United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
employees of the Office of Air and Marine in the Bureau of
Customs and Border Protection claim that their positions have
been misclassified as "administrative, " improperly
exempting them from protections of the Fair Labor Standards
Act ("FLSA"). They contend that they are entitled
to, but have been denied, overtime compensation under the Act
and now bring suit against the United States for back pay and
liquidated damages. Plaintiffs do not waive any FLSA claims
exceeding $10, 000. Because exclusive jurisdiction to hear
those claims rests with the Court of Federal Claims, this
Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over them. It will
therefore deny both sides' motions for summary judgment
without prejudice. Rather than dismiss the case outright,
however, the interest of justice requires that the Court
transfer this matter to the Court of Federal Claims.
2013, an initial set of plaintiffs filed a complaint in this
Court charging the United States with violating the FLSA by
erroneously exempting them from the Act's overtime-pay
requirements. They subsequently amended their complaint three
times, adding additional plaintiffs who were also employed in
the Office of Air and Marine. Discovery commenced in February
2014. Nine months later, before the close of discovery,
Plaintiffs moved the Court to transfer this matter to the
Court of Federal Claims. See Pls.' Mot.
Transfer, ECF No. 35. They asserted that they did "not
waive recovery in excess of $10, 000, " argued that the
Court of Federal Claims "ha[d] exclusive jurisdiction
over [their] claims, " and urged this Court to transfer
the case pursuant to its authority under 28 U.S.C. §
1631 ("Transfer to cure want of jurisdiction").
Id. at 1-2. Defendants opposed this motion,
contending that the Supreme Court's opinion in United
States v. Bormes, 133 S.Ct. 12 (2012), upended precedent
from multiple circuits (including the D.C. Circuit) holding
that only the Court of Federal Claims has jurisdiction in
this circumstance. Defs.' Opp'n Pls.' Mot.
Transfer, ECF No. 36, at 4. Plaintiffs then withdrew their
motion to transfer. See ECF No. 37. The parties
proceeded to complete discovery and brief summary judgment on
the merits of Plaintiffs' claims. These cross-motions for
summary judgment are ripe, and the Court is now squarely
faced with the question of whether it has subject-matter
jurisdiction over those claims.
this question, the Court directed the parties to submit
supplemental briefing on the jurisdictional issue. In
response, Plaintiffs readopted the arguments they advanced in
their motion to transfer and reiterated their view that the
Court of Federal Claims has exclusive jurisdiction "over
[FLSA] claims, like those asserted here, against the United
States exceeding $10, 000." Pls.' Suppl. Br. 1. They
also emphasized that the Court of Federal Claims possesses
"unique expertise in adjudicating FLSA claims against
the federal government." Id. Defendants still
maintain that this Court has jurisdiction over the matter.
See Defs.' Not., ECF No. 67.
Tucker Act grants the Court of Federal Claims
"jurisdiction over a nontort monetary claim
‘against the United States founded . . . upon . . . any
Act of Congress.'" Abbey v. United States,
745 F.3d 1363, 1368-69 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (quoting 28 U.S.C.
§ 1491(a)(1)). Courts have long held, "since soon
after the FLSA was extended to the federal government by the
Fair Labor Standards Amendments Act of 1974, . . . [that] the
Tucker Act applies to a claim against the government under
the monetary-damages provision of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. §
216(b)." Id. at 1369.
Tucker Act's statutory scheme differs somewhat depending
on the amount of the claim. Specifically, the
"‘Little Tucker Act' grants United States
district courts concurrent jurisdiction with the United
States Court of Federal Claims over civil actions or claims
against the United States not exceeding $10, 000 in amount,
" Waters v. Rumsfeld, 320 F.3d 265, 270 (D.C.
Cir. 2003) (internal quotation mark omitted) (quoting 28
U.S.C. § 1346(a)(2)), whereas, generally speaking,
"[u]nder the (Big) Tucker Act, claims ‘exceeding
the $10, 000 jurisdictional ceiling . . . are within the
exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Claims, '"
id. (quoting Goble v. Marsh, 684 F.2d 12,
15 (D.C. Cir. 1982)).
Standard of Review
Court has "an independent obligation to determine
whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even in the
absence of a challenge from any party." Arbaugh v.
Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006) (citing Ruhrgas
AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583 (1999)). If it
finds that it lacks jurisdiction over a civil action, the
Court may, in the interest of justice, transfer that action
to another court where it could have been brought at the time
it was filed. 28 U.S.C. § 1631. Otherwise, it must
"the existence of jurisdiction in the District Court
depends on the plaintiff[s'] choice" to waive claims
in excess of a certain threshold, the Court should give
plaintiffs "an opportunity to amend their complaints to
effect an adequate waiver" before transferring the
action. Goble, 684 F.2d at 17. This requirement
follows from 28 U.S.C. § 1653, which allows
"[d]efective allegations of jurisdiction [to] be
amended, upon terms, in the trial or appellate courts."
See Goble, 684 F.2d at 17. If plaintiffs do not
choose to effect such a waiver, and the Court lacks
jurisdiction as a result, the Court may then transfer the
matter to the appropriate court.
D.C. Circuit has held that "the Court of Federal Claims
has exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate" all "FLSA
claims in excess of $10, 000." Waters, 320 F.3d
at 272. Unless plaintiffs waive their claims in excess of
$10, 000, "the district court [is] without jurisdiction
to rule on their merits." Id. This view has
long prevailed in other circuits as well. See, e.g.,
Parker v. King, 935 F.2d 1174, 1177 (11th Cir.
1991); Graham v. Henegar, 640 F.2d 732, 734 (5th
Cir. 1981). The government contends, however, that a recent
Supreme Court case (analyzing a different statute)
necessarily dooms the "30-year-old, multi-circuit,
apparently unbroken precedent" that exclusive