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2d. Cir.: Where Employee’s Falsification of Time Records Was Carried Out at Employer’s Behest, Employer Cannot Be Exonerated by Fact That Employee Entered Erroneous Hours on Timesheets
Kuebel v. Black & Decker Inc.
This case was before the Second Circuit on Plaintiff’s appeal of an order awarding Defendant summary judgment. Plaintiff asserted two distinct claims below: (1) that work performed on his PDA and in Defendant’s computer system (at home) extended his continuous workday such that Defendant’s failure to pay him for all time up to including such work was a violation of the FLSA; and (2) that he was entitled to be paid for off-the-clock work that he did not report because his supervisors instructed him not to. While the court affirmed summary judgment on the “continuous workday” claim, it reversed as to the off-the-clock claim, holding that “[a]t least where the employee’s falsifications were carried out at the instruction of the employer or the employer’s agents, the employer cannot be exonerated by the fact that the employee physically entered the erroneous hours into the timesheets.”
With respect to the off-the-clock claims, the relevant facts cited by the court were:
“[plaintiff] asserts that he falsified his timesheets because his supervisors instructed him not to record more than forty hours per week. He testified that at monthly meetings, “there was always a point that [Idigo] and Mr. Davolt and [another manager] would always indicate that we [Retail Specialists] were not to put more than forty hours on our time sheet,” and that Davolt “told all of the reps that they were only to record forty hours a week, … no matter what they worked during that particular week.” Kuebel further testified that during a personal discussion with Davolt on February 22, 2007, Davolt said to him, “you can’t work overtime, you’re only supposed to put forty hours on your timecard.”
Discussing the viability of the off-the-clock claims that Plaintiff asserts he was owed overtime wages for time he allegedly worked, but admittedly did not report, the court first discussed the general legal principles applicable to FLSA claims where the Plaintiff alleges Defendant failed in its recordkeeping obligations (to maintain accurate time records), under Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680, 686–87 (1946). The court below had determined that Plaintiff was not entitled to Anderson’s lenient burden of proof where, as here, he acknowledged that he falsified his own records. However, the Second Circuit disagreed, holding:
“At least where the employee’s falsifications were carried out at the instruction of the employer or the employer’s agents, the employer cannot be exonerated by the fact that the employee physically entered the erroneous hours into the timesheets. As the district court emphasized, Kuebel admits that it was he who falsified his timesheets, notwithstanding B & D’s official policy requiring accurate recordkeeping. But his testimony—which must be credited at the summary judgement stage—was that he did so because his managers instructed him not to record more than forty hours per week. He specifically testified that at company meetings and during discussions with one of his supervisors, it was conveyed to him that he was not to record overtime no matter how many hours he actually worked. In other words, Kuebel has testified that it was B & D, through its managers, that caused the inaccuracies in his timesheets. While ultimately a factfinder might or might not credit this testimony, that is a determination for trial, not summary judgment. In sum, we hold that because Kuebel has presented evidence indicating that his employer’s records are inaccurate—and that although it was he who purposefully rendered them inaccurate, he did so at his managers’ direction—the district court should have afforded Kuebel the benefit of Anderson’s “just and reasonable inference” standard. See Allen, 495 F.3d at 1317–18 (finding just and reasonable inference standard applicable at summary judgment where plaintiffs had not recorded overtime, but “testified that they were discouraged from accurately recording overtime work on their time sheets, and were encouraged to falsify their own records by submitting time sheets that reflected their scheduled, rather than actual, hours”). A contrary conclusion would undermine the remedial goals of the FLSA, as it would permit an employer to obligate its employees to record their own time, have its managers unofficially pressure them not to record overtime, and then, when an employee sues for unpaid overtime, assert that his claim fails because his timesheets do not show any overtime.”
Given the procedural posture of the case, the court found that Plaintiff had presented an issue of fact for the jury to decide, thus rendering summary judgment inappropriate, reasoning:
“Ultimately, the dispute as to the precise amount of Kuebel’s uncompensated work is one of fact for trial. As stated above, a plaintiff establishes a violation of the FLSA by proving that he performed uncompensated work of which his employer was or should have been aware. The Anderson test simply addresses whether there is a reasonable basis for calculating damages, assuming that a violation has been shown. Brown, 534 F.3d at 596. It does not entitle an employer to summary judgment where the employee’s estimates of his uncompensated overtime are somewhat inconsistent.
The district court further held that, in any event, the following evidence was sufficient to “negate the inference that [Kuebel] had performed work off-the-clock”: (1) B & D’s written policies and training materials stating that time worked must be accurately recorded; (2) Kuebel’s own time records; and (3) Beacon reports for Kuebel showing low in-store hours. Kuebel II, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46533, at *39–40. We disagree. B & D’s evidence raises factual and credibility questions for trial, but it does not afford a basis for summary judgment. First, while the existence of B & D’s official policies requiring accurate timekeeping may detract from Kuebel’s credibility, it does not entitle B & D to judgment as a matter of law in light of Kuebel’s testimony that he was instructed by his managers not to record all of his hours. Second, that Kuebel’s timesheets do not show any overtime does not resolve the central question necessitating a trial, which, as we have seen, is whether Kuebel worked overtime but did not record it at his managers’ behest. Finally, to the extent that Kuebel’s Beacon hours—or, for that matter, his manager’s testimony that the condition of his stores was often subpar—suggest that Kuebel typically worked less than forty hours a week, such evidence also raises a factual issue for trial.”
Similarly, the court held that Plaintiff had created an issue of fact despite Defendant’s contention that it lacked knowledge of any unrecorded off-the-clock hours allegedly worked by Plaintiff, stating:
“We conclude that Kuebel has raised a genuine issue of material fact as to whether B & D knew he was working off the clock. Kuebel testified that on several occasions, he specifically complained to his supervisor, Davolt, that he was working more than forty hours per week but recording only forty. The district court discounted Kuebel’s testimony, relying on the fact that he never lodged a formal complaint using B & D’s anonymous reporting hotline. Id. at *44–45. But while that fact might conceivably hurt Kuebel’s credibility at trial, it does not warrant summary judgment for B & D.”
While it remains to be seen whether Plaintiff will actually prevail on his claims, given the FLSA’s non-delegable duty on employers, there can be little question that the Second Circuit reached the correct conclusion in holding that an employer who requires an employee to falsify his or her time records may not then benefit from such falsification. Stay tuned to see how this one turns out…
Click Kuebel v. Black & Decker Inc. to read the entire opinion.
D.Kan.: FLSA Plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel Entry Into Defendant’s Facility To Conduct A Time & Motion Study Related To “Walk Time” Claims Granted
McDonald v. Kellogg Co.
In this Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) wage and hour case, plaintiffs, current and former hourly production employees at defendant’s bakery facility, claimed that defendant violated the overtime provisions of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., by, among other things, failing to compensate them for time spent walking to and from workstations. Following a ruling on the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment– which in part held that plaintiffs’ time spent walking to their workstations was compensable– plaintiffs’ moved to compel defendant to allow entry into its facility for the purpose of conducting a time and motion study related to plaintiffs’ walk time.
Describing the plaintiffs’ proposed study the court explained:
“Plaintiffs have served a request, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 34, seeking access to defendant’s bakery facility for their expert, Dr. Kenneth S. Mericle, to gather data on the time employees spend walking to and from their workstations (see doc. 195). Dr. Mericle proposes to use Radio Frequency Identification technology (“RFID”) to gather this data. To conduct an RFID study, Dr. Mericle would first place electronic readers at the employees’ locker rooms and at the time clocks outside their workstations. Next, Dr. Mericle would issue credit-card-sized cards to employees to carry with them during the study. When the cards pass in the proximity of the readers, a time stamp in the reader would record the time that the employee passed through the area. Thus, the readers would record the time that card-carrying employees leave the locker room and the time that they arrive at the workstations (and vice versa). In addition, Dr. Mericle would place small sensors at various locations in the factory, such as bathrooms, to register detours in the employees’ paths to and from their workstations. Plaintiffs suggest that only Dr. Mericle and, perhaps, one other individual would need to be on-site during the study to ensure that there are no problems with the RFID equipment.
Plaintiffs request that Dr. Mericle enter defendant’s facility on two occasions. On the first entry, Dr. Mericle would simply observe plant conditions and employee habits in order to plan placement locations for the RFID readers and sensors. On the second entry, Dr. Mericle would set up the readers and sensors, and issue cards to the employees. Plaintiffs propose that the study then be conducted over a period of several days.
Defendant objects to the RFID study as overreaching discovery. Defendant asserts that nothing in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires it to alter its factory by attaching readers and sensors to its property, or to mandate that its employees carry reader cards. According to defendant, the proposed RFID study is overly broad and burdensome.”
Granting plaintiffs’ motion, the court reasoned:
“In objecting to plaintiffs’ proposed RFID study, defendant broadly asserts that “[c]onducting such a study during working hours will consume considerable time at [defendant’s] expense, will interfere with operations, potentially jeopardize the safety of individuals conducting the study, and expose [defendant’s] proprietary production processes to disclosure to third parties.” Defendant suggests that plaintiffs can estimate employee walking time much more simply by measuring the distances between employee locker rooms and workstations, and then using expert information concerning reasonable walk times.
The court rejects defendant’s objections and grants plaintiffs’ motion to compel. Pursuant to Rules 34(a)(2) and 26(b)(1), the court clearly has the authority to order access to defendant’s facility for the purpose of conducting the RFID study and gathering relevant walk-time data. While there may be, as defendant suggests, alternate means to gather data regarding employee walking time, such is not the test for determining whether the discovery requested should be compelled. Defendant is not at liberty to dictate how plaintiffs should gather information to support their case. Rather, the rules permit plaintiffs to enter defendant’s property for the purpose of gathering relevant information unless defendant makes a “particularized showing” that the discovery plaintiffs propose would create an undue burden or danger. Defendant has made no attempt to meet this burden-defendant has not submitted an affidavit discussing the burdens or dangers that would accompany the proposed RFID study, nor has defendant even “provide[d] a detailed explanation as to the nature and extent of the claimed burden.” Although during the hearing defense counsel requested an opportunity to supplement the record in this regard, the undersigned denied defendant’s tardy request for a second bite at the apple.
