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Figueroa v. District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Dep't

September 30, 2009

PABLO FIGUEROA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Metropolitan Police Officers Pablo Figueroa, Michael J. Farish, Brian A. Murphy, Tyrone Dodson, Lance D. Harrison, Sr., Deryl M. Johnson, and Curtis R. Sloan (collectively "plaintiffs") bring this action against the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") alleging that MPD failed to pay them basic and overtime compensation for fulfilling the duties of "detective sergeants." They allege that this nonpayment violated D.C. Code § 5-543.02(c) and provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq.

Before the Court are MPD's motion for judgment on the pleadings or, in the alternative, for summary judgment [#50] and plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment [#38]. Upon consideration of the motions, the oppositions thereto, and the record of this case, the Court concludes that judgment should be entered in favor of MPD.

I. BACKGROUND

Under District of Columbia law, any member of MPD "promoted . . . to the rank of detective sergeant shall receive, in addition to his scheduled rate of basic compensation, $595 per annum." D.C. Code § 5-543.02(c). Some MPD officers believe that they fulfilled the responsibilities of detective sergeants but did not receive payment pursuant to this provision. On December 12, 2003, MPD Sergeants Pablo Figueroa, Brian Murphy, Donald Yates, John J. Brennan, and Curtis Sloan filed a grievance through their union, the Fraternal Order of Police ("union"), to contest the nonpayment of detective sergeant compensation. The Chief of Police denied the grievance.

Following the procedure described in Article 19 of the union's Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") with MPD,*fn1 the union then brought the matter to arbitration on behalf of Sergeants Figueroa, Murphy, Yates, Brennan, and Sloan. On June 28, 2004, Arbitrator Richard G. Trotter determined that: (1) the grievance was not barred as untimely; (2) D.C. Code § 5-543.02 applied to the case because the grievants "perform[ed] the functions of Detective Sergeant"; and (3) the arbitrator had jurisdiction under the CBA to rule on this matter. (Def.'s Mot. for J. on Pleadings Ex. 3 at 7 (Op. & Award by Arbitrator)). Arbitrator Trotter awarded the grievants "back pay of $595.00 retroactive to the date that each grievant was assigned to the position of Detective Sergeant" and stated that the award "applies to all similarly-situated employees as described in the grievance." (Id. at 8).

MPD requested review of the arbitration award by the District of Columbia Public Employee Relations Board ("PERB"). On September 30, 2005, PERB ruled that Arbitrator Trotter acted "well within the ambit of his authority when he conclude[d] that the underlying grievance is timely" and that the award of back pay was neither improper under the CBA nor contrary to law and public policy. (Def.'s Mot. for J. on Pleadings Ex. 4 at 4 (Decision & Order of PERB)). PERB's order stated that it was "final upon issuance." (Id. at 5). MPD did not appeal the PERB ruling.*fn2

Plaintiffs filed this action on November 5, 2007, asserting in their second amended complaint ("complaint") four claims arising from MPD's alleged failure to pay each plaintiff the additional $595 for each year he fulfilled the responsibilities of a detective sergeant. In counts 1, 2, and 3, plaintiffs claim that MPD violated the Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to (1) compensate them pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 206(b), the FLSA's minimum wage provision, (2) compensate them in a timely manner pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 206(b), and (3) take the additional compensation due them into account in calculating the overtime payments to which they are entitled as is required for compliance with 29 U.S.C. § 207(a), the FLSA's overtime provision. In count 4, plaintiffs assert that MPD violated D.C. Code § 5-543.02.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment may be granted only when the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Burke v. Gould, 286 F.3d 513, 517 (D.C. Cir. 2002).*fn3 A material fact is one that is capable of affecting the outcome of the litigation. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine issue is one where the "evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party," as opposed to evidence that "is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Id. at 248, 252. A court considering a motion for summary judgment must draw all "justifiable inferences" from the evidence in favor of the non-movant. Id. at 255. But the nonmoving party's opposition must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials and must be supported by affidavits or other competent evidence setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Plaintiffs' D.C. Code Claim is Barred by the Doctrine of Res Judicata

In count 4 of their complaint, plaintiffs assert that MPD's failure to pay them the additional compensation owed to detective sergeants constitutes a violation of D.C. Code § 5-543.02. This claim is barred by the doctrine of res judicata, or claim preclusion.

Neither party has raised this issue, so the Court notes first that it is appropriate for this Court to raise the matter sua sponte. See Stanton v. D.C. Court of Appeals, 127 F.3d 72, 77 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (stating that because res judicata "belongs to courts as well as to litigants," courts can consider it even if the parties have waived it); Coleman v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 310 F. Supp. 2d 154, 161 & n.5 (D.D.C. 2004) (sua sponte dismissing statutory discrimination claims as barred by res judicata). Permitting courts to dispose of claims on this ground on their own initiative "is fully consistent with the policies underlying res judicata: it is not based solely on the defendant's interest in avoiding the burdens of twice defending a suit, but is also based on the avoidance of ...


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