The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Teri S. Huddleston ("Huddleston") sues her former employer,
the Secretary of the United States Department of Labor (the
"Secretary"), claiming the Secretary violated the Equal Pay
Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d),*fn1 by compensating her at a
level lower than that of a male counterpart allegedly doing
"substantially equal work." Though Huddleston does not pray for
a specific amount of damages, both parties agree the amount
sought — to be determined by an accounting and to include
attorney's fees and costs — exceeds $10,000.
In his answer the Secretary asserts this Court's lack of
subject matter jurisdiction as a first affirmative defense.
His position is that the Tucker Act,
28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(2),*fn2 vests in the Court of Claims exclusive
jurisdiction of non-tort claims against the United States in
excess of $10,000. Huddleston has moved to strike that defense,
asserting that FLSA Section 216(b) ("Section 216(b)") as
amended in 1974 makes Equal Pay Act claims an exception to the
Tucker Act.*fn3 For the reasons stated in this memorandum
opinion and order
Huddleston's motion to strike is denied and this action is
transferred to the United States Court of Claims.
Huddleston maintains that Section 216(b) both (1)
constitutes a waiver of the United States' sovereign immunity
in Equal Pay Act cases*fn4 and (2) confers jurisdiction upon
the district courts over such cases regardless of amount.
Department concedes the first but contests the second of those
contentions. In that respect Huddleston argues that the
language of Section 216(b) plainly confers jurisdiction
— stressing the underscored language:
An action . . . may be maintained against
any employer (including a public agency) in any
Federal or State Court of competent jurisdiction.
Department responds that under the Tucker Act only the Court
of Claims is of "competent jurisdiction" over any non-tort
action seeking over $10,000 against the United States.
Only one Court has addressed the issue directly.*fn5 In
Graham v. Henegar, 640 F.2d 732 (5th Cir. 1981), plaintiff
firefighters employed by the United States at Ft. Bliss, Texas
filed an FLSA action to recover unpaid overtime compensation
and liquidated damages. Their complaint cited Section 216(b)
and 28 U.S.C. § 1337 (actions under the commerce clause) as the
jurisdictional bases for bringing the action in the District
Court. After concluding that the claims exceeded $10,000 the
Court of Appeals held sua sponte that the District Court lacked
jurisdiction due to Tucker Act limitations (640 F.2d at 734):
Because adjudication in a federal district court
of a lawsuit that falls within the exclusive
[over $10,000] jurisdiction of the Court of
Claims would seriously undermine the purposes of
the Tucker Act, courts confronting the issue have
consistently held that the Court of Claims is the
sole forum for the adjudication of such a claim,
even though the claim would otherwise fall within
the coverage of some other statute conferring
jurisdiction on the district court.
Huddleston asserts Graham is simply wrong. She relies instead
on Trans-Bay Engineers and Builders, Inc. v. Hills,
551 F.2d 370 (D.C. Cir. 1976) and Bor-Son Building Corp. v. Heller,
572 F.2d 174 (8th Cir. 1978). Those cases held district courts had
jurisdiction over suits against the Department of Housing and
Urban Development for housing construction subsidies, even
though the subsidies sought exceeded $10,000. Huddleston also
urges that the legislative history of the 1974 amendments to
the Equal Pay Act (in which the language on which Huddleston
seeks to rely was added to the statute) undermines Graham.
Trans-Bay and Bor-Son do support Huddleston's position
analytically (despite differences in the legislation
2. Both also held that Section 1702 of the
National Housing Act, 12 U.S.C. § 1702,*fn7
constituted a waiver of sovereign immunity
independent of the Tucker Act.
3. Finally in each action the Court found a
basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction
outside the Tucker Act — in Trans-Bay,
28 U.S.C. § 1332 and 1331, and in Bor-Son,
28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1).
Accordingly, those courts reasoned, the Tucker Act limitation
did not apply. Huddleston urges an analogous basis for Tucker
Act inapplicability, asserting a waiver of sovereign immunity
under Section 216(b) and district court ...