Considering the record as it stands, the court finds that defendant has offered no support for its conclusory assertion that the proposed RFID study would consume a considerable amount of defendant’s time and would interfere with defendant’s operations. As plaintiffs explained at the hearing, the readers and sensors can be placed unobtrusively and without having to make permanent modifications to defendant’s property. They will record no data other than the time that the cards pass in their vicinity. Indeed, this proposed methodology appears to be less intrusive than other methods of conducting time and motion studies (e.g., videotaping employees or having experts follow employees as they walk the designated paths). With regard to defendant’s concern that its proprietary information is at risk, the Stipulated Protective Order already entered in this case (doc. 56) is sufficient to protect defendant’s trade secrets.
Nor has defendant demonstrated or explained what legitimate safety concerns would be faced by persons conducting the study. Nonetheless, the court will permit defendant to conduct safety-training, limited to one hour, as a prerequisite for access to the facility. In addition, as discussed below, defendant’s safety manager may accompany Dr. Mericle while he is in the facility.
Finally, as to defendant’s complaint that its employees should not be required to carry the small reader cards, the court agrees that no employee should be compelled to carry the card against his or her will. However, as noted by plaintiffs, the vast majority of hourly production workers whose walk time the RFID study would measure are opt-in plaintiffs in this case. The court finds it likely that these employees will voluntarily carry the card. The court permits plaintiffs’ counsel and expert to supply cards to employees who voluntarily consent to carry them during the study.”
Click McDonald v. Kellogg Co. to read the entire order.
D.Minn.: “Insurance Investigators” Were Non-Exempt, Because Their Duties Lacked Independent Judgment and Discretion
Ahle v. Veracity Research Co.
Among other motions, the case was before the Court on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment. Of note here, the parties asked the Court to determine whether Plaintiffs, who were “Insurance Investigators” qualified as Administrative Exempt or not. Holding that their duties did not require the independent judgment and discretion necessary, the Court held that Plaintiffs were non-exempt under the FLSA.
Examining the Plaintiffs’ duties the Court explained:
“Veracity is a full-service investigative firm specializing in insurance defense investigations. Answer to Compl., Defenses and Am. Counterclaim (Counterclaim) [Docket No. 29] ¶ 5. Named Plaintiffs Ahle, Jordan, and Wiseman formerly worked as investigators for Veracity. Id. ¶¶ 6-8; Collective Action Compl. [Docket No. 1] ¶¶ 4-6. Approximately 150 other individuals have opted into this litigation. The plaintiff class members are current or former investigators for Veracity.
Veracity is hired by insurance companies, third-party administrators, and law firms to investigate suspect claims. Morgan Decl., May 13, 2010 [Docket No. 186], Ex. 1 (Foster Dep.) 45:22-46:8. Veracity categorizes its investigators by title and level; the titles and levels that are at issue in this litigation are surveillance investigators (levels 1-3), claims investigators (level 4), and senior field investigators (level 5). Morgan Decl., May 13, 2010, Ex. 2 (Doyle Dep.) 60:10-19. Surveillance investigators primarily work in the field conducting surveillance, undercover investigations, and background checks. Id. 50:15-21; Foster Aff ., July 7, 2009 [Docket No. 59], ¶ 7. Claims investigators generally perform the same duties as surveillance investigators, but they also interview witnesses, obtain statements, take photographs, and, occasionally, perform sales functions. Foster Aff., July 7, 2009, ¶¶ 8, 10-11. Senior field investigators supervise and manage surveillance and claims investigators in the field, train new investigators, and perform occasional promotion and sales duties. Id. ¶ 13. Thus, all of the titles and levels of investigators at issue have in common some surveillance duties, although the parties dispute whether the primary duty of investigators in each of these titles and levels is surveillance.
After receiving an assignment from Veracity but before driving to the surveillance site, the investigator typically completes several tasks including reviewing the assignment sheet, performing a background check on the subject, matching the name of the subject to an address, mapping out directions to the surveillance site, and ensuring that the investigator’s camera, laptop computer, and cellular phones are fully charged. Morgan Decl., May 13, 2010, Ex. 8 at VRC001063-64. According to Plaintiffs, investigators also are required to perform maintenance including cleaning the windows and filling the fuel tank on their vehicles before leaving for a surveillance site. Morgan Decl., May 13, 2010, Exs. 13, 14, ¶ 6. At the surveillance site, investigators monitor and video record the subject and take notes of their observations. Morgan Decl., May 13, 2010, Ex. 13, ¶ 5. Claims investigators may also interview witnesses, obtain statements, and collect documents. Foster Dep. 149:7-23.
Investigators record their activities in a daily investigative report (“DIR”). Morgan Decl., May 13, 2010, Exs. 13, 14 ¶ 7. An investigator’s DIR discloses when the investigator left home for the surveillance site, the drive time, the arrival time, observation notes, the departure time from the site, and the arrival time back at the investigator’s home. Id. Once completed, the investigator sends the DIR online to Veracity. Id. Investigators send any video recording taken during the day to their managers by depositing the tapes at a FedEx drop-off location. Id .
The dispute in this action centers on whether Plaintiffs, given their daily duties, were properly classified as FLSA “exempt” employees who are not required to be paid overtime for work in excess of forty hours per week. Based on Veracity’s founders’ view of the “industry standard,” Veracity classified its investigators as exempt when it began business in 1995. Doyle Dep. 15:10-17:6. Plaintiffs initiated this action on January 8, 2009, claiming that they were improperly classified as exempt and, therefore, were wrongfully denied compensation for overtime hours allegedly worked while employed by Veracity as investigators.”
After concluding that it lacked information sufficient to determine whether the second prong of the Administrative Exemption was met or not here, the Court held that Defendant could not, as a matter of law, establish that Plaintiffs’ activities required the independent judgment and discretion required for application of the exemption:
“Discretion and Independent Judgment
Although claims investigations is directly related to the management or general business operations of Veracity’s clients, such a primary duty must also involve the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance for claims investigators to meet the final element of the definition of administrative employees. DOL regulations explain that “the exercise of discretion and independent judgment involves the comparison and the evaluation of possible courses of conduct, and acting or making a decision after the various possibilities have been considered.” 29 C.F.R. § 541.202(a).
Factors to be considered when determining whether an employee exercises discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance include, but are not limited to: whether the employee has authority to formulate, affect, interpret, or implement management policies or operating practices; whether the employee carries out major assignments in conducting the operations of the business; whether the employee performs work that affects business operations to a substantial degree, even if the employee’s assignments are related to operation of a particular segment of the business; whether the employee has authority to commit the employer in matters that have significant financial impact; whether the employee has authority to waive or deviate from established policies and procedures without prior approval; whether the employee has authority to negotiate and bind the company on significant matters; whether the employee provides consultation or expert advice to management; whether the employee is involved in planning long- or short-term business objectives; whether the employee investigates and resolves matters of significance on behalf of management; and whether the employee represents the company in handling complaints, arbitrating disputes or resolving grievances. Id. § 541.202(b). “The exercise of discretion and independent judgment implies that the employee has the authority to make an independent choice, free from immediate direction or supervision,” but “employees can exercise discretion and independent judgment even if their decisions or recommendations are reviewed at a higher level,” and discretion and independent judgment can “consist of recommendations for action rather than the actual taking of action.” Id. § 541.202(c). However, “[t]he exercise of discretion and independent judgment must be more than the use of skill in applying well-established techniques, procedures or specific standards described in manuals or other sources.” Id . § 541.202(e).
In support of their argument that the duties of the claims investigators do not involve the exercise of discretion and independent judgment regarding matters of significance, Plaintiffs again cite Gusdonovich, as well as Fenton v. Farmers Insurance Exchange, 663 F.Supp.2d 718 (D.Minn.2009), a case from this district. In Gusdonovich, the court concluded that the insurance “investigators were merely applying their knowledge and skill in determining what procedure to follow, which … is not the exercise of discretion and independent judgment contemplated by the [DOL] regulation[s].” 705 F.Supp. at 265.
The plaintiffs in Fenton were insurance investigators employed by a company to investigate potentially fraudulent insurance claims. 663 F.Supp.2d at 721. The court held that the job duties of such “special investigators” did not involve a sufficient exercise of discretion and independent judgment to qualify for the administrative exemption. Id. at 726. Instead, the special investigators’ job duties were “sufficiently aligned with the employment circumstances” of (1) the insurance investigators who were the plaintiffs in Gusdonovich, (2) the employees performing background investigations discussed in the 2005 DOL Opinion Letter, and (3) the police investigations addressed in DOL regulation 29 C.F.R. § 541.3(b)(1). Id. at 726. In reaching that conclusion, the court noted that the employer’s written guidelines explained in great detail how the investigators should approach issues that often arise in conducting and documenting an investigation, there was “nothing in the residual discretion available to investigators that [was] sufficient to justify exemption,” and there was no dispute that the investigator’s subjective opinions and conclusions were excluded from their written reports. Id. at 726-27. In addition, written guidelines instructed the investigators to include, with equal detail and emphasis, all inculpating and exculpating information in their reports, and investigators had no authority to determine whether a claim should be denied or whether the insurance company should seek to negotiate a settlement. Id. at 727.
