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9th Cir.: Nevada Waived Sovereign Immunity from FLSA Claims by Removing Lawsuit to Federal Court
This case was before the court on the State of Nevada’s interlocutory appeal, following the district court’s denial of its motion to dismiss on jursidictional grounds. Addressing an issue of first impression, the Ninth Circuit held that removal from state court to federal court constitutes a waiver of sovereign immunity as to all federal claims, including the FLSA claims at issue here.
In Walden, state correctional officers alleged that the Nevada Department of Corrections improperly failed to pay them for pre- and post-shift work at state prisons and other facilities. They filed suit in state court, alleging minimum wage and overtime claims under the FLSA, in addition to a minimum-wage claim under Nevada’s Constitution, a overtime claim under Nevada law, and a claim for breach of contract.
Nevada removed the case to federal court and moved for judgment on the pleadings with regard to the FLSA claims, and contended that it was “immune from liability as a matter of law.” Nevada did not explicitly mention state sovereign immunity or the Eleventh Amendment, though.
The district court requested briefing on the question whether state sovereign immunity applies to the FLSA claims against the state following its removal of the case to federal court.
The district court held that Nevada had waived its sovereign immunity as to the officers’ FLSA claim by virtue of its removal of the case to federal court, and denied the state’s motion to dismiss. Nevada filed an interlocutory appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
While the particular issue at bar was one of first impression, the Ninth Circuit looked to other cases in which states had been held to waive soverign immunity when they removed federal claims to federal court, to reach its holding.
The Ninth Circuit noted that the Supreme Court had previously held that a state can waive sovereign immunity with regard to state law claims by removing them to federal court and the Ninth Circuit itself had previously held that, at least in some circumstances a state can waive soverign immunity by removing federal statutory claims to federal court.
The court then went one step further: “We now hold that a State that removes a case to federal court waives its immunity from suit on all federal-law claims in the case, including those federal-law claims that Congress failed to apply to the states through unequivocal and valid abrogation of their Eleventh Amendment immunity,” it wrote.
As the Supreme Court had observed, it was inconsistent for a state simultaneously to invoke federal jurisdiction, thus acknowledging the federal court’s authority over the case at hand, while claiming it enjoyed sovereign immunity from the “Judicial Power of the United States” in the matter before it.
Thus, the Ninth Circuit held that a state waives soverign immunity as to all federal statutory claims in a case which the state has removed to federal court, including those federal claims that Congress did not apply to the states through unequivocal and valid abrogation of their Eleventh Amendment immunity (like the FLSA).
Click Walden v. State of Nevada to read the entire decision.
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.
11th Cir.: “Dual Assignment” Regulation Still In Full Affect; Whether An Employee With Police And Fire Duties Is Entitled To Overtime Based On Which Duties Take Up Majority Of Working Time
Cremeens v. City of Montgomery
The Appellants, fire investigators for the City of Montgomery’s fire department, appealed the dismissal via summary judgment of their collective action seeking overtime pay from the city. Their appeal raised the question of the continuing validity of the Department of Labor’s dual assignment regulation, which addresses overtime for firefighters who perform law enforcement duties. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the regulation remains valid and therefore, reversed the judgment of the district court.
In addition to describing the Plaintiff’s firefighting duties and fire suppression training, the Court explained that, “Fire investigators investigate fires involving loss of life, arson and other crimes, and multiple fire alarms. They gather physical evidence, interview witnesses, interrogate suspects, and testify in court. They have the power to make arrests without first calling the Montgomery police department. Candidates for the job of fire investigator must graduate from state and national fire investigation academies; graduate from the Montgomery police academy; and be certified by the state as a peace officer. Candidates also must pass continuing education and firearms qualifications.” Thus, the record demonstrated that Plaintiffs perform both police duties and firefighting duties.
Reasoning that the “Dual Assignment” Rule continued in full effect, notwithstanding the revised definition of those engaged in firefighting duties (and thus exempt), the Court explained:
“Similarly, because the plain language of the dual assignment regulation does not purport to alter § 203(y)’s definition of an employee engaged in fire protection activities, it skirts the province of § 203(y) and does not conflict with it. The simpler reading of the dual assignment regulation is that it dictates how to apply the overtime rules to those employees who have already satisfied the definitions both for fire protection and law enforcement. The dual assignment regulation does no defining. It is fair to say that while § 203(y) defines, the dual assignment regulation applies.
