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HARRIS v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

April 19, 1990

EDGAR HARRIS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FLANNERY

 THOMAS A. FLANNERY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Plaintiffs are 11 supervisory housing inspectors who work for the municipal government of the District of Columbia. The Court must decide whether or not they are employed in a bona fide executive or administrative capacity under Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 201 et seq.

 Plaintiffs brought this action against the District government to recover back pay for past overtime. The District of Columbia resists the claim on the ground that plaintiffs are all exempt from the Act's general overtime rule that employees must be paid time-and-a-half when they work more than 40 hours in a week. 29 U.S.C.A. § 207(a). In defendant's view, plaintiffs work in an executive or administrative capacity and thus fit an exception to the overtime rule. 29 U.S.C.A. § 213(a)(1).

 Finding defendant's contention unsupported by the facts as brought out in a bench trial, the Court will rule that plaintiffs are neither executive nor administrative employees under FLSA. They thus should be paid overtime as the Act prescribes.

 BACKGROUND

 Plaintiffs filed this action October 11, 1988. They seek an order declaring that they are entitled to overtime compensation under FLSA and an award of back pay for all overtime since Congress extended the Act to apply to employees of the city government of the District of Columbia. In March 1989, this Court held that the employees qualified as workers paid on a salary basis, one of the key tests used to decide whether workers are exempt from FLSA overtime requirements. Harris v. District of Columbia, 709 F. Supp. 238 (D.D.C. 1989). The Court then invited the parties to brief the issue of whether plaintiffs met the other tests for exempt status. In response to the parties' memoranda of law, the Court concluded that it could not rule on a motion for summary judgment because the parties disputed many facts about the nature of plaintiffs' work duties. As a result, the parties agreed to a bench trial held January 24, 1990.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 Based upon the evidence before it, the Court will make the following findings of fact.

 1. At all times relevant to this action, each plaintiff has held the position of Supervisory Housing Inspector. *fn1" (Complaint and plaintiffs' testimony.)

 2. At all times relevant to this action, defendant has considered each plaintiff Supervisory Housing Inspector to be employed in a bona fide executive capacity as defined by FLSA regulations. FLSA does not require that persons so employed be paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours per week. Although not dwelt on at length in defendant's pleadings, the District of Columbia's evidence contains suggestions that plaintiffs might be exempt as administrative employees. In any event, defendant District of Columbia concedes that it has not, in fact, paid plaintiffs overtime when it would have been due under FLSA. Deft's Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law at 2.

 3. Most Supervisory Housing Inspectors have a work relationship to a geographic division of the District of Columbia, known as a "unit." These units are numbered, and the number and area of the units roughly correspond to the political wards into which the city is divided. Thus, for example, there is at least one Supervisory Housing Inspector whose work duties largely revolve around Unit One, which is essentially the area that makes up the city's Ward One. At times in the past few years, two Supervisory Housing Inspectors have shared responsibility for a unit. *fn2"

 4. According to the general testimony of the witnesses, a person begins work as a Supervisory Housing Inspector at DS-Grade 9 and may later obtain a DS-10 rating. *fn3" A Supervisory Housing Inspector may not rise above a DS-10 level, however. Varner testified that the DS-11 grade is reserved for the Branch Chief, and a DS-12 level is filled by the Program Manager.

 5. Each plaintiff testified about his or her work background. All had worked their way up from housing inspector, most moving first to assistant supervisory inspector and then to supervisory inspector. Based upon the testimony, the Court finds that Housing Inspectors receive no organized training. Instead, such training as is done consists of accompanying veteran inspectors as they make their rounds. It does not appear that any training occurs other than this on-the-job method. Supervisory Housing Inspectors rarely take part in such training. The training lasts only a short time before the new employee is considered able to handle work alone.

 6. Supervisory Housing Inspectors similarly have no special training. Nearly all of the witnesses who testified had been Housing Inspectors for ten or more years before being promoted to the supervisory position. This time in the ranks seems to be considered sufficient background to perform the supervisory duties.

 7. Supervisory Housing Inspectors with responsibility for a unit normally have reporting to them several housing inspectors who are assigned to their unit. The number varies by unit, and may run from three to eight or more. Plaintiffs testified that they rarely had the full complement of inspectors authorized, because at least a few billets always are unfilled.

 8. Those Supervisory Housing Inspectors who head a unit normally begin their workday by meeting with the Housing Inspectors assigned to the unit. The meeting lasts at most two hours. During these meetings the Supervisory Housing Inspectors discuss the work scheduled and review any problems that have arisen.

 9. After these meetings are completed, the Housing Inspectors "go into the field," that is, they go out and begin inspecting dwellings. When units are short-handed, which appears to have been the case during most of the past few years, Supervisory Housing Inspectors go into the field and do inspections themselves. Other times, Supervisory Housing Inspectors drive Housing Inspectors to the areas where the latter will work, particularly if the junior inspectors lack transportation. On other occasions, Supervisory Housing Inspectors "go into the field" when an inspection chore is expected to be difficult or sensitive. None of the witnesses could describe what puts an inspection in this class. Generally, Supervisory Housing Inspectors go into the field when their superiors, the Branch Chief and Program Manager, tell them to.

 10. Plaintiffs estimated that they spend a quarter of their time working in the field.

 11. The witnesses also testified that after the Housing Inspectors go into the field, the Supervisory Housing Inspectors usually remain at the office. Much of their time is spent answering the phones. Most calls are for Housing Inspectors or are citizen complaints. The rest of the day is spent preparing or reviewing reports on housing inspections. Some Supervisory Housing Inspectors perform duties such as tracking "cases" and maintaining case records.

 12. Many of the administrative duties described in the previous finding have a largely clerical character. Only one of the Supervisory Housing Inspectors, Harris, has had a personal secretary any time recently. Plaintiffs testified they normally do their own typing, filing, and other clerical ...


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