Like in Gusdonovich and Fenton, Plaintiffs’ duties as claims investigators for Veracity do not involve a sufficient degree of discretion and independent judgement with respect to matters of significance. Claims investigators do not have the discretion to decide when to conduct an investigation, where to conduct it, or the length of time to spend on it. Morgan Decl., May 13, 2010, Ex. 13, ¶ 6. In addition, Veracity does not allow claims investigators to (1) make any recommendations or give their opinions as to whether fraud occurred when submitting their DIRs or (2) recommend or participate in the decision whether to deny or pay a claim or whether to conduct further investigation. Id. ¶ 8. Furthermore, Plaintiffs’ declarations state that they received guidelines and manuals describing how claims investigations are conducted and that they are “expected to follow such guidelines and manuals when conducting day-to-day investigations.” Id. ¶ 11. For example, a Veracity document entitled “Introduction to Claims Investigation and Responsibilities” informs claims investigators as follows:
Your job will be to obtain facts that relate to a specific claim. This will include, but is not limited to, taking recorded statements from the person making the claim …, witnesses to the specific incident, [and] persons that may have direct knowledge about the incident…. Your responsibility is to get the facts of the case by means of questioning or research. At times you will be called upon to obtain needed documentation to include medical records, receipts …, employment information, and police reports. You will have to develop comprehensive investigative and communication skills, and you must be able to decide which leads must be followed, and which ones should be reported but need no further effort.
One of the most challenging areas of [your job as a claims investigator] will be your ability to transfer the information that you gather into a coherent and informative report…. [I]n most cases you will not have the opportunity to speak directly with the client and therefore your report must be accurate, concise, easily understood, and complete. Morgan Decl., May 13, 2010, Ex. 9 at VRC001154.
The manual includes outlines to follow when taking a recorded statement in all investigations and in particular types of investigations (e.g., employment injuries, motor vehicle accidents resulting in deaths, products liability, property loss or theft, vehicle or property damage). Id. at VRC001167, 1176, 1216, 1230, 1233, 1240. Although claims investigators are not required to follow the outlines verbatim, the outlines do command, in several instances, that some specific information is not optional, employing language such as, “must be on every recorded statement,” “must be covered,” or “must be asked.” Id. at VRC001167, 1176, 1216, 1230, 1233, 1240. Furthermore, the outlines instruct investigators to “obtain all of the facts,” and remind the claims investigators that it is Veractiy’s responsibility to “obtain the information and then let the [client] and their legal department make the determination.” Id. at VRC001230.
The record establishes that (1) Veracity’s written guidelines explain in great detail how claims investigators should conduct an investigation, (2) the claims investigators are required to obtain all the facts regardless of their impact, and (3) the claims investigators do not include their own opinions, conclusions, or recommendations regarding the decision whether to pay or deny the claim. Because the claims investigators do not provide opinions and conclusions about their investigative observations, they are significantly different than the insurance investigators in Foster v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. See 695 F.Supp.2d 748, 761 (S .D.Ohio 2010) (concluding that genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether the plaintiffs, insurance investigators, exercised discretion and independent judgment because “[m]ost significantly, there is a factual dispute as to whether Special Investigators’ primary duty encompasses providing their opinions and conclusions regarding their investigative findings”). Admittedly, claims investigators do make decisions regarding the precise manner in which they conduct an investigation-creating action plans, deciding who to interview, what documents to review, what leads to follow, and whether to recommend hiring an expert-however, such decisions are more appropriately viewed as choices among “established techniques, procedures or specific standards described in manuals or other sources,” which do not amount to the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance. 29 C.F.R. § 541.202(a), (e); see also 2005 Opinion Letter at 4-5 (advising that “prioritizing the pursuit of particular leads, assessing whether the leads … have provided information that requires further investigation, determining which potential witnesses to see and which documents to review, and making similar decisions that promote effective and efficient use of … work time in performing assigned investigative activities” do not involve the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance); Auer v. Robbins, 519 U.S. 452, 461 (1997) (stating that the DOL’s interpretation of its own regulations are “controlling unless plainly erroneous or inconsistent with the regulation”).
The cases cited by Veracity are unavailing. In Stout v. Smolar, the court viewed evidence that a private investigator had the authority to make decisions as to how to “investigate the scene of an accident, including determining what materials to be preserved and whether expert witnesses would be required” as showing that the investigator exercised discretion and independent judgment. No. 1:05-CV-1202, 2007 WL 2765519, at *6 n. 2 (N.D.Ga. Sept. 18, 2007). The court also commented that treating insurance investigators as not qualifying for the administrative exemption “would appear contrary to the insurance claims adjuster example of administrative exemption cited by the [DOL].” Id. This Court finds more persuasive the reasoning in DOL regulations, cases such as Fenton, and the 2005 Opinion Letter, which suggest that having discretion over the types of matters discussed in Stout does not equate to having discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance. See Foster, 695 F.Supp.2d at 761 (recognizing, in light of the 2005 Opinion Letter, that deciding who to interview, what documents to review, what leads to pursue, and “similar tactical matters” were “fact-finding logistics [that] do not necessarily rise to the level of discretion and independent judgment contemplated by DOL regulations, for they do not amount to matters of significance”).
Equating Veracity’s claims investigators to claims adjusters is not a fair comparison or particularly helpful. The core function of a claims adjuster is to decide whether and to what extent an insurance claim should be paid, a task that requires considerable exercise of discretion on a matter of significance. Inclusion of the term “adjuster” in the title of the job strongly suggests that conclusion. All employees exercise some discretion in deciding how to perform their jobs, and the way in which they exercise that discretion likely will affect matters of significance. In the case of claims investigators, how they exercise their discretion in conducting an investigation will impact or affect how a claims adjuster working for one of Veracity’s clients decides the significant matter of the value of the claim. But an exercise of discretion that impacts or affects a matter of significance is not exercising discretion with respect to a matter of significance. If the rule were otherwise, all employees would arguably meet the third element of the definition of administrative employees. Because the analogy to claims adjusters is not persuasive, Veracity’s reliance on cases such as Roe-Midgett, 512 F.3d at 874, where the Seventh Circuit held that claims adjusters routinely used their discretion and independent judgment to make choices that impact damage estimates, settlement, and other matters of significance, does not alter the result here.
The Court concludes that Veracity has failed to demonstrate a triable issue as to whether the duties of claims investigators include the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance. Because claims investigators do not meet the third element of the definition in 29 C.F.R. § 541.200(a), they do not qualify for the administrative exemption.”
Not discussed here, the Court also held that the Plaintiffs lacked the requisite duties to be deemed outside sales exempt. Further, the Court held that certain time claimed as compensable by the Plaintiffs was not and that the appropriate method for determining Plaintiffs damages–as “salaried misclassified” employees was the Fluctuating Workweek (“FWW”), adopting the reasoning in the recent Seventh Circuit decision discussed here. Lastly, the Court denied Defendant’s motion for decertification of the collective action.
To read the entire decision, click here.
6th Cir.: Although Changing Into PPE At Food-Processing Plant Is “Changing Clothes” and Excluded Under 203(o), It Is A Principle Activity And Begins The “Continuous Workday”
Franklin v. Kellogg Co.
This case was before the Sixth Circuit on appeal from the order at the court below granting Defendant summary judgment in all respects with regard to Plaintiff’s claims that she was entitled to be paid for changing into required personal protection equipment (“PPE”) each day, before she could perform their work on Defendant’s plant floor. The Court affirmed the lower court’s holding that time spent changing into the PPE could be properly excluded by continued practice under 203(0), but remanded the case to determine whether there was significant time the that elapsed after the donning of the PPE, before Plaintiff was put “on the clock,” because such time was compensible under the “continuous workday” if it was not deemed de minimus.
“B. Post-Donning/Pre-Doffing Walking Time
Franklin argues that if we conclude that her time spent donning and doffing the uniform and equipment is excluded under § 203(o), she is still entitled to compensation for her time spent walking between the locker room and the time clock, because those activities are “principal activities.” Under the “continuous workday” rule, “the ‘workday’ is generally defined as ‘the period between the commencement and completion on the same workday of an employee’s principal activity or activities.’ “ IBP, Inc. v. Alvarez, 546 U.S. 21, 29 (2004) (quoting 29 C.F.R. § 790.6(b)). In addition, “during a continuous workday, any walking time that occurs after the beginning of the employee’s first principal activity and before the end of the employee’s last principal activity is … covered by the FLSA,” and must be compensated. Id. at 37. Principal activities are those that are an integral and indispensable part of the activities which the employee is employed to perform. See Steiner v. Mitchell, 350 U.S. 247, 256 (1956).
1. Does Exclusion Under § 203(o) Affect Whether an Activity is a Principal Activity?
One court recently explained that “[t]he courts have taken divergent views” on the issue of whether activities deemed excluded under § 203(o) may still constitute “principal activities.” In re Tyson Foods, Inc., 694 F.Supp.2d 1358, 1370 (M.D.Ga.2010). Some courts have concluded that time that is excluded under § 203(o) may still be a “principal activity,” because § 203(o) only addresses the compensability of the time, not whether it is integral and indispensable. See, e.g., id. at 1371 (“After considering both of these positions, the Court concludes that § 203(o) only relates to the compensability of time spent donning, doffing, and washing of the person and that it does not mean that § 203(o) tasks cannot be considered principal activities that start the continuous workday.”); Andrako v. U.S. Steel Corp., 632 F.Supp.2d 398, 413 (W.D.Pa.2009) (“Section 203(o) relates to the compensability of time spent donning, doffing, and washing in the collective-bargaining process. It does not render such time any more or less integral or indispensable to an employee’s job.”); Gatewood v. Koch Foods of Miss., LLC, 569 F.Supp.2d 687, 702 (S.D.Miss.2008) (“Although the act of ‘changing clothes’ itself is barred based on § 203(o) …, the activities that occur after changing into sanitary gear and before changing out of sanitary gear are not impacted by the defense.”); Figas, 2008 WL 4170043, at *20 (“[T]he character of donning and doffing activities is not dependent upon whether such activities are excluded pursuant to a collective-bargaining agreement.”). In contrast, some courts-including the district court presiding over the instant case-have concluded that “once an activity has been deemed a section 3(o) activity, it cannot be considered a principal activity.” Sisk v. Sara Lee Corp., 590 F.Supp.2d 1001, 1011 (W.D.Tenn.2008); see also Salazar v. Butterball, LLC, No. 08-cv-02071-MSK-CBS, 2009 WL 6048979, at * 14 (D.Colo. Dec. 3, 2009) (following Sisk); Hudson v. Butterball, LLC, No. 08-5071-CV-SW-RED, 2009 WL 3486780, at *4 (W.D.Mo. Oct. 14, 2009) (“Because time [plaintiff] spent sanitizing, donning, and doffing is excluded from hours worked under § 203(o), the walking time did not follow or precede a principal work activity, and therefore is not compensable.”). Although the latter position was consistent with the 2007 Opinion Letter, the June 16 Interpretation rejected that position and concluded that “clothes changing that is covered by § 203(o) may be a principal activity.” Compare 2007 Opinion Letter with June 16 Interp.