This analysis explains why our well-reasoned precedents in Huff and Gonzalez do not control here. For one, neither of those cases addressed the dual assignment regulation. Rather, those cases held that the regulatory definition of fire protection activities and the 80/20 rule by their texts purported to alter § 203(y)’s definition of an employee engaged in fire protection activities. The 80/20 rule stated, after all, that “[a] person who spends more than 20 percent of his/her working time in nonexempt activities is not considered to be an employee engaged in fire protection or law enforcement activities for purposes of this part.” 29 C.F.R. § 553.212(a) (emphasis added). Therefore the regulations had to yield to the statute, and were deemed obsolete. And lastly, the analysis in Huff and Gonzalez centered on whether the plaintiffs there satisfied § 203(y)’s requirement for a “responsibility” to fight fires. Here, the plaintiffs have already conceded § 203(y) applies to them.
The city nevertheless urges us to apply a broader interpretation of Huff and Gonzalez to this case-to conclude that § 203(y) mandates, without exception, firefighter overtime for anyone who fits the statute’s definition of firefighter. The city argues that the dual assignment regulation must fall because it creates an exception to § 203(y). It essentially claims that what the 80/20 regulation did through its text, the dual assignment regulation does in its effect. Therefore, concludes the city’s argument, the dual assignment regulation poses a “direct conflict” to the operation of § 203(y). The district court adopted this line of reasoning, concluding that 29 C.F.R. § 553.213(b) “further refined” § 203(y)’s definition of an employee in fire protection activities in the same way the 80/20 rule did. Mem. Op. and Order 12. The district court concluded that the dual assignment regulation posed an “inherent conflict” with § 203(y). Id. 13.
We find no conflict between § 203(y) and the dual assignment regulation, and we reject the broader reading of Huff and Gonzalez that the city urges. The plain words of the regulation create no problematic interaction with the statute, in the way the regulations at issue in Huff and Gonzalez did. Therefore those cases do not control the outcome here.
We also note that in order to effectuate the FLSA, Congress, in passing § 203(y), clearly relied on the existence and operation of numerous pre-existing DOL regulations. One such regulation, by way of example, is regulation 29 C.F.R. § 553.230, which specifies the numerical overtime ceilings for firefighters and law enforcement employees. It is not unreasonable to conclude that Congress, in passing § 203(y), was also aware of the dual assignment regulation, implicitly relied on it, and thereby ratified its continuing application.
One last issue bears addressing. The district court identified a second ground for finding the dual assignment regulation obsolete: the dual assignment regulation invokes the obsolete regulations for fire protection activities and the 80/20 rule. However, we do not find such citation, by itself, disabling. Rather, it is easy to read the dual assignment regulation as importing and applying § 203(y)’s updated statutory definition of an employee in fire protection activities as seamlessly as it once applied the now-obsolete regulatory definition. And, the mention of the 80/20 rule in 29 C.F.R. § 553.213(a) has no bearing on the operation of the dual assignment provision in 29 C.F.R. § 553.213(b).”
Thus, the Court held that the “dual assignment” regulation, which provides that, when public employee qualifies both as fire protection and law enforcement personnel, he receives overtime according to rules for activity that takes up majority of his working time, was not definitional and did not conflict with updated statutory definition of “[e]mployee in fire protection activities,” so as not to be rendered obsolete by amendment of statute.
The full opinion is available at Cremeens v. City of Montgomery.
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.
7th Cir.: In Order To Pay Proper “Comp Time” Under 553.25(d), A Worker Proposes A Date And Time For Leave. In The Absence Of Undue Disruption The Employer Must Grant Such Leave Or Violate 207(o)
Heitmann v. City of Chicago, Ill.
