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Souryavong v. Lackawanna County

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 27, 2015

MICHAEL SOURYAVONG, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
LACKAWANNA COUNTY, LACKAWANNA COUNTY DEPUTY SHERIFF’S ASSOCIATION, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment against Defendant Lackawanna County (Doc. 50), and Defendant Lackawanna County Deputy Sheriffs Association’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 56) against Plaintiffs Michael Souryavong, Edwin Velez, and Nelson Rolon. Plaintiffs seek summary judgment on their claim brought against Lackawanna County pursuant to the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Because the record shows that there are no material disputes of fact as to whether the plaintiffs worked overtime, were not compensated at an overtime rate, and the defendant had constructive knowledge of this, Plaintiffs are entitled to relief as a matter of law, and summary judgment will be granted. Because there remain disputes of material fact as to whether the violation was willful and whether the statute of limitations should be equitably tolled, I will deny summary judgment with respect to claims based on events that fall outside of the minimum two (2) year FLSA statute of limitations from the date that Plaintiffs filed their original complaints.

Defendant Lackawanna County Deputy Sheriffs Association (“LCDSA, ” “the Association”) seeks summary judgment with respect to Plaintiffs’ claim that the LCDSA breached its duty of fair representation to Plaintiffs. Because material facts remain in dispute, Defendant LCDSA’s Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

1. Plaintiffs’ Employment with Lackawanna County

This action arises out of events that occurred while Plaintiffs Michael Souryavong, Edwin Velez, and Nelson Rolon worked for Lackawanna County as part-time Deputy Sheriffs and also in other departments. Plaintiff Velez began working for the County in February 2011. (Doc. 67, ¶ 12.) Velez worked in “Central Booking” and as a Deputy Sheriff from 2011 to January 2012. (Id., ¶ 14.) He stopped working for the County on July 25, 2012. (Id.)

Plaintiff Nelson Rolon started working for the Lackawanna Sheriff’s Department in September 2010 as a part-time Sheriff’s Deputy. (Rolon Dep., Doc. 52-10, 8:1-8:5.) At some point in 2010, he began also working part-time in Central Booking at the County District Attorney’s Office. (Doc. 67, ¶ 16.) Plaintiff Rolon worked for the County through October 15, 2011.

Plaintiff Michael Souryavong worked for the Lackawanna County Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy from June 2008 through August 2011. (Doc. 67, ¶¶ 20, 23.) This was a part-time position. (Souryavong Dep. 13:2, Doc. 68-3.) Souryavong described his understanding of the limit on maximum hours as: “They gave you all the hours that you want just as long as you do not go over the Federal Law which would put you over full-time.” (Id., 17:6-17:10.) Souryavong also worked for Central Booking in the DA’s Office. (Souryavong Dep. 18:13-14.) On December 22, 2010, Plaintiff Souryavong started working full-time at the Lackawanna County Juvenile Detention Center. (Doc. 67, ¶ 23.) When he was employed by the Juvenile Detention Center, Plaintiff Souryavong was paid overtime when he worked in excess of forty (40) hours a week. (Id., ¶ 24.)

Tom Durkin has been the Chief Financial Officer for Lackawanna County since 2004. (Doc. 67, ¶ 1.) Mr. Durkin was designated to represent the County in a deposition pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6). Payroll for the County is prepared by a computer financial accounting system. (Doc. 67, ¶ 2.) Time is entered into the system by each County Department. (Id., ¶ 3.) Every other Wednesday morning, after approval, the system pulls information into a centralized processing module which prepares payroll and prints checks. (Id., ¶ 4.) Printouts from the financial accounting system reflect the hours worked by employees. (Id., ¶ 5.) The payroll system pays by ID number, and multiple ID numbers cannot be integrated to determine payout of overtime. (Id., ¶ 9.) Since 2011, the County does not permit employees to work in more than one department. (Id., ¶ 10.)

Defendant Lackawanna County states that it is and was familiar with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and that it was required to pay employees elevated overtime wages for overtime hours worked. (Doc. 64, ¶¶ 1-2.) Defendant admits that its calculations reveal that Plaintiffs Souryavong, Velez, and Nelson “accrued hours that would warrant the payment of overtime, ” however, it asserts that it did not violate the FLSA by not paying this overtime. (Id., ¶¶ 3-6.)

2. Plaintiffs’ Claim against the LCDSA

The Lackawanna County Deputy Sheriffs Association (“LCDSA”) is the union that represents the County’s Deputy Sheriffs for “purposes of collective bargaining with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.” (Doc. 56-2, Ex. 1.) Turique Patrick is the President of the LCDSA. (Def. LCDSA SMF, Doc. 56-2, ¶ 7; Pl. SMF, Doc. 61, ¶ 7.) Plaintiffs Souryavong, Rolon, and Velez were employed by Lackawanna County as part-time deputy sheriffs. (Doc. 56-2, ¶¶ 7-9; Doc. 61, ¶¶ 7-9.) Plaintiffs were all members of the Association. (Doc. 56-2, ¶ 10, Doc. 61, ¶ 10.) None of the plaintiffs ever ran for or held union office, or campaigned for or against anyone in an internal union election. (Doc. 56-2, ¶ 28, Doc. 61, ¶ 28.) In addition to working as part-time deputy sheriffs, Plaintiffs were employed elsewhere by the County. (Doc. 56-2, ¶ 11, Doc. 61, ¶ 11.)

On July 13, 2011, Association President Patrick filed a grievance with the County protesting, inter alia, the County’s failure to pay overtime to employees who were working in excess of forty (40) hours a week for the County. (Doc. 56-2, ¶ 15, Doc. 61, ¶ 15.) This grievance included a complaint specifically addressing the payment of overtime wages to employees of the Sheriff’s Department who worked overtime in other departments, such as the plaintiffs. (Doc. 56-2, Ex. 6.) All three (3) Plaintiffs were named in the grievance as in need of remedy for the lack of overtime payments. (Doc. 56-2, Ex. 6, 94.) Parties agree that Plaintiffs Souryavong and Rolon were official grievants, but Defendant Association asserts that Plaintiff Velez did not wish to join the grievance. (Doc. 56-2, ¶ 19.) Plaintiffs assert that Plaintiff Velez was part of the grievance. (Doc. 61, ¶ 19.) In the heading of the grievance, Plaintiffs Souryavong and Rolon are listed, but Plaintiff Velez is not. (Doc. 56-2, Ex. 6.)

The parties dispute whether the grievance proceeded to arbitration. Defendant Association attaches to its Statement of Material Facts an American Arbitration Association Decision governing a matter between the County and the Association. (Doc. 56-2, Ex. 6.) However, there is no clear indication that this arbitration, held on November 19, 2013, stemmed from the grievance contained in the record. The arbitrator’s opinion only mentions the names of Plaintiff Rolon and another deputy sheriff, Fox. (Id.) Plaintiff Souryavong testified in a deposition that he believed that his grievance didn’t go anywhere, and that someone from the union told him that they were not going to take his grievance to arbitration. (Souryavong Dep., 39:6-9.) Plaintiff Souryavong stated that he never received any money as a result of this arbitrator’s decision, but other sheriff deputies did. (Id., 53:4-12.) The Association did not appeal the decision of the arbitrator. (Doc. 56-2, ¶ 27, Doc. 61, ¶ 27.)

B. Procedural Background

1. The Complaint

Based on the foregoing, Plaintiffs Michael Souryavong and Edwin Velez initiated this action by filing a Complaint (Doc. 1) on June 7, 2013. They filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 20) on ...


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