We agree with the courts that have taken the position that compensability under § 203(o) is unrelated to whether an activity is a “principal activity.” Accordingly, we must consider whether time spent donning and doffing the standard equipment and uniform is integral and indispensable to Franklin’s job.
2. Integral and Indispensable
Kellogg asserts that even though it requires its employees to wear these items, changing into them is not “integral and indispensable” under the FLSA. In Steiner, the Supreme Court concluded that changing into protective gear before beginning the shift and showering and changing out of the protective gear at the end of the shift was an integral and indispensable part of employment at a battery-manufacturing plant. 350 U.S. at 256 (“[I]t would be difficult to conjure up an instance where changing clothes and showering are more clearly an integral and indispensable part of the principal activity of the employment than in the case of these employees.”) The Court did not address whether “changing clothes and showering under normal conditions” was integral and indispensable to the principal activity of work, and it did not explicitly hold that changing clothes and showering can only be integral and indispensable when the working environment was toxic or lethal. See id. at 249, 256. Nonetheless, at least one court applying Steiner has made that distinction. See Gorman v. Consol. Edison Corp., 488 F.3d 586, 594 (2d Cir.2007). In Gorman, the Second Circuit held that donning and doffing of protective gear-helmet, safety glasses, and steel-toed boots-was not integral and indispensable to employment at a nuclear power plant. Id. It distinguished Steiner because “the environment of the battery plant could not sustain life-given the toxic substances in liquid, solid, powder, and vapor form (and in the dust of the air) that ‘permeate[d] the entire [battery] plant and everything and everyone in it.’ “ Id. at 593 (quoting Steiner, 350 U.S. at 249) (alterations in original). It interpreted Steiner narrowly for the proposition “that when work is done in a lethal atmosphere, the measures that allow entry and immersion into the destructive element may be integral to all work done there.” Id. However, under Gorman, when such a lethal environment is not present and the gear is not literally required for entry into the plant, donning and doffing gear is not integral.
The Second Circuit’s position appears to be unique. The Ninth and Eleventh Circuits have both interpreted Steiner less narrowly. For example, relying on 29 C.F.R. § 790.8(c), the Ninth Circuit explained that “ ‘where the changing of clothes on the employer’s premises is required by law, by rules of the employer, or by the nature of the work,’ the activity may be considered integral and indispensable to the principal activities.” Ballaris v. Wacker Siltronic Corp., 370 F.3d 901, 910 (9th Cir.2004), quoting Mitchell v. King Packing Co., 350 U.S. 260, 262-63 (1956) (holding that changing into and out of plant uniforms was integral and indispensable to the principal activities because the employer required its employees to wear the uniforms and doing so was performed for the benefit of the company); see also Alvarez, 339 F.3d at 902-03 (“To be ‘integral and indispensable,’ an activity must be necessary to the principal work performed and done for the benefit of the employer.”). Similarly, the Eleventh Circuit held that the following three factors are relevant to the issue of whether an activity is integral and indispensable: “(1) whether the activity is required by the employer; (2) whether the activity is necessary for the employee to perform his or her duties; and whether the activity primarily benefits the employer.” Bonilla v. Baker Concrete Constr., Inc., 487 F.3d 1340, 1344 (11th Cir.2007) (concluding that time spent going through security screening made mandatory by the FAA was not integral and indispensable because it was not for the benefit of the employer). We follow the reasoning of Ballaris and Bonilla.
Under the broader interpretation of integral and indispensable, donning and doffing the uniform and equipment is both integral and indispensable. First, the activity is required by Kellogg. Second, wearing the uniform and equipment primarily benefits Kellogg. Certainly, the employees receive protection from physical harm by wearing the equipment. However, the benefit is primarily for Kellogg, because the uniform and equipment ensures sanitary working conditions and untainted products. Because Franklin would be able to physically complete her job without donning the uniform and equipment, unlike the plaintiffs in Steiner, it is difficult to say that donning the items are necessary for her to perform her duties. Nonetheless, considering these three factors, we conclude that donning and doffing the uniform and standard equipment at issue here is a principal activity. See IBP, Inc., 546 U.S. at 37 (“[A]ny activity that is ‘integral and indispensable’ to a ‘principal activity’ is itself a ‘principal activity.’ ”) Accordingly, under the continuous workday rule, Franklin may be entitled to payment for her post-donning and pre-donning walking time. Because there are questions of fact as to the length of time it took her to walk from the changing area to the time clock and whether that time was de minimis, however, we reverse and remand to the district court for further consideration of this issue.”
To read the entire opinion, click here.
Lewallen v. Scott County, Tennessee
This case was before the Court, following a bench trial. The issue before the Court revolved around whether time spent by a K-9 officer training and caring for a narcotics detection dog assigned to him was compensable under the FLSA. For the reasons discussed below, the Court held that such time was indeed compensable and awarded Plaintiff damages in accordance with his off-duty time spent performing these duties.
The Court recited the following facts as relevant to the inquiry regarding the compensability of the hours at issue:
Kristofer Lewallen began his duties as a K-9 officer on July 1, 2006, when Sheriff Jim Carson ordered him to pick up a black Labrador dog named “J.J.” Sheriff Carson told Lewallen to begin working with the dog and eventually J.J. would be trained as a narcotics detection dog. J.J. lived with Lewallen and Lewallen fed, trained and cared for him. These activities with J.J. were “off the clock,” that is, they were performed in addition to Lewallen’s regularly scheduled work.
In September 2006, Sheriff Anthony Lay took office, and Lewallen’s immediate supervisor became Chief Deputy Bobby Ellis. Lewallen continued to feed, train and care for J.J. under Sheriff Lay. In October 2006, J.J. received training in narcotics detection and was certified as a narcotics detection dog. In addition to the previous care, Lewallen now needed to perform maintenance training with J.J. to keep him certified. Lewallen was not compensated for any of the time he cared for and trained J.J., although Scott County paid for food, veterinary care, and other necessary items for the dog.
Lewallen was trained as a K-9 officer in January 2007. At that training Lewallen learned for the first time that K-9 officers should receive extra pay for the time they spent with their dogs off the clock. Lewallen researched the requirements and submitted the information to Chief Ellis, who gave it to the Scott County finance director. The information included a statement that the Department of Labor requires that the time spent with police dogs is compensable time and, if the hours spent with the dog exceed the 40-hour work week, time and one-half compensation must be paid.
In March 2007, Sheriff Lay called a mandatory meeting of the Sheriff’s Department employees where he announced the suspension of the County K-9 program. Nevertheless, Lewallen still had to care for and train J.J. since he still had possession of the dog. During this time, Lewallen kept training logs for J.J., which were given to Chief Ellis. The training logs showed the amount of time Lewallen was training J.J. during his off-duty hours-45 minutes to six hours a day on his days off and after his shifts.
Sheriff Lay allowed the K-9 officers to begin working with their dogs again in September 2007, and the Scott County K-9 officers were scheduled and sent for training and certification at that time. Lewallen asked Chief Ellis about compensation for his off-duty care and training of his dog, and Ellis said that the Sheriff knew about his request for overtime compensation. Other Scott County K-9 officers also asked Chief Ellis about getting paid for their overtime. Lewallen prepared a proposed schedule that gave each K-9 officer two hours of paid time per scheduled work day as compensation for the care and training of the dogs, and he submitted the plan to Chief Ellis. He never received any response to his proposal…
Lewallen claims one and one-half hours per day of overtime related to his responsibilities of caring for and training his narcotics dog for 874 days. Specifically, on a daily basis Lewallen provided food and water for his dog; brushed the dog and its teeth; administered arthritis medication; and cleaned the kennel area. In addition, the training log examples submitted as evidence show that he often trained his dog for several hours after his shift or on his days off. While Lewallen admits that one and one half hours is an estimate, Scott County has not produced any proof that this estimate is too high or unreasonable.”
Holding that such time was compensable the Court said:
“The first issue to be decided is whether the off-duty time Lewallen spent caring for and training his narcotics dog qualifies as work. The Supreme Court has defined “work” as “physical or mental exertion (whether burdensome or not) controlled or required by the employer and pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the employer and his business.” Tenn. Coal, Iron & R.R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321 U.S. 590, 598 (1944). This definition includes work performed off-duty. Steiner v. Mitchell, 350 U.S. 247, 256 (1956) (holding that employees must be compensated for activities performed for the employer before or after a regular work shift if the activities are an “integral and indispensable” part of the employees’ principal activities). The definition even applies when the work is not requested but is “suffered or permitted.” 29 C.F.R. § 785.11. “If the employer knows or has reason to believe that the work is being performed, he must count the time as hours worked.” 29 C.F.R. § 785.12.
To determine whether the care and training of the narcotics dog was compensable work, there are three questions to be considered: (1) Did Scott County require or suffer Lewallen to care and train J.J.? (2) Was the care and training of the dog necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the County? and (3) Was the off-duty work an integral and indispensable part of Lewallen’s principal activities? Brock v. City of Cincinnati, 236 F.3d 793, 801 (6th Cir.2001). The court concludes that the answer to all three questions is “yes.”
