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Figueroa v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 12, 2013

Pablo FIGUEROA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

Page 160

John V. Berry, Berry & Berry PLLC, Reston, VA, for Plaintiffs.

Ellen A. Efros, Matthew Robert Blecher, Melvin W. Bolden, Jr., Office of the Attorney General, Washington, D.C., for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND OPINION ON ISSUES RAISED IN SUPPLEMENTAL BRIEFING

BARBARA JACOBS ROTHSTEIN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

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 District of Columbia (the " District" ) alleging that the Metropolitan Police Department (" MPD" ) failed to pay Plaintiffs basic and overtime compensation for their duties as detective sergeants in violation of D.C. Code § 5-543.02(c) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. On May 27, 2011, the District filed a renewed Motion for

Page 161

Judgment on the Pleadings, or, in the Alternative, Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 79.). The motion was filed following remand from the D.C. Circuit. See Figueroa v. D.C. Metro. Police Dep't, 633 F.3d 1129 (D.C.Cir.2011). On June 22, 2012, this Court denied the District's motion, in part, and requested supplemental briefing from the parties on several issues. (Memorandum and Opinion, 869 F.Supp.2d 66 (D.D.C.2012) (the " June 22, 2012 Order" ), Dkt. No. 87.). The parties filed the requested supplemental briefing. (Plaintiffs' Opening Brief on Additional Issues Raised by the Court, Dkt. No. 93; Defendant District of Columbia's Brief Responding to the Remaining Issues Identified by the Court, Dkt. No. 94; Plaintiffs' Opposition and Response Brief to Defendant's Opening Brief, Dkt. No. 97; Defendant's Opposition to Plaintiffs' Opening Brief on Additional Issues Raised by the Court, Dkt. No. 98; Plaintiff's Reply Brief, Dkt. No. 99; and Reply in Further Support of Defendant's Brief Responding to the Remaining Issues Identified by the Court, Dkt. No. 100.). Having considered the parties' arguments, pleadings, and relevant case law, the Court finds and rules as follows:

II. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This case has an extended background that bears repeating here. Under District of Columbia law, any member of the 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). The parties refer to this as the " Tech Pay" stipend. 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 annual Tech Pay stipend. The Chief of Police denied the grievance, claiming that the position of " detective sergeant" had not existed within the MPD for over twenty years. (Second Amended Complaint (" SAC" ) at ¶ 21, Dkt. No. 47.).

In accordance with its collective bargaining agreement, the Union brought the matter to arbitration. ( Id. at ¶ 27.). On June 28, 2004, the Arbitrator found that Plaintiffs were entitled to the Tech Pay stipend because they had performed the duties of a detective sergeant. (Dkt. No. 50, Ex. 3 at 7.). The Arbitrator awarded Plaintiffs " 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 [within MPD] 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" ). (Dkt. No. 50, Ex. 4.). On September 30, 2005, the PERB affirmed the Arbitration Award. ( Id. at 4-5.). MPD did not appeal the PERB ruling. (SAC at ¶ 32.).

Following the PERB's ruling, MPD took steps to retroactively compensate 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 continue to serve as detective sergeants, and it gave them lump sum payments of $595 per year for every year that they were assigned to the position. Id. The MPD did not, however, recalculate the officers' overtime based on the annual Tech Pay stipend. At the time that this lawsuit was filed, one of the Plaintiffs had neither been reclassified as a detective sergeant nor awarded back pay. Id.

On November 5, 2007, Plaintiffs filed the present action against the District. (Dkt. No. 1.). The Second Amended Complaint

Page 162

alleges three violations under FLSA: (1) willful failure to pay minimum wages (" Count I" ); (2) untimely payment of wages (" Count II" ); and (3) willful failure to pay overtime (" Count III" ). Count IV alleges that the MPD violated the Tech Pay stipend provision of D.C. Code § 5-543.02. The District moved for a judgment on the pleadings, or, in the alternative, summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 50.). On September 30, 2009, United States District Court Judge Henry H. Kennedy granted the motion. See Figueroa v. District of Columbia Metro. Police Dep't, 658 F.Supp.2d 148 (D.D.C.2009). Judge Kennedy determined that Counts I through III (the FLSA claims) were barred by the statute of limitations and Count IV (the D.C. Code claim) was barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Id. at 153-155. Thereafter, judgment was entered in favor of the District. Id. at 155.

On appeal, Plaintiffs challenged only one aspect of Judge Kennedy's decision: its conclusion that the FLSA overtime claims were time-barred. See Figueroa, 633 F.3d at 1132. In dismissing Plaintiffs' FLSA claims, Judge Kennedy concluded that December 12, 2003, the date on which Plaintiffs' filed their grievance with the Police Chief, was the date on which Plaintiffs were aware of the existence of their FLSA claims. Id. The Circuit Court agreed that this was the operative date. Id. Therefore, the Circuit Court concluded, because Plaintiffs filed their instant complaint almost four years later, on November 5, 2007, they could not recover for non-willful violations that occurred before November 5, 2005, or for willful violations that occurred before November 5, 2004. Id.

In finding that Plaintiffs' claims were time-barred, Judge Kennedy implicitly concluded that Plaintiffs did not have overtime claims that arose after November 5, 2004. Id. at 1133. The Circuit Court disagreed, holding that " [e]ach time [Plaintiffs] received a paycheck without proper overtime compensation, a new cause of action accrued under the FLSA," and thereby, a new two (or three year) statute of limitation began to run for each new claim. Id. " If the officers have meritorious claims, it is because they worked more than forty hours in particular weeks, and because MPD failed to take the $595 stipend into account when it paid them overtime for those weeks. Thus, their complaint is based not on ‘ a single violation [of FLSA] that occurred outside the ...


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