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Abate v. District of Columbia

October 5, 2009

MICHAEL J. ABATE, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

More than two hundred retired officers of the Metropolitan Police Department ("Plaintiffs") bring this action against the District of Columbia ("District"), alleging that the District 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 5-1304 as well as the overtime provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 207(a). Before the Court is the District's motion for judgment on the pleadings or, in the alternative, for summary judgment [#16]. Upon consideration of the motion, the opposition thereto, and the record of this case, the Court concludes that the District's alternative motion for summary judgment should be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Under District of Columbia law, any member of the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") "promoted . . . to the rank of detective sergeant shall receive, in addition to his scheduled rate of basic compensation, $595 per annum." The District Code § 5-543.02(c).

Plaintiffs assert that at certain times during their employment they fulfilled the responsibilities of detective sergeants but did not receive payment pursuant to this provision.

This action follows efforts by other MPD officers to contest the nonpayment of detective sergeant compensation. After filing an unsuccessful grievance to the Chief of Police in 2003, the union that represents MPD officers, the Fraternal Order of Police ("Union"), brought the issue to arbitration on behalf of five active officers. On June 28, 2004, Arbitrator Richard G. Trotter determined that D.C Code § 5-543.02 applied because the officers had "perform[ed] the functions of Detective Sergeant." (Def.'s Mot. for J. on Pleadings Ex. 3 at 7 (Op. & Award by Arbitrator)). He awarded the officers "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).

The District requested review of the arbitration award by the District of Columbia Public Employee Relations Board ("PERB"). PERB affirmed Arbitrator Trotter's opinion in September 2005. (Def.'s Mot. for J. on Pleadings Ex. 4 (Decision & Order of PERB)). The District did not appeal this ruling.

According to the Union, despite the arbitration award and PERB's ruling, the District did not pay MPD officers who had fulfilled the duties of detective sergeants the compensation they were due. The Union thus filed a motion in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia seeking confirmation of the arbitration award. On February 26, 2008, the Superior Court issued an order requiring that the District "immediately implement the Arbitration Award by conferring on subject grievants and all similarly situated police officer employees of the Metropolitan Police Department status of 'Detective Sergeant' with back pay of $595.00 per annum retroactive to the date that said employees were assigned to that position." (Pls.' Mot. in Opp'n Ex. 13 at 1-2 (D.C. Super. Ct. Order)).*fn1

Plaintiffs filed this action on July 23, 2008. Their complaint asserts four claims arising from the District's failure to pay each plaintiff an additional $595 for each year he allegedly fulfilled the responsibilities of a detective sergeant. In count 1, Plaintiffs allege "a continuing violation of D.C. Code § 5-543.02(c)." (Compl. ¶ 15). In count 2, they allege a violation of D.C. Code § 5-1304 for "fail[ure] to pay plaintiffs correct overtime pay based on their rate of basic compensation" as detective sergeants. (Id. ¶ 17). In counts 3 and 4, they allege violations of 29 U.S.C. § 207(a), the overtime provision of the FLSA, for failure to pay correctly calculated overtime payments and for failure to do so in a timely manner.

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).*fn2 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

The District argues that Plaintiffs' complaint is barred by the applicable statutes of limitations,*fn3 which are three years for counts 1 and 2 pursuant to D.C. Code § 12-301(8) and two or three years for counts 3 and 4 pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 255(a).*fn4 The District primarily asserts that the limitations period began to run from the time the MPD eliminated the position of detective sergeant, which it maintains occurred twenty-five years ago. In the alternative, the District argues that even if the limitations periods began "on the last day of each plaintiff's employment," Plaintiffs' claims would still be barred because more than three years passed between the latest date on which a plaintiff to this suit retired and the filing of the complaint. (Def.'s Mot. for J. on Pleadings at 18).

Plaintiffs contest the District's assertion that the position of detective sergeant has not existed in recent years. They also respond that "[t]he statute of limitations in this case did not begin to run until the arbitration award was confirmed in Superior Court on February 26, 2008." (Pls.' Mot. in Opp'n at 16). They assert that they were not on notice of their injury before that date, arguing that the discovery rule should apply to delay the date their claims accrued.*fn5 They further argue that the limitations period for ...


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