Sheriff Carson ordered Lewallen to pick up a black Labrador dog named J.J. and to begin working with the dog in the hope that J.J. eventually would be trained as a narcotics detection dog. J.J. was to live with and to be taken care of by Lewallen, but he was not Lewallen’s dog as evidenced by the fact that the Sheriff had the dog picked up from Lewallen when he was demoted. Sheriff Carson wanted Scott County to have a certified narcotics dog and K-9 officer, as did Sheriff Lay, and the sheriffs were certainly aware that keeping a dog at home would require taking care of it beyond Lewallen’s scheduled shifts. Even if Sheriffs Carson and Lay were not aware of the exact amount of time needed to care for and train a narcotics dog, they required Lewallen to perform these activities with J.J. Sheriff Lay was informed that Lewallen thought he should get paid for taking care of and training J.J. when he was off duty, but he did nothing to curtail Lewallen’s time spent with the dog, other than suspending the K-9 program for a few months. Sheriff Lay scheduled the training of J.J. and Lewallen in narcotics detection, and Scott County paid for J.J.’s food, veterinary bills, and other necessities. As the Sixth Circuit held in Brock, Scott County “required the officers to take the canines home with them, look after them at all times, keep them well-nourished and in good health, and have them ready for recall to active service at a moment’s notice.” Brock, 236 F.3d at 804.
The court finds that the care and training of J.J. was for the benefit of Scott County, and an integral and indispensable part of the County’s K’9 program. After he was certified, Lewallen’s principal activity for the Sheriff’s Department was working as a K-9 officer. Thus, the time Lewallen spent caring for and training his canine is compensable work.”
Not discussed here, the Court rejected Defendant’s assertions that such time was properly compensated by $1,000.00 per year and/or “comp time.”
To read the entire Memorandum Opinion, click here.
D.Colo.: Time Spent By Police Officers Donning And Doffing Their Uniforms And Equipment Is Compensable, Because It Is Integral And Indispensable To Their Police Duties
Rogers v. City and County of Denver
This case was before the Court on the parties’ respective motions for summary judgment. Plaintiffs made several claims for unpaid wages based on a variety of “off-the-clock” claims. Although the Court denied the parties’ motions with respect to most of the claims–either because the record was not fully developed, or because there were issues of fact–it held that the donning and doffing of uniforms and equipment by certain officers was compensable time.
“The first claim seeks compensation for time spent putting on and taking off the police uniform and equipment required for conducting police activity. For convenience of analysis, this claim is considered as it applies to patrol officers. The DPD Operations Manual prescribes the basic uniform to be worn on duty. It consists of a uniform shirt, uniform trousers, trouser belt, socks and authorized footwear. (DPD Op. Manual § 111.02.) A uniformed officer is generally required to carry a metal badge and nameplate, current DPD identification card, a valid Colorado driver’s license, and a standard uniform belt (“duty belt”) containing an authorized holster and firearm, ammunition case and ammunition, handcuffs and handcuff case, department issued tear gas and holder, flashlight, baton ring and belt “keepers.” (Id. § 111.03.) Uniformed officers are not required to wear basic hats or reflective apparel or carry batons, but officers must have those items available at all times. (Id. §§ 111.02(1), 111.02(12) & 111.03(13)). The Operations Manual describes particular situations in which basic hats and reflective apparel must be worn. The wearing of ballistic vests is encouraged, but not required. (Id. § 111.05(2)(e)).
The DPD does not require that donning and doffing the basic uniform take place at the assigned work station. Some district headquarters have storage lockers and rooms available for use at the officer’s individual choice. Some district buildings are too small and the officers must report in full uniform. The City argues that the option to put on and take off the uniform at home or elsewhere distinguishes this case from precedents established in the context of the meat industry and other hazardous occupations.
The option to change away from the duty station is not determinative. The principal activity of the patrol officers is policing the community. The police uniform is not “clothing” in any ordinary sense. It is the visible sign of authority and an essential element of the officer’s ability to command compliance with his commands and directives. It is analogous to the judicial robe. The uniform includes the equipment that are the tools that enable the officer to use physical force, including deadly force, for the protection of himself and others as circumstances require.
The City argues that the Plaintiffs’ clothes changing activities are excluded from compensation under 29 U.S.C. § 203(o). That section provides:
Hours Worked.-In determining for the purposes of sections 206 and 207 of this title the hours for which an employee is employed, there shall be excluded any time spent in changing clothes or washing at the beginning or end of each workday which was excluded from measured working time during the week involved by the express terms of or by custom or practice under a bona fide collective-bargaining agreement applicable to the particular employee.
CBAs between the City and the Denver Police Protective Association have been in effect since January 1, 1996. DPD officers have never been compensated for donning and doffing their uniforms and personal equipment. The City contends that this history of non-compensation shows an established custom or practice under the CBAs.
That argument is not persuasive. Silence in collective bargaining is not the equivalent of a custom or practice of non-compensability.
In December 1985, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued a Wage and Hour Opinion Letter, stating that the time spent by a uniformed police officer donning and doffing the required uniform was not compensable time under the FLSA, where a collective bargaining agreement between a city and the union had no express provision regarding the compensability of clothes-changing time and there had been no custom or practice between the parties to consider such clothes changing time compensable. Wage & Hour Opinion Letter, Dec. 30, 1985, 1985 WL 1087351, Def.’s Ex. A-98. That opinion letter is not persuasive, but may be considered with respect to the issue of willfulness. Similarly, Wage & Hour Advisory Memorandum No.2006-2 dated May 31, 2006 (opining that changing into gear is not a principal activity if employees have the option and the ability to change at home) is relevant only to the issue of willfulness.
The judicially-created de minimis rule provides an exception to the FLSA’s requirement that all work be compensated. There are genuine issues of material fact regarding the time and effort required to don and doff the DPD uniform and protective gear. The City’s de minimis defense is a factual issue for trial.
While donning and doffing the patrol officers uniform and equipment is compensable time under the FLSA as activity that is integral and indispensable to their police duties, the continuous work day does not begin or end with that activity. The plaintiffs are not asking for time spent commuting for those officers who chose to change at home. This ruling is applicable only to the uniformed officers on official duty. The facts concerning wearing uniforms and equipment during secondary employment are not adequately presented in the papers filed. Similarly there is no clear evidentiary record concerning detectives and other non-uniformed officers.”
This decision appears to be in direct conflict with the Ninth Circuit’s recent decision discussed here, which held that time spent donning and doffing police uniforms and equipment was not compensable, because officers had the option of doing it at home.
Click here to read the entire decision.
5th Cir.: Defendants’ Purported Day-Rates Were Impermissible Where They Made Deductions For Partial Days Worked
Solis v. Hooglands Nursery, L.L.C.
This is an appeal from the district court’s order granting summary judgment for Plaintiff on behalf of various employees of Defendants. The district court held that the Defendants violated the overtime and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The Defendants appealed the district court’s order as it relates to its non-salaried employees, arguing that there were genuine issues of fact regarding whether their day rate plan was invalid under the FLSA and whether they acted in good faith. Discussing each basis for summary judgment in turn, the 5th Circuit affirmed.
Briefly discussing Defendants’ purported day-rate methodology, the Court explained:
“Appellants first argue that there remained a genuine issue of fact regarding whether their day-rate method of paying their employees met the standards of 29 C.F.R. § 778.112. However, Appellants concede both before the district court and on appeal that their employees’ wages were reduced when the employees worked less than a full day. Accordingly, Appellants did not have a valid day-rate plan in use, and their failure to pay their employees overtime compensation pay for time worked beyond forty hours per week violated 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1).”
Next the Court discussed the issue of unpaid fifteen minute breaks.
“Appellants next concede that they failed to pay their employees for two fifteen-minute breaks per day, in violation of the FLSA. Nevertheless, Appellants argue that their purported overpayment to their employees as part of their day-rate plan compensated for the shortfall, pursuant to 29 C.F.R. § 778.202(a). However, as the district court properly held, Appellants did not employ a valid day-rate plan, because they reduced employees’ pay for hours they did not work. Accordingly, the district court properly concluded that Appellants remain liable for the amounts deducted from their employees’ compensable break periods.”
Last the Court discussed the award of liquidated damages, and the fact that the Court was entitled to award liquidated damages, notwithstanding a showing of both subjective and objective good faith.
“Finally, Appellants argue that even if they violated the FLSA by not implementing a proper day-rate plan and failed to pay proper overtime compensation, there remained a question of fact as to whether Appellants’ failures were in good faith, thus precluding an award of liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are awarded as a matter of course for violations of 29 U.S.C. § 207. See 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 260, however, a district court may decline to award liquidated damages if the employer demonstrates that it acted reasonably and in good faith. Heidtman v. County of El Paso, 171 F.3d 1038, 1042 (5th Cir.1999). Nevertheless, even if a defendant shows both subjective good faith and objective reasonableness, an award of liquidated damages remains in the discretion of the district court. See § 260; Heidtman, 171 F.3d at 1042. After reviewing the record, the district court correctly held that Appellants “ha[ve] submitted no evidence that [their] reliance on a bookkeeper with no managerial authority to ensure [their] compliance with the FLSA was reasonable.” Accordingly, Appellants have not carried their burden of showing good faith, and an award liquidated damages was proper.”
9th Cir.: Time Police Officers Spent Donning/Doffing Uniforms and Equipment Not Compensable, Because Officers Had The Option Of Donning/Doffing At Home
Bamonte v. City of Mesa
Appellants, police officers employed by Appellee City of Mesa (City), challenged the district court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of the City. The officers contended that the City violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to compensate police officers for the donning and doffing of their uniforms and accompanying gear. Because officers had the option of donning and doffing their uniforms and gear at home, the district court determined that these activities were not compensable pursuant to the FLSA and the Portal-to-Portal Act. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, and held that these activities were not compensable pursuant to the FLSA.
To read the entire opinion click here.
D.Md.: Training Time Outside Of Regular Work Hours Not Compensable, Because It Was Primarily For The Benefit Of The Employees Not The Employer
Carter v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore City
Before the Court was Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment. This was the second such Motion, because the Court had denied the prior application with leave to further establish the factual record. Plaintiffs claimed that they were entitled to be paid for certain time spent training in Defendants’ CRT Apprentice program outside of their regular workweek. The Court disagreed, granting Defendants’ Motion. As discussed below, the Court reasoned that since the primary benefit of the training was to the Plaintiffs, such time spent training was not compensable under the FLSA or Portal-to-Portal Act.
