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Gallagher v. Lackawanna County

March 31, 2010

JOSEPH GALLAGHER, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS
v.
LACKAWANNA COUNTY DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Vanaskie

MEMORANDUM

In this Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") collective action, Plaintiffs, current and former Lackawanna County corrections officers, allege that Defendant violated the FLSA when it failed to pay them overtime for attendance at mandatory pre-shift meetings that had the effect of extending their working hours beyond 40 hours per week. This Court bifurcated the damages portion of the suit, and discovery as to liability has closed. Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. 64.)*fn1 Defendant's motion will be granted in part.

Because there are genuine issues of material fact as to whether Defendant's alleged conduct was willful, Defendant's motion for summary judgment as it applies to the statute of limitations and liquidated damages issues will be denied. Defendant, however, is entitled to a finding that section 7(k) of the FLSA applies in this case and that Defendant had no obligation to announce an intent to create a section 7(k) work period. Consequently, Plaintiffs who failed to work over 42.75 hours in any given work period within the statute of limitations are not covered by the FLSA. Plaintiffs who worked over 42.75 hours in any given work period are proper Plaintiffs and are entitled to a determination as to whether the alleged pre-shift meetings account for compensable time. While this Court has determined that section 7(k) applies, the Court declines to determine at this stage of the litigation what rate of compensation Plaintiffs would be entitled to if liability under the FLSA is found.

I. BACKGROUND

"Plaintiffs are correction officers and sergeants who either are or were employed by the County of Lackawanna at the Lackawanna County Prison ("Prison") between May 30, 2005, and May 30, 2008." (Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("DSUMF"), Dkt. 67, at ¶ 1.) The County of Lackawanna is a governmental entity organized and existing under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶ 2.) Lackawanna County owns and operates the Prison. (Id. at ¶ 3.) All Plaintiffs are covered by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) entered into between Lackawanna County and the American Federation of State County, and Municipal Employees, District Council 87, AFL-CIO, in effect from January 1, 2005, through December 31, 2008. (Id. at ¶ 4.)

The CBA expressly provides:

The normal work week for regular full-time employees shall consist of five (5) consecutive days with two (2) consecutive days off within any seven (7) day period. A work day for a regular full time employee is to consist of eight (8) consecutive hours including one-half hour meal period. A normal work day shall begin at the starting time of the employee's shift and continue for twenty-four (24) hours. A normal work week is to consist of forty (40) hours. (Id. at ¶ 7 (quoting CBA at § 9.2, Dkt. 66, at 19); see Dolphin Dep., Dkt. 66-3, at 4; Capone Dep., Dkt. 66-3, at 27.)

Plaintiffs are scheduled to work one of three different eight-hour shifts: "day" shift from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., "second" shift from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and the "midnight" shift from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. (DSUMF, Dkt. 67, at ¶ 8.) The CBA further provides:

No later than the first day of each contract year, employees shall be allowed to bid for shift assignment and then for two (2) consecutive days off in accordance with their seniority. The shift and days so bid shall be permanent for the duration of the calendar year, unless a vacancy occurs, except that if it is necessary for the County to transfer an employee to a different shift it shall transfer the least senior qualified employee in the classification which must be filled; if there is no employee in that classification, the employer shall select the least senior qualified employee who is capable of fully and immediately performing the job. (Id. at ¶ 9 (quoting CBA at § 9.4).) Furthermore, the CBA provides:

All employees covered by this Agreement shall receive time and one-half their regular rate of pay for all regular hours worked over eight (8) in one (1) day or forty (40) hours in one (1) week. There shall be no pyramiding of overtime hours or pay for overtime hours worked. To determine the hourly wage in effect divide 2080 hours into the annual base Salary as set forth on exhibit A plus any additional payment which is to be added to the base Salary (such as required in A.) Section 2. above.

(Id. at ¶ 10 (quoting CBA at § 20.B.3, Dkt. 66, at 21).) The CBA also sets forth a dispute-resolution mechanism to resolve grievances between the Union and Lackawanna County. (Id. at ¶ 11.)