State and local governments are entitled to offer compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay, if employees agree to this procedure. 29 U.S.C. § 207( o ). See Christensen v. Harris County, 529 U.S. 576 (2000). With the assent of the police officers’ union, Chicago has implemented a comp-time program. In this suit, some of the officers who have accumulated credits under the program contend that Chicago has made the leave too hard to use. A magistrate judge, presiding by the parties’ consent, agreed with plaintiffs and entered a detailed injunction specifying how Chicago must handle all future applications for compensatory leave. 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 67684 (N.D.Ill. Sept. 11, 2007) (decision on merits); 2008 U.S. Dist. Lexis 12983 (N.D.Ill. Feb. 21, 2008) (injunction).
The parties’ dispute concerns the effect of § 207( o )(5):
An employee of a public agency which is a State, political subdivision of a State, or an interstate governmental agency-
(A) who has accrued compensatory time off authorized to be provided under paragraph (1), and
(B) who has requested the use of such compensatory time,
shall be permitted by the employee’s employer to use such time within a reasonable period after making the request if the use of the compensatory time does not unduly disrupt the operations of the public agency.
Plaintiffs say that a need to consider “undue disruption” supposes a particular time, so that employees are entitled to leave on a date and time of their own choosing, unless this would mean that too few police officers remained available for service. Chicago reads the language to mean that the Police Department, rather than the officer, gets to name the date and time for leave. Officers may submit requests; all the Department need do is offer some leave within a “reasonable time” of the request. The only effective restraint, in the City’s view, is that officers may not accumulate more than 480 hours of leave. Compensatory time is granted whenever an officer works more than 171 hours in any 28-day period. (Ninety minutes of comp time are awarded for each extra hour worked.) Once any given officer accumulates more than 480 hours, future overtime must be paid in cash. As long as it keeps the balance below 480 hours per officer, the City submits, it gets to call the shots about when the leave may be used.
After the parties collected extensive evidence, the magistrate judge found it undisputed that the Police Department does not have any policy about how and when leave may be used; decisions are left to each watch commander or shift supervisor. Most commanders or supervisors, most of the time, grant or reject applications for leave on a specific day without giving reasons. They do not attempt to get a substitute for a person who wants time off; instead they ask whether the shift or unit still would have enough personnel if leave were granted and no other change were made. If an application is granted, the supervisor or commander may or may not give the officer the date and time requested. If the application is denied, it is not put in a queue for use at the next time when leave would not “unduly disrupt” operations; instead the application is returned to the officer, who is told to apply again-but without any guidance about when leave could be made available without undue disruption. The Department does not keep records of requests for compensatory leave, so we do not know how often officers get to take time off on the dates they request, or even how many times they must apply (on average) to have any leave granted.
The magistrate judge concluded that these informal procedures fail to ensure that each worker gets to use leave within a reasonable time, and do no ensure that officers get their choice of dates for leave unless undue disruption would ensue. He issued an injunction to supply the rules he thought needed. The 7th Circuit determined that the Magistrate below made a misstep by ordering injunctive rather than monetary relief.
The 7th Circuit agreed, holding, “[u]nder § 553.25(d), a worker proposes a date and time for leave. The employer decides whether time off then would cause undue disruption, and if it would the employer has a reasonable time to grant leave on some other date. On Chicago’s view, the employee cannot ask for a particular date or time, but only for some leave; and if any time off within a reasonable time after the request would cause undue disruption, then the employee must wait longer-must wait, by definition, for an un reasonable time. That can’t be right. Chicago’s view produces an implausible relation between the “reasonable time” and “undue disruption” clauses. The regulation makes sense when specifying that the employer must ask whether leave on the date and time requested would produce undue disruption, and only if the answer is yes may the employer defer the leave-and then only for a “reasonable time.””
Noting that their were amendments to 553.25(d) pending which may change the outcome of the case, the Court stated, “[b]ecause § 207( o )(5) is ambiguous, the agency enjoys leeway in crafting regulations. Last year the Department of Labor proposed to amend 29 C.F.R. § 553.25(c) and (d) so that employees could no longer designate the date and time for leave. 73 Fed.Reg. 43654, 43660-62, 43668 (July 28, 2008). That rulemaking remains open, however. As long as the current version of § 553.25 remains in force, the plaintiffs are entitled to prevail.”