Discussing the facts pertinent to its inquiry the Court explained:
“Plaintiffs are current or former apprentices in a Baltimore City Fire Department (BCFD) three-year Firefighter/Paramedic Apprenticeship Program. Plaintiffs allege that as part of their apprenticeship they were required to attend class and perform on-the-job practical training on an ambulance and in the hospital without compensation in violation of the FLSA.
It is undisputed that one of the duties of a Firefighter/Paramedic is to provide emergency medical care, including Advanced Life Support. In order to provide Advanced Life Support, Maryland state law requires licensure as a Cardiac Rescue Technician (CRT). Md.Code Regs. 30.01.01.20. State law designates the State Emergency Medical Services Board (EMS Board) to approve CRT courses, conduct examinations, and issue CRT licenses. Md.Code Ann., Educ. § 13-516(a)(2) [a portion of the facts is excluded here]…
The Fire Department required remedial training for apprentices when they failed the required national registry EMT test or any of the exams during the CRT-I course. In addition, if students failed the National Registry exam three times, the National Registry required the students to take a 48 hour review before it would allow them to re-take the exam.
The Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems issued regulations governing the content of ALS education programs. Md.Code Regs. 30.04.02.01 et seq. In addition to classroom training, ALS students must also complete a supervised clinical experience, which includes the practice of skills within clinical education facilities, and a supervised field internship, which includes the practice of skills while functioning in a prehospital ALS environment. Id. 30.04.02.05. During the clinical and field training, the MIEMSS regulations require that the student is supervised by clinical and field preceptors. Id. 30.04.02.06. In the field portion of the training, the ratio of students to preceptors must be one to one. Id. 30.04.02.06(F)(2).
Upon entering the fire academy, the apprentices signed an Apprenticeship Agreement in which they agreed to the terms of the Apprenticeship Standards filed with the Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Council. The Standards include a requirement that apprentices will complete a minimum of 144 hours per year of related instruction and that these hours will not be considered as hours worked when given outside regular working hours. In addition to the CRT-I course, apprentices were required to undergo enhanced training, including courses in pump operations, aerial operations, hazmat tech, arson awareness/sprinkler, and rescue technician.
During the second portion of the apprentices’ training, they worked an eight day cycle, with 4 days on and 4 days off. Training to obtain their CRT licensure was sometimes scheduled on the apprentices’ days off. Apprentices were not compensated during the off-duty training times. Plaintiffs contend that they should have been compensated for this off-duty training time under the FLSA.”
Discussing the relevant law and concluding that Plaintiffs’ after-hours training was not compensable under the FLSA, the Court stated:
“Plaintiffs allege that the City violated this provision by refusing to pay them overtime for the hours spent in training outside their regular workweek.
Cases analyzing whether training mandated by employers or potential employers should be compensable as hours worked include cases in which the potential employer requires the completion of training before an individual may be hired and cases in which the individual is an apprentice or already an employee and required to complete training as part of the apprenticeship or as an agreed upon condition to hiring. The seminal cases relating to training and the FLSA are the companion cases, Walling v. Portland Terminal Co., 330 U.S. 148 (1947) and Walling v. Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Ry., 330 U.S. 158 (1947). In Portland Terminal, the defendant railroad had required the completion of a course of practical training before individuals could be hired as prospective yard brakemen. 330 U.S. at 149. The course involved a progressive increase in the trainees’ ability to act as a brakeman beginning with observing routine activities through gradually conducting the actual work of a brakeman under close scrutiny. Id. The Supreme Court noted that the activities of the trainee did not displace any of the regular employees, who were required to supervise any actual work done by the trainees, and did not expedite the company business, but may at times have impeded it. Id. at 149-50. Once certified as competent, the individuals who completed the training comprised a pool of qualified workmen available to the railroad when needed. Id. at 150. The Supreme Court focused on whether the trainees were to be considered employees and thus protected by the FLSA. Id. The FLSA defines employ as “to suffer or permit to work.” Id. at 152; 29 U.S.C. § 203(g). Despite the broad definition, the Supreme Court held that it could not “be interpreted so as to make a person whose work serves only his own interest an employee of another person who gives him aid and instruction.” Portland Terminal, 330 U.S. at 152. The Court compared the training at issue to courses in railroading in a public or private vocational school, in which “it could not be reasonably suggested that [the students] were employees of the railroad merely because the school’s graduates would constitute a labor pool for the railroad.” Id. at 152-53. Thus, the Court held that when the railroads received no “immediate advantage” from the work done by the trainees, the trainees were not employees under the FLSA. Id. at 153.
In analyzing Portland Terminal, the Fourth Circuit has concluded that the general test used to determine if an employee is entitled to the protections of the Act is “whether the employee or the employer is the primary beneficiary of the trainees’ labor.” McLaughlin v. Ensley, 877 F.2d 1207, 1209 (4th Cir.1989). In McLaughlin, the defendant owned a snack foods distribution business in which he required new hires to spend five days travelling an ordinary route with an experienced routeman as training before they were hired. 877 F.2d at 1208. The trainees loaded and unloaded the delivery truck, restocked stores with the defendants products, were given instruction on how to drive the trucks, were introduced to retailers, were taught basic snack food vending maintenance, and occasionally helped in preparing orders of goods with financial exchanges. Id. The court found that, unlike in Portland Terminal, the prospective employees were simply helping to service a route, and the instruction they received did not rise to the level that one would receive in a general, vocational course in outside salesmanship. Id. at 1210. Instead, the court found that the trainees were taught only simple, specific job functions related to the defendant’s business. Id. For those reasons, the court concluded that the trainees were entitled to be considered covered employees under the FLSA. Id. Compare Reich v. Parker Fire Protection District, 992 F.2d 1023 (10th Cir.1993) (holding that firefighter trainees were not employees because they obtained training comparable to a vocational school and the defendant was not immediately benefited by the trainees’ activities as their training activities were supervised and they did not assume the duties of career firefighters; the benefit to the defendant from the plaintiffs’ supervised training activities was de minimis ).
Where trainees are already employees, the Courts look also to the Portal-to-Portal Act, which provides that an employer need not pay an employee for activities that are “preliminary or postliminary” to the principal activity or activities the employee is employed to perform. 29 U.S.C. § 254(a)(2). The Supreme Court has interpreted the mandate of the Portal-to-Portal Act to mean “that activities performed either before or after the regular work shift, on or off the production line, are compensable … if those activities are an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities for which covered workmen are employed.” Steiner v. Mitchell, 350 U.S. 247, 256 (1956).
The most oft-cited case applying the “preliminary or postliminary” test to training activities is Ballou v. General Electric Co. 433 F.2d 109 (1st Cir.1970). In Ballou, the First Circuit held that the classroom training required of the defendant’s apprentices taking place outside of working hours was neither integral nor indispensable to the apprentices’ principal activity, which was the work that took place during their regular 40 hour work-training week. Id. at 112. The court looked to Portland Terminal and found that if the defendant had not employed the appellants as workers, but provided only training programs that they were required to complete successfully before they could be employed as journeymen, the apprentices would be entitled to no compensation. Id. Thus, the court concluded that “the employer’s decision to hire its employees before the completion of training did not obligate it to compensate them for the time spent in their status as students after their hiring.” Bienkowski v. Northeastern Univ., 285 F.3d 138, 141 (1st Cir.2002) (citing Ballou, 433 F.2d at 112).Accord Chao v. Tradesman Int’l, Inc., 310 F.3d 904, 910 (6th Cir.2002) (“Therefore, we agree with the First Circuit that the defendant employer should not be made liable for overtime pay for time its employees spend as students, rather than as workers…. We do not see why the employer should be penalized for allowing a potential employee to begin earning income while striving to meet certain prerequisites for the job when the employer could just as easily withhold employment until successful completion of all the job requirements.”).
In Bienkowski, the First Circuit applied its analysis in Ballou to facts similar to the facts found here. 285 F.3d at 141. In Bienkowski, the defendant hired the plaintiffs as probationary police officers with a requirement that they receive and retain certification as Massachusetts-registered EMTs within one year of their appointment. Id. at 139. At the time of hire, the plaintiffs signed a letter acknowledging the requirement. Id. The training, as required pursuant to Massachusetts statutes, regulations, and Department of Public Health standards, required approximately 110 hours of classroom work, as well as 10 hours of in-hospital evaluation time, practical exams, and written exams. Id. Although the plaintiffs could have taken the EMT courses at various locations throughout Massachusetts, they chose to take the course at Northeastern, where they were entitled to tuition reimbursement. Id. For the most part, the course requirements took place outside of the plaintiffs’ working hours. Id. at 140. Prior to receiving their certification, the plaintiffs were prohibited from performing EMT work, but following their certification, they regularly used their skills on the job. Id. The Court held that it would not hold the defendant “liable for overtime pay for time its employees spend as students, rather than as workers, simply because [the defendant] decided to hire its employees on a probationary basis until they complete the training required to hold the job on a permanent basis.” Id. at 141.
Defendants have articulated and Plaintiffs have not disagreed that the classes and on-the-job training required of the apprentices can be broken down into four categories: 1) initial classroom training to obtain CRT licensure; 2) classroom enhanced training; 3) clinical training with an ambulance medic team and in the hospital to obtain CRT licensure; and 4) mandatory repeat classroom training to obtain CRT licensure when a student has failed any of the required exams. Under either the “primary beneficiary” test of McLaughlin or the “integral and indispensable part of the principal activities” test of Steiner, the hours spent in all four categories of training are not compensable as hours worked under the FLSA.