It is Plaintiffs' contention that they were "required to attend, and did attend, daily pre-shift meetings that commenced fifteen minutes prior to the start of their scheduled shifts, and were not compensated for the time spent attending these alleged pre-shift meetings." (Id. at ¶ 14.) Plaintiffs assert that their required attendance at these pre-shift meetings resulted in them working more than 40 hours per week, for which they were entitled to overtime pay as prescribed by the FLSA. Plaintiffs, however, do not allege a violation of the CBA. (Id. at ¶ 15.)

In March 2004, Lackawanna County appointed Paul Jennings as the Warden of the Prison. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Upon his appointment, Warden Jennings began a complete overhaul of Prison policies and procedures. (Id. at ¶ 19.) "Warden Jennings participated in the collective bargaining negotiations with the Union after he was appointed warden, and, during those negotiations, there was no discussion of the issue of Plaintiffs not being compensated for time spent at daily pre-shift meetings, which issue was not included in the then negotiated CBA." (Id. at ¶ 18.) Moreover, "[d]uring Warden Jennings' tenure as warden, there were no grievances filed by or with the Union concerning the County's failure to compensate Plaintiffs for time spent at an allegedly required, daily, pre-shift meeting." (Id. at ¶ 26.)

In September 2005, Warden Jennings resigned his position as warden of the Prison.

(Id. at ¶ 27.) That same month, Lackawanna County appointed Assistant Warden Janine Donate as the acting warden. (Id. at ¶ 28.) In May 2006, the County appointed Ms. Donate as warden. (Id.) During Warden Donate's tenure as warden, she has continued to review existing policies and implement new policies, practices, and procedures. (Id. at ¶ 29.)

Warden Donate testified that she was not aware that any pre-shift meetings were taking place and never participated in any pre-shift meetings. (Donate Dep., Dkt. 66-4, at 9.) Warden Jennings testified that the policy and procedure manual that he created and implemented did not contain a policy that required corrections officers and sergeants to attend daily pre-shift 15-minute meetings before the start of their scheduled shifts and that he does not recall seeing any document that required employees to attend daily pre-shift 15-minute meetings. (Jennings Dep., Dkt. 68-3, at 5.)

While Warden Donate did not implement any new prison policies requiring correction officers and sergeants to report to the prison fifteen minutes prior to the start of their scheduled shift, Policy A-112 remained in effect. (Id. at ¶ 30.) Policy A-112 provides:

204. Roll Call and Duty Inspection for Correctional Staff shall begin promptly at the times listed below and in the Muster Room:

1st Shift (Day) 0645 hours

2nd Shift (Afternoon) 1445 hours

3rd Shift (Evening) 2245 hours

205. No Supervisor or Correctional Officer shall be absent from roll call unless authorized by the Security Captain or Shift Commander. Admittance to roll call shall not be permitted to any Correctional Officer who does not report to the Muster Room at the assigned time. . . . (Plaintiffs' Statement of Undisputed Material Fact ("PSUMF"), Dkt. 68, at ¶ 22 (quoting Exhibit D, Policy A-112, ¶¶ 204-05).) The November 2006 Lackawanna County Prison Employee Manual provides that "Roll Call is to be held in the muster room and not be accessible to inmates," and that "Shift Commander is to attend roll call daily." (2006 Employee Manual, Dkt. 68-14, at 7, section 1.22.)

"From May 18, 2005 to May 18, 2007, Plaintiffs earned hourly salaries ranging from a low of $12.89 to a high of $20.41. During this relevant time period, on a week-to-week basis, no Plaintiff earned an hourly rate less than the federally mandated hourly minimum wage." (DSUMF, Dkt. 67, at ¶ 44.)

Plaintiffs filed a complaint in this Court on May 18, 2007, alleging violation of the FLSA. (Comp., Dkt. 1, at ¶¶ 29-34.)*fn2 Plaintiffs allege no state law or contract violations. (Id.) On August 21, 2009, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. 64.) Oral argument was held on March ...


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