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Pablo Figueroa, et al v. District of Columbia

June 22, 2012

PABLO FIGUEROA, ET AL.,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara Jacobs Rothstein U.S. District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM AND OPINION DENYING MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS, OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the court on Defendant, the District of Columbia's ("the District"), Renewed Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 79.). Plaintiffs filed an Opposition to the Motion on June 25, 2011 (Dkt. No. 81), and the District filed a Reply on June 30, 2011 (Dkt. No. 82). Having considered the parties' arguments, pleadings, and relevant case law, the court finds and rules as follows.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This matter is on remand from the D.C. Circuit.*fn1 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") brought this action against the Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") alleging that MPD failed to pay them basic and overtime compensation for fulfilling the job duties of the position of a detective sergeant. They allege that this nonpayment violated D.C. Code. § 5-543.02(c) and provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("the FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq.

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 perannum." D.C. Code § 5-543.02(c). On December 12, 2003, three of the Plaintiffs in this case filed a grievance through their union, the Fraternal Order of Police (the "Union"), alleging that they had fulfilled the duties of detective sergeant but had not received the additional $595 stipend. The Chief of Police denied the grievance, claiming that the position of detective sergeant at MPD has not existed for over twenty years.

In accordance with its collective bargaining agreement, the Union brought the matter to arbitration. On June 28, 2004, the arbitrator found that § 5-543.02(c) applied to the officers because they had performed the functions of a detective sergeant. (Dkt. No. 50, Def.'s Mot. for J. on Pleadings Ex. 3 at 7 (Op. & Award by Arbitrator).). The arbitrator rejected MPD's argument that the grievance was untimely, concluding that the officers had not previously "discovered" the D.C. Code provision, and, moreover, that their claim was for "an on-going violation." Id. He then awarded the officers "the Status of Detective Sergeant" and "back pay of $595.00 per year." Id. The arbitrator further held that the award "applie[d] 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, the PERB ruled that the arbitrator 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 collective bargaining agreement nor contrary to law and public policy. (Dkt. No. 50, Ex. 4 at 4-5 (Decision & Order of PERB).). MPD did not appeal the PERB ruling.

Following the PERB's ruling, MPD took steps to compensate retroactively those officers who had served as detective sergeants. Figueroa, 633 F.3d at 1131. In 2007, it amended the personnel forms of three of the Plaintiffs to show that they had served and continued to serve as detective sergeants, and it gave them lump sum payments of $595 per year for every year they were assigned to the position. Id. The Department eventually did the same for the fourth Plaintiff. (Dkt. No. 81 at 7, ¶ 16.). It did not, however, recalculate Plaintiffs' overtime pay based on the $595 stipend. Figueroa, 633 F.3d at 1131.

On November 5, 2007, the officers filed the present action against the District alleging violations of the FLSA. Plaintiffs alleged three violations: (1) willful failure to pay minimum wages in violation of § 206(b) (Count I); (2) untimely payment of wages in violation of § 206(b) (Count II); and (3) willful failure to pay overtime in violation of §207(a) (Count III). Plaintiffs also alleged that MPD violated the detective sergeant provision of D.C. Code § 5-543.02 (Count IV). MPD moved for Judgment on the Pleadings, or, in the Alternative, Summary Judgment on February 24, 2009. (Dkt. No. 50.). The district court ruled in the District's favor, finding that the FLSA claims were barred by the statute of limitations.*fn2 Figueroa v. D.C. Metro. Police Dep't, 658 F.Supp.2d 148, 152, 154 (D.D.C. 2009). The district court, sua sponte, also found that the arbitration proceedings disposed of Count IV as a matter of res judicata. Figueroa, 633 F.3d at 1131. Therefore, judgment was entered in favor of the District. Id.

On appeal, Plaintiffs challenged only one aspect of the district court's decision: its conclusion that the FLSA overtime claims were time-barred. Id. at 1132. The D.C. Circuit reversed the district court's finding on this issue, concluding that Plaintiffs may recover if their paychecks failed to include properly calculated overtime compensation during the two or three years before they filed their complaint-depending upon which statute of limitations provision is applicable. Id. at 1135. As the district court did not determine the merits of Plaintiffs' claims, or which limitations period applies, the D.C. Circuit remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. Id.

I

II. PRESENT ISSUES BEFORE THE COURT

The parties dispute what issues are before this court on remand. Plaintiffs argue that the D.C. Circuit has reviewed, de novo, all of the legal arguments raised by both parties in this case. (See Dkt. No. 78.). As such, Plaintiffs assert, the only issues remaining are: (1) a determination on the merits as to whether Plaintiffs' paychecks failed to include properly calculated overtime compensation during the time period between November 5, 2004 and present; (2) was MPD's failure to pay willful, a result of which, will determine which statute of limitations period applies; and (3) whether the court should use November 5, 2004 (or 2005) as the date for application of the limitation period.*fn3 Id. Plaintiffs ...


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