All of the classroom and practical training required to obtain the CRT license, the classroom enhanced training, and the repeat classroom training are no different than that found in Portland Terminal, Ballou, and Bienkowski. Plaintiffs are apprentices in an apprenticeship program approved by the Department of Labor and as part of that program were required to take the CRT Training, which required both classroom and clinical training. As the CRT license was required in order for Plaintiffs to conduct their duties as firefighters/paramedics, the City could have required the Plaintiffs to obtain the license before hiring them. In fact, similar training is provided at Baltimore City Community College and Community College of Baltimore County. Instead the city allowed Plaintiffs to obtain the license while they were concurrently employed by the city, and funded the training. Although the City ultimately benefitted from Plaintiffs obtaining the CRT license in that it then had a pool of employees certified to conduct ALS, Plaintiffs obtained a license fully transferrable to their employment with any other employer that required the ability to provide Advanced Life Support. Thus, as in Portland Terminal and unlike in McLaughlin, Plaintiffs were the primary beneficiaries of the training. Moreover, as Plaintiffs were not able to perform any of the ALS duties until they obtained their license, as in Bienkowski the training was not an integral and indispensable part of their paid work duties during the period of their training.
This Court’s holding is supported by Department of labor regulations interpreting the FLSA that exclude from the computation of “hours worked” the time spent in certain kinds of training. One such regulation is found at 29 C.F.R. § 553.226(b).
(b) While time spent in attending training required by an employer is normally considered compensable hours of work, following are situations where time spent by employees of State and local governments in required training is considered to be noncompensable:
(1) Attendance outside of regular working hours at specialized or follow-up training, which is required by law for certification of public and private sector employees within a particular governmental jurisdiction (e.g., certification of public and private emergency rescue workers), does not constitute compensable hours of work for public employees within that jurisdiction and subordinate jurisdictions.
(2) Attendance outside of regular working hours at specialized or follow-up training, which is required for certification of employees of a governmental jurisdiction by law of a higher level of government (e.g., where a State or county law imposes a training obligation on city employees), does not constitute compensable hours of work.
(3) Time spent in the training described in paragraphs (b)(1) or (2) of this section is not compensable, even if all or part of the costs of the training is borne by the employer.
A 1999 Department of Labor Opinion letter applies this regulation to facts identical to those found here.
Q.1. As a condition of employment, firefighters for County A must have current EMT (emergency medical training) certification. Although this certification is granted through the state, the state does not require the fire fighters have the certification. However, since City A requires it, the training is not “voluntary.” Under these circumstances, must the EMT training that is required to maintain this certification be counted as hours worked if the training takes place during non-working hours?
A.1. No. While time spent in attending training required by an employer is normally considered compensable hours of work, attendance outside of regular working hours at specialized or follow-up training which is required by law for certification of employees of a governmental jurisdiction, does not constitute hours of work under the FLSA. See Section 553.226 of Regulations, 29 CFR Part 553. Sept. 30, 1999, Dept. of Labor Op. Letter, 1999 WL 1788163.
In addition, the Department of Labor has issued a regulation as to apprenticeship training.
[T]ime spent in an organized program of related, supplemental instruction by employees working under bona fide apprenticeship programs may be excluded from working time if…. (b) such time does not involve productive work or the performance of the apprentice’s regular duties. If the above criteria are met the time spent in such related instruction shall not be counted as hours worked unless the written agreement specifically provides that it is hours worked. The mere payment or agreement to pay for time spent in related instruction does not constitute an agreement that it is hours worked. 29 C.F.R. § 785.32.
Plaintiffs do not contest that the initial CRT training and the enhanced training are not compensable under these regulations. They argue, however, that although the clinical training is a required component of the CRT-I course, it was compensable time because it was productive work and constituted performance of their regular duties. The undisputed evidence shows that a regular medic unit is staffed by two individuals, which could be two ALS providers or an ALS provider and a BLS provider. When Plaintiffs were assigned to a medic unit as part of their training, there was always an ALS provider and another BLS provider; the trainee would then be a third person on the team. Plaintiffs state in their opposition that “[i]n the experience of many Plaintiffs, under the guise of ‘training,’ only one person, the [ALS] preceptor-was paid. Therefore, a paid position on the medic unit was eliminated during the training, as the Defendants filled it with two unpaid apprentices.” Opp. at 8.
Contrary to Plaintiffs’ statements in their opposition, however, neither of the provided affidavits establishes that unpaid trainees replaced a paid BLS provider. Moreover, they have not established that any benefit the City may have received from the trainee’s presence is anything more than de minimis or that it outweighed the benefit to the trainee in completing a required component of the CRT training. One affiant testified that the other BLS provider was paid and drove the ambulance while he, as the trainee, sat in the back of the ambulance. Stoakley Aff. ¶ 4. Notably, the second affiant said nothing regarding whether the other BLS provider was paid and said nothing about whether he ever drove the ambulance while he was on a training run. Bonovich Aff. ¶ 4. Thus, Plaintiffs have provided no reason to believe that when they were conducting training runs they were not able to work with the ALS provider in a training capacity for the entire period.
Similarly, the time spent by the trainees in the hospital was also a required component of the CRT training. Plaintiffs’ affidavits confirm that all of the Plaintiffs’ activities in the hospital were supervised. They have not shown, however, that their activities were part of their regular duties or any more productive than the supervised work done by trainees in Portland Terminal. Thus, the clinical training does not constitute compensable hours worked under the FLSA and the Portal-to-Portal Act.
Plaintiffs also argue that the duplicative classroom training, required when Plaintiffs did not pass certain examinations required for the EMT-I certification, is compensable as hours worked because it was neither a part of the approved apprenticeship program nor a legal requirement. While the apprentice standards may have simply required the CRT-I course, it is logical to conclude that the apprentices were expected to successfully complete the course and obtain their CRT license. If an apprentice fails the course and must repeat it in order to satisfy the requirements to obtain the CRT license, it is hard to imagine how this is any different than the initial requirement to attend the course. Moreover, it seems perverse logic to say that the initial training is not compensable, but if an apprentice fails the training, it then becomes compensable. Finally, the Court sees no immediate benefit to the Defendants from Plaintiffs taking remedial courses since it delayed the time that Plaintiffs could conduct ALS duties. Thus, the Court sees no difference in the initial requirement to attend the CRT course and the requirement to take duplicative training when the student fails the required exams.”
Having determined that the training time at issue was not compensable, the Court granted Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment.
D.S.D.: Special Detail Exemption Recognized By 29 U.S.C. § 207(p)(1) Of The FLSA Applies To Exclude Certain Time Worked, Because Firefighters Were On Firefighting Detail Solely At Their Own Option, During Off Duty Hours, And The State And The City Are Separate And Independent Employers
Specht v. City of Sioux Falls
This case was before the Court on Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. The specific issue is the City’s affirmative defense that the firefighters were exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act. 29 U.S.C. § 207(p)(1) establishes a special detail exemption so that hours worked on special detail are not combined with the regular hours for calculating overtime compensation.
The Court cited the following facts as relevant to the issue at bar:
“Plaintiffs are firefighters employed by the City of Sioux Falls in the Fire Rescue Department (SFFR). During July and August of 2006, all of the Plaintiffs were deployed to assist in fighting wildfires. In July of 2006, Ricky Larsen, who was the Chief of SFFR received a call from the South Dakota state fire dispatch requesting assistance in battling wildfires. There was a list of SFFR firefighters who were wildland firefighter certified. Each firefighter has the right to accept or deny when offered an opportunity at deployment. Reimbursements to the City by the State for the firefighters’ compensation were made pursuant to a contract between the City and the State. The normal schedule called for the firefighters to work 204 hours during a 27 day pay period. Typically a firefighter’s deployment for wildland firefighting is not more than 14 days. There was a concern that deployed firefighters would be paid less than if they had stayed in Sioux Falls and worked the normal 204 hours work schedule. SFFR agreed to pay the difference between 204 hours and the hours actually worked during a 27 day period in which a firefighter was deployed if a firefighter’s hours during the 27 day period totaled less than 204.”
Laying out the relevant law regarding the s0-called “Special Detail Exemption” the Court stated:
“29 U.S.C. § 207(p)(1) provides:
If an individual who is employed by a State, political subdivision of a State, or an interstate governmental agency in fire protection or law enforcement activities (including activities of security personnel in correctional institutions) and who, solely at such individual’s option, agrees to be employed on a special detail by a separate or independent employer in fire protection, law enforcement, or related activities, the hours such individual was employed by such separate and independent employer shall be excluded by the public agency employing such individual in the calculation of the hours for which the employee is entitled to overtime compensation under this section if the public agency-
(A) requires that its employees engaged in fire protection, law enforcement, or security activities be hired by a separate and independent employer to perform the special detail,
(B) facilitates the employment of such employees by a separate and independent employer, or
(C) otherwise affects the condition of employment of such employees by a separate and independent employer.
Code of Federal Regulations.
29 C.F.R. § 553.227 provides:
(a) Section 7(p)(1) makes special provision for fire protection and law enforcement employees of public agencies who, at their own option, perform special duty work in fire protection, law enforcement or related activities for a separate and independent employer (public or private) during their off-duty hours. The hours of work for the separate and independent employer are not combined with the hours worked for the primary public agency employer for purposes of overtime compensation.
(b) Section 7(p)(1) applies to such outside employment provided (1) The special detail work is performed solely at the employee’s option, and (2) the two employers are in fact separate and independent.
(c) Whether two employers are, in fact, separate and independent can only be determined on a case-by-case basis.
(d) The primary employer may facilitate the employment or affect the conditions of employment of such employees. For example, a police department may maintain a roster of officers who wish to perform such work. The department may also select the officers for special details from a list of those wishing to participate, negotiate their pay, and retain a fee for administrative expenses. The department may require that the separate and independent employer pay the fee for such services directly to the department, and establish procedures for the officers to receive their pay for the special details through the agency’s payroll system. Finally, the department may require that the officers observe their normal standards of conduct during such details and take disciplinary action against those who fail to do so.
(e) Section 7(p)(1) applies to special details even where a State law or local ordinance requires that such work be performed and that only law enforcement or fire protection employees of a public agency in the same jurisdiction perform the work. For example, a city ordinance may require the presence of city police officers at a convention center during concerts or sports events. If the officers perform such work at their own option, the hours of work need not be combined with the hours of work for their primary employer in computing overtime compensation.
