E.D.Ark.: Defendant’s Motion For Summary Judgment, Claiming It Was Unaware Of Overtime Worked, Denied; Question Of Fact Remains Regardless Of Whether Plaintiff Submitted Such Time On Timesheets

Woodman v. City of Hazen, Ark.

This is an action for overtime allegedly due the plaintiff by the City of Hazen pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. Plaintiff worked as a police officer with the Hazen Police Department from 1999 to 2008. Plaintiff alleged that he was not compensated for all of his off-duty care and training of the canine, Arko, that was assigned to him in 2004 under the department’s canine program. The City of Hazen has filed a motion for summary judgment, and Woodman has responded. The Court, denied the motion for summary judgment finding issues of fact precluded same. Namely, despite the Defendant’s denial of knowledge that Plaintiff worked this uncompensated time, Plaintiff provided an affidavit for a non-party who averred he had specifically discussed the issue with Defendant’s mayor.

It was undisputed that Plaintiff failed to document all time worked on his timesheets, although generally had admitted that most time documented was paid to him.

After discussing the FLSA definition of work, the Court discussed whether Defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of Plaintiff’s off-the-clock work, such that it was responsible for paying Plaintiff for same:

“The key issue, then, is whether the City or its agents had actual or constructive knowledge that Woodman was working overtime. Stewart, 121 F.3d at 407;
Davis v. Food Lion, 792 F.2d 1274, 1276 (4th Cir.1986). The fact that Woodman initially did not seek overtime pay is irrelevant to whether the FLSA entitles him to overtime compensation. Stewart, 121 F.3d at 407. “[A]cceptance by an employee of payments of regular and overtime wages will not stop him from suing to recover the amount due him when he proves he actually worked longer.” Robertson v. Alaska Juneau Gold Mining Co., 157 F.2d 876, 879 (9th Cir.1946).

The City argues that it was impossible to know-either actually or constructively-that Woodman was not compensated for all of his overtime because Woodman failed to disclose such overtime on his time sheets. However, that is not the case. Employees may recover unpaid wages for overtime hours that were not recorded on their time sheets if they can prove that the employer knew or should have known about the overtime work through some alternative source. Bailey v.. County of Georgetown, 94 F.3d 152, 157 (4th Cir.1996). “[O]nce an employer knows or has reason to know that an employee is working overtime, it cannot deny compensation even where the employee fails to claim overtime hours.” Holzapfel v. Town of Newburgh, N.Y., 145 F.3d 516, 524 (2d Cir.1998); see also Newton v. City of Henderson, 47 F.3d 746, 748 (5th Cir.1995); Forrester, 646 F.2d at 414;
Caserta v. Home Lines Agency, Inc., 273 F.2d 943, 946 (2d Cir.1959). Failing to include off-duty time spent caring for and training an assigned police canine does not preclude the employee from recovering compensation for such work. Baker v. Stone County, Mo., 41 F.Supp.2d 965, 1000-01 (W.D.Mo.1999). Ultimately, a court need only inquire ” ‘whether the circumstances were such that the employer either had knowledge of overtime hours being worked or else had the opportunity through reasonable diligence to acquire knowledge.’ ” Kautsch v. Premier Communications, No. 06-CV-04035-NKL, 2007 WL 3376711, at *2 (W.D.Mo. Nov. 7, 2007) (quoting Reich v. Dep’t of Conservation and Natural Res., State of Ala., 28 F.3d 1076, 1082 (11th Cir.1994)).

The parties genuinely dispute whether the City of Hazen had actual or constructive knowledge that Woodman was not compensated for the off-duty time he spent caring for and training his assigned canine, Arko. In its motion for summary judgment, the City alleges that it was never aware that Woodman performed canine duties other than those recorded on his time sheets. The City denies that Strong informed Mayor Duch that Woodman was not paid for all of the time he spent working with Arko. Rather, the City contends that Mayor Duch was unaware that Woodman was working overtime and not getting paid. Woodman, on the other hand, alleges that the City knew he was not compensated for all of the overtime he worked. Woodman offers as evidence a signed affidavit in which Strong attests that he personally informed Mayor Duch that Woodman was not compensated for all the time he spent caring for and training Arko. According to Strong, the Mayor said that he did not have to pay Woodman for that work. Whether the Mayor was aware that Woodman was not being compensated for all of his work is a genuine issue of material fact on which the evidence is in conflict. Mayor Duch has sworn in an affidavit that he was unaware that Woodman was not being paid for all the time he spent working for the City, but Strong has sworn in an affidavit that he told Mayor Duch that Woodman was not being paid for all of his time with Arko and that Mayor Duch said it was not necessary to do so. A trial will be necessary to resolve this factual dispute.”

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