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Romero v. Prindle Hill Construction, LLC

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 7, 2017

LUIS ROMERO
v.
PRINDLE HILL CONSTRUCTION, LLC, et al.

          RULING ON MOTION IN LIMINE [DOC. #54]

          HON. SARAH A. L. MERRIAM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Luis Romero (“plaintiff”) has filed a motion in limine seeking to preclude evidence of plaintiff's immigration status from being introduced at trial. [Doc. #54]. Defendants Prindle Hill Construction, LLC and Franklin C. Bradley, III (“defendants”) object to plaintiff's motion. [Doc. #60]. For the reasons articulated below, plaintiff's motion to preclude evidence as to immigration status [Doc. #54] is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §201, et seq., the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act (“CMWA”), Conn. Gen. Stat. §31-58 et seq., and Connecticut's prevailing wage law, Conn. Gen. Stat. §31-53, et seq. See generally Doc. #1, Complaint. Plaintiff alleges that (1) defendants did not pay him appropriate overtime wages, in violation of the FLSA and CMWA; (2) defendants did not pay him the proper minimum wage, in violation of the FLSA and CMWA; (3) defendants failed to pay him all of the wages owed to him, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. §31-72; and (4) defendants failed to pay him the prevailing wage for work performed on Connecticut public works projects, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. §31-53. See Id. at 5-7. Defendants deny plaintiff's allegations. See Doc. #16, Answer.

         A bench trial in this matter is scheduled to commence on September 12, 2017. See Doc. #66.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The purpose of a motion in limine is to allow the court to rule in advance of trial on the admissibility of anticipated evidence. See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 40 n.2 (1984); Palmieri v. Defaria, 88 F.3d 136, 141 (2d Cir. 1996). “Evidence should be excluded on a motion in limine only when the evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds.” Jean-Laurent v. Hennessy, 840 F.Supp.2d 529, 536 (E.D.N.Y. 2011) (citation omitted). “Indeed, courts considering a motion in limine may reserve judgment until trial, so that the motion is placed in the appropriate factual context.” Id. (citing Nat'l. Union Fire Ins. Co. v. L.E. Myers Co. Grp., 937 F.Supp. 276, 287 (S.D.N.Y. 1996)). “[T]he court's ruling regarding a motion in limine is ‘subject to change when the case unfolds, particularly if the actual testimony differs from what was [expected].'” Id. (quoting Luce, 469 U.S. at 41).

         The Federal Rules of Evidence govern the admissibility of evidence at trial. Rule 402 permits only relevant evidence to be admitted at trial. “Relevant” evidence is defined by Rule 401 as evidence having “any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence[] and the fact is of consequence in determining the action.” Fed.R.Evid. 401(a)-(b). “[T]he court's determination of what constitutes ‘relevant evidence' is guided by the nature of the claims and defenses in the cause of action.” Jean-Laurent, 840 F.Supp.2d at 536.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff seeks to preclude the introduction of any evidence at trial relating to his immigration status. See Doc. #54. Plaintiff contends that any evidence of his immigration status is both “irrelevant and impermissible” because admitting such evidence could discourage individuals from “pursuing their rights.” Doc. #54-1 at 1.

         Defendants object to plaintiff's motion, asserting that evidence of plaintiff's immigration status is relevant to the following claims and defenses: (1) that plaintiff did not work any prevailing wage jobs or work at all for Prindle Hill Construction, LLC (“Prindle Hill”); (2) that defendant Franklin C. Bradley (“Bradley”) believed that plaintiff was an independent contractor; and (3) defendants' lack of record keeping, potential failure to pay correct overtime or minimum wage rates, and defendants' reasonable belief that they were not violating the FLSA. See Doc. #60 at 1-2. Defendants argue that they knew of plaintiff's immigration status from the time of his hiring, and therefore raising that issue at trial will not deter plaintiff from pursuing this action. Defendants also contend that the case law cited by plaintiff is distinguishable.[1] See Id. at 2.

         The Court finds that evidence of plaintiff's immigration status is both irrelevant and unduly prejudicial, and as a result should be excluded from trial.

         A. Relevance - Rule 402

         Evidence is relevant if “(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and (b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action.” Fed.R.Evid. 401(a)-(b). Simply put, plaintiff's immigration status is not relevant because it does not have any tendency to make any material fact more or less probable. Cf. Corona v. Adriatic Italian Rest. & Pizzeria, No. 08CV5399(KNF), 2010 WL 675702, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 23, 2010); see also Francois v. Mazer, No. 09CV3275(KBF), 2012 WL 1506054, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 24, 2012) (‚ÄúThere are a number of cases that have found that evidence ...


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