(f) The principles in paragraphs (d) and (e) of this section with respect to special details of public agency fire protection and law enforcement employees under section 7(p)(1) are exceptions to the usual rules on joint employment set forth in part 791 of this title.
(g) Where an employee is directed by the public agency to perform work for a second employer, section 7(p)(1) does not apply. Thus, assignments of police officers outside of their normal work hours to perform crowd control at a parade, where the assignments are not solely at the option of the officers, would not qualify as special details subject to this exception. This would be true even if the parade organizers reimburse the public agency for providing such services.
(h) Section 7(p)(1) does not prevent a public agency from prohibiting or restricting outside employment by its employees.
Department of Labor Letter Rulings.
This § 207(p)(1) exemption has been addressed in two opinion letter rulings issued by the United States Department of Labor on November 19, 1992 and in a third opinion letter ruling issued December 31, 2007. Ginsburg et al., Fair Labor Standards Handbook, App. III, pp. 186-87 & 457-58 (1998). In the second1992 opinion letter the Department of Labor opined that county sheriff’s deputies who are employed by a village to perform law enforcement services for the village under a proposed contract between the county and the village fall under § 207(p)(1) so that the hours worked by the deputies for both employers are not combined for FLSA overtime compensation purposes. “Section 207(p)(1) applies to such outside employment provided (1) the special detail work is performed solely at the employee’s option, and (2) the two employers are in fact separate and independent.” The Department of Labor cited 29 C . F.R. § 553.227.
In contrast, the first November 19, 1992, opinion letter opined that § 207(p)(1) did not apply to a paramedic who worked for a county’s emergency medical services department and who also worked as a part time communications supervisor in the county’s sheriff department so that the hours worked in both county departments should be combined for overtime purposes. The departments were not separate and independent employers. The employee worked for a single employer, the county, in different departments. These two opinion letters illustrate the principle of § 207(p)(1) which is described as follows in the first letter ruling:
Section 7(p)(1) makes special provision for fire protection and law enforcement employees who, at their own option, perform activities for a separate and independent (emphasis in original) employer(public or private) during their off-duty hours. The hours of work for the separate and independent employer are not combined with the hours worked for the primary public agency employer for the purposes fo overtime compensation. See § 553.227 of the regulations. Id.
In the 2007 opinion letter the Department of Labor opined that the city police department and a non-profit group which operates the city convention center are separate and independent employers so that § 207(p)(1) applies when police officers perform security duties at the convention center during their off hours. “[I]t is our opinion that the City Police Department would not be obligated to include the hours worked by police officers on special assignment to the Authority in calculating and paying overtime due them.”
The language of 29 U.S.C. § 207(p)(1), 29 C.F.R. § 553.227, and the Department of Labor is plain, i.e. if the firefighter has the option to accept or reject the assignment and if the second employer is a separate and independent employer, then the primary employer does not count the hours the firefighter spends on the special detail for the second employer in the calculation to determine the firefighter’s entitlement to overtime.
Case precedent is consistent with these legal principles. Jackson v. City of San Antonio, 2006 WL 2548545, *4-*7, (W.D.Tex.2006) (Section 7(p)(1) special duty exemption bars police officers’ overtime claims against the City for hours worked for separate and independent employers during off duty hours); Nolan v.. City of Chicago, 125 F.Supp.2d 324, 335-339, (N.C.Ill.2000) (Section 7(p)(1) sets forth a two part test: if the assignment is solely at the employees option and the employers are in fact separate and independent the special detail exemption applies and the hours worked for the separate employer are not combined for purposes of assessing overtime compensation); Cox v. Town of Puughkeepsie, 209 F.Supp.2d 319, 324-327 ((S.D. N.Y 2002) (Section 7(p)(1) does not apply to voluntary work performed by police officers because the town and the town police department are a single employer); Baltimore County FOP Lodge 4 v. Baltimore County, 565 F.Supp.2d 672, 676-679, (D. Maryland 2008) (Section 7(p)(1) special detail exemption cannot be decided as a matter of law on summary judgment motion because there are questions of fact to be resolved by a jury on both the voluntary and separate employer prongs); Murphy v. Town of Natick, 515 F.Supp.2d 153, 157-158, (D. Mass 2007) (Section 7(p)(1) special detail exemption does not apply because the Town is not a separate and independent entity from any of its constituent departments); Barajas v. Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, 87 F.Supp.2d 1201, 1205-1209, (D.Kansas 2000) (Section 7(p)(1) special detail exemption cannot be decided as a matter of law even though parties agree the assignments are solely at the employees option because there are questions of fact about the Unified Government and the Housing Authority as separate and independent employers).
The Court then analyzed the relevant factors, concluding that all elements of the exemption were met here.
“Solely at the Firefighter’s Own Option.
Specht described the procedure for calling the list for volunteers (Doc. 24, Ex. 13, Specht depo. p. 63-64):
… [Y]ou have to go to the first person on the list that has the fewest number of hours…. I will use SF 29 as an example …; under “Remarks,” it says, “No answer.”…. [T]hey can leave an answer (sic) on the answering machine, and they must wait a minimum of-I believe it’s five minutes-before they can call the next person so that that person could look at their messages and call in and say: “Yes, I want to work.” “No, I don’t.” …. By contract and by policy, you can either accept the overtime or reject it, unless they declare an emergency. Or, once they’ve been all the way through the list, then they can call-if they get a hold of you the second time, then they can require you to take the overtime. (emphasis added).
Specht also testified that all the firefighters who responded in 2006 were accepting the offered “overtime.” Whether it is called volunteering or called overtime, the firefighters accepted. They had the option to say, “no, I won’t go,” or “yes” on the first time the list was called. Plaintiff argues that the wildfire fighting deployment was not voluntary because the firefighter could be assigned to go on deployment if there were not enough who accepted the first time the list was called. This argument is academic and not relevant. There were enough firefighters who accepted the first time the list was called. None of these plaintiffs was assigned to accept the deployment against his will. The list was not called a second time. The notes on the calling sheets reflect that several said “yes” to this wildfire fighting deployment and several said “no” (Doc. 36). There were ten “yes.” There were ten “no.” There were seven who said “after a certain date.”
The plaintiffs were on this wildland fire fighting project solely at their own option. The first prong of the section 7(p)(1) special detail test existed.
Separate and Independent Employer.
The other employer is the State. It cannot reasonably be argued or concluded that the City and the State are the same employer. The Department of Labor and the case law have identified the factors to test for separate and independent employers:
(1) whether the employers have separate payroll/personnel systems;
(2) whether the employers have separate retirement systems;
(3) whether the employers have separate budgets and funding authorities;
(4) whether the employers are separate legal entities with the power to sue and to be sued;
(5) whether the employers dealt with each other at arms length concerning the employment of any individuals in question;
(6) how they are treated under state law;
(7) whether one employer controls the appointment of the officers of the other entity.
The responses to these questions are so obvious there is little or nothing in the record about them. Judicial notice is taken of the facts not in the record, but which are nonetheless relevant to the evaluation of these factors. Federal Rules of Evidence 201(b), (c) & (f). It is known that under state law the State has its own payroll, personnel, and retirement system. It is known that under city ordinance the City has its own payroll, personnel, and retirement system. The State and the City have separate budgets and different funding sources. (Both rely significantly on sales taxes-the State sales tax is 4% and the City sales tax is 2%. A purchaser in Sioux Falls pays a total of 6%, but the 6% is the total of two separate tax levies.) The State and the City are separate legal entities. Both have the power to sue and be sued, e.g. this lawsuit where the City is a defendant and the State is not a party. The State and the City dealt at arms length-see the written contract between them formed and filed under State statute, SDCL 1-24. The City and the State are treated as separate entities under state law. Neither the State nor the City control the appointment of officers of the other.
The City and the State are separate and independent employers. The second prong of the section 7(p)(1) special detail test existed.
During Off Duty Hours.
The usual scenario for the application of 7(p)(1) is when the fireman or policeman works for a second employer during off duty hours, e.g. at a concert or a sporting event. The Code of Federal Regulations and the Department of Labor letter rulings use the words “during their off duty hours.” The present plaintiffs are not in that situation because they are geographically so far from their home duty station that they cannot return home after a duty shift. Consequently, at the remote locations they work both the equivalent of their normal duty shift and the equivalent of their normal off duty hours. Since the present firefighters work both their normal on duty hours and their normal off duty hours at a remote location fighting wildfires, the use of the words “off duty hours” in the Code of Federal Regulations raises an issue about the applicability of the special detail exemption to the plaintiffs. The question is answered by 29 U.S.C. § 207(p)(1) itself. The statute does not limit the special detail exemption to off duty hours. The statute provides that a firefighter employed by a city “in fire protection … who, solely at the firefighter’s option agrees to be employed on a special detail by a separate or independent employer in fire protection … the hours such individual was employed by such separate and independent employer shall be excluded by the public agency employing such individual in the calculation of the hours for which the employee is entitled to overtime compensation ….“ (emphasis added) The statute which created the special detail exemption did not limit the special detail exemption to off duty hours. The statute plainly says the hours employed by the separate and independent employer shall be excluded when calculating overtime compensation
Under the FLSA the second employer must pay overtime if the employee works more than 40 hours during a workweek and some exemption does not apply. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). To illustrate, if the firefighter works three 16 hour days fighting a wildfire during a workweek, then the second employer pays overtime, i.e. 48 hours worked compared to 40 hours equals 8 hours overtime. The way it works is this: if FLSA overtime is worked on the special wildfire fighting detail, the State pays the FLSA overtime. If a firefighter’s special detail hours and other, normal hours in Sioux Falls added together during a 27 day work cycle total fewer than 204 hours, the City pays the difference so the firefighter is assured at least 204 hours for the pay cycle in which a wildfire fighting deployment occurs. The special detail hours are not combined with the normal shift hours to calculate overtime compensation per 29 U.S .C. § 207(p)(1).”
Holding that all the relevant elements of the exemption were present here, the Court granted Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment finding that the special detail exemption recognized by 29 U.S.C. § 207(p)(1) of the Fair Labor Standards Act applied.