually to do inventory, which requires “approximately 60 hours of work.” Id. ¶ 25.

         Ms. Collins alleges that Kohl's classifies all ASMs as exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act throughout its stores, based on the general job description of an ASM. Id. ¶ 28. Ms. Collins alleges, however, that “ASMs do not spend most of their time on exempt tasks, ” but rather spend most of their time “performing non-exempt duties, such as unloading freight, stocking shelves, filling on-line orders, ensuring that the merchandise was arranged according to company standards, counting inventory, and organizing the store.” Id. ¶ 31.[1] Ms. Collins alleges that Kohl's has “classif[ied] its ASMs as exempt executives in disregard for the facts and the law, ” knowing that “the primary duty of the ASMs is not management and that the law does not permit employers to classify employees as exempt executives unless their primary duty is management, ” and knowing that “ASMs work more than 40 hours per week without overtime pay.” Id. ¶ 33.

         B. Procedural History

         On January 11, 2018, Ms. Collins filed this Complaint, “on behalf of herself and all other ASMs who have worked for Defendants around the country during the period beginning three (3) years prior to the filing of this lawsuit until the date of final judgment in this matter.” Id. ¶ 36. Ms. Collins asserted a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 21 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. (Count One), and a violation of the Connecticut Wage Act, Con. Gen. Stat. § 31-58, et seq. (Count Two). Id. ¶¶ 45-49. Under Count Two, Ms. Collins seeks relief under Connecticut law on behalf of “herself and on behalf of a class consisting of all ASMs in Connecticut during the period beginning two (2) years prior to the filing of this lawsuit until the date of final judgment in this matter.” Id. at ¶¶ 38, 47-49.

         On March 15, 2018, Kohl's moved to transfer venue to the Eastern District of Wisconsin. ECF Nos. 12.[2] On April 5, 2018, Ms. Collins opposed the motion to transfer. ECF No. 29.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Motions to transfer venue are governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which provides that, “[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.” See also Semente v. Empire Healthchoice Assurance, Inc., No. 14-cv-5644 (JMF), 2014 WL 4967193, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 29, 2014) (“Even if venue is proper . . . the Court may still transfer the case to a more appropriate forum pursuant to Section 1404(a).”). A motion to transfer venue is “typically considered at an early stage in a case.” Jones v. Walgreen, Co., 463 F.Supp.2d 267, 271 (D. Conn. 2006) (citing Smith v. Woosley, 399 F.3d 428, 434 (2d Cir. 2005)).

         The movant bears the burden of showing that “the balance of convenience strongly favors the alternate forum . . . [and] discretionary transfers are not favored.” Xiu Feng Li v. Hock, 371 Fed. App'x 171, 175 (2d Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see also New York Marine and General Ins. Co. v. Lafarge North Am., Inc., 599 F.3d 102, 113-14 (2d Cir. 2010) (“Although we have never explicitly approved a district court's use of the ‘clear and convincing evidence' standard in ruling on a motion to transfer venue, the propriety of that standard to transfer-motions is evident. We have stated that the party requesting transfer carries the ‘burden of making out a strong case for transfer.'”) (quoting Filmline (Cross-Country) Prods., Inc. v. United Artists Corp., 865 F.2d 513, 521 (2d Cir. 1989)). Whether to grant a motion to transfer venue lies within the broad discretion of the district court and will be “determined upon notions of convenience and fairness on a case-by-case basis.” Publicker Indus., Inc. v. United States (In re Cuyahoga Equip. Corp.), 980 F.2d 110, 117 (2d Cir. 1992).

         Within that discretion, the Court engages in a two-part inquiry when considering a motion to transfer venue under Section 1404(a).

         “First, the court must determine whether the action sought to be transferred is one that ‘might have been brought' in the transferee court.'” In re Collins & Aikman Corp. Sec. Litig., 438 F.Supp.2d 392, 394 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (internal citations omitted).

         Second, the court must consider whether to use its discretion to grant the transfer, in the interests of convenience and justice, by considering: “‘(1) the plaintiff's choice of forum, (2) the convenience of witnesses, (3) the location of relevant documents and relative ease of access to sources of proof, (4) the convenience of parties, (5) the locus of operative facts, (6) the availability of process to compel the attendance of unwilling witnesses, [and] (7) the relative means of the parties.'” D.H. Blair & Co., Inc. v. Gottdiener, 462 F.3d 95, 106-07 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Albert Fadem Trust v. Duke Energy Corp., 214 F.Supp.2d 341, 343 (S.D.N.Y. 2002)); see also MAK Marketing, Inc. v. Kalapos, 620 F.Supp.2d 295, 307 (D. Conn. 2009) (“In determining whether transfer of venue is appropriate, district courts must engage in a two-part inquiry, asking: (1) whether the action ‘might have been brought' in the proposed transferee forum and, if so, (2) whether the transfer promotes convenience and justice.”). “Courts also routinely consider judicial economy, the interest of justice, and ‘the comparative familiarity of each district with the governing law.'” Synca Direct Inc. v. SCIL Animal Care Co., No. 15-cv-2332 (RJS), 2015 WL 3883281, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. June 22, 2015) (citing CYI, Inc. v. Ja-Ru, Inc., 913 F.Supp.2d 16, 19 (S.D.N.Y. 2012)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Court first must consider whether the “action sought to be transferred is one that ‘might have been brought' in the transferee court.” In re Collins & Aikman Corp. Sec. Litig., 438 F.Supp.2d at 394. Kohl's argues that this case could have been brought in the Eastern District of Wisconsin because its principal place of business is there. Mot. to Transfer at 5; Reply at 2. Ms. Collins does not dispute that the case could have been filed there. See Opp. to ...


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