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Rana v. Islam

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

April 6, 2018

Mashud Parves Rana, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Monirul Islam, Defendant-Appellant, Fahima Tahsina Prova, Defendant.

          Argued: October 24, 2017

         Plaintiff-Appellee Mashud Parves Rana brought this action against his former employers, Monirul Islam and Fahima Tahsina Prova, alleging violations of various state and federal labor and human trafficking laws. Over a 15-month period, the defendants defied numerous orders of the district court (Sidney H. Stein, Judge), and the district court granted Rana's motion to strike the defendants' answer and enter a default judgment. Defendant Islam, pro se, appeals the district court's damages order. We vacate in part and remand because cumulative liquidated damages may not be awarded for the same course of conduct under both the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and the New York Labor Law ("NYLL"), NYLL §§ 190 et seq. & 650 et seq.

          D. Brett Kohlhofer (Matthew Larrabee, on the brief), Dechert, LLP, New York, N.Y. and Washington, D.C., for Appellee Mashud Parves Rana.

          Monirul Islam, pro se.

          Before: Jacobs, Sack, and Parker, Circuit Judges.

          Per Curiam:

         Mashud Parves Rana filed a complaint against his former employers, defendant-appellant Monirul Islam and defendant Fahima Tahsina Prova, alleging, inter alia, that his employment conditions violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act ("TVPRA"), 18 U.S.C. § 1589 et seq., the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., the New York Labor Law ("NYLL"), N.Y. Lab. L. §§ 190 and 650 et seq., and the common law of torts. After the defendants ignored five district court orders to participate in discovery, and used other dilatory tactics, the district court (Sidney H. Stein, Judge) granted Rana's motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 to strike the defendants' answer and enter a default judgment. Following a damages inquest, the district court awarded Rana $922, 597.31.[1] Islam, pro se, appeals the district court's damages calculation, arguing chiefly that there were no damages because Rana was not mistreated.

         While Islam fails to raise any meritorious arguments, the case presents an issue that has split district courts in this Circuit. We conclude that, because New York Labor Law does not call for awards of NYLL liquidated damages on top of liquidated damages under the FLSA, district courts may not award cumulative liquidated damages for the same course of conduct under both statutes. We therefore vacate in part and remand to amend the liquidated damages calculation.

         I

         Rana, a Bangladeshi national, alleged that he was employed as a domestic worker by Islam and Prova (who are married) for almost nineteen months. Islam is a Bangladeshi diplomat who was serving as the Consul General of Bangladesh in New York City during the time of Rana's employment.

         Rana alleged that the defendants hired him in Bangladesh, promising good working conditions and a monthly wage of $3, 000. But once Rana arrived in the U.S., the defendants seized his passport and visa, confined him to their apartment, and subjected him to "slavery-like conditions, " including:

• Requiring work from 6:30 am to 11:00 pm, at a minimum, seven days a week, without days off.
• Not paying Rana for his services. . Inflicting physical abuse: Islam hit Rana twice, once for asking if he would ever receive his salary, and again when Rana told Islam that he did not want to follow him to his next posting in Morocco.
• Inflicting verbal abuse and threats of violence.
• Forcing Rana to sleep on a mattress on the kitchen floor in one apartment, and in a storage room in another.
• Giving Rana nothing but expired or leftover food to eat.

         On March 2, 2014, Rana fled the defendants' apartment while they were out, and made a report at a New York City Police precinct.

         Rana filed suit against the defendants on March 21, 2014, and Islam and Prova, through counsel, moved to dismiss the complaint. Islam's affidavit denied that he mistreated Rana, and advised that he had relocated to Bangladesh's Embassy in ...


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