The following facts are material and undisputed.
A. The Plaintiffs and Their Claims
The Plaintiffs in this case are 37 custodial employees of the Board of Education who claim the Board of Education violated the FLSA by untimely paying overtime wages. From June 7, 1992 through April 25, 1993, 127 custodial employees of the Board of Education, 32 of whom are plaintiffs in this case, worked more than 40 hours in at least one workweek in connection with programs operated by Chicago Park District at Board of Education buildings. From August 30, 1992 through March 27, 1993, five Board of Education employees worked more than 40 hours in at least one workweek which were not connected with Chicago Park District programs. During this time period the Plaintiffs accrued approximately $ 132,527.87 in unpaid overtime compensation.
The Board of Education voluntarily paid the accrued overtime compensation
on May 7, 1993 through July 9, 1993, and began making timely payment
of overtime wages on May 14, 1993. See Joint Stipulations, PP 10-14, 16-20.
B. The Board of Education's Actions
Beginning in October, 1991, Dr. Grady Jordan, the District Superintendent of High Schools, was given responsibility for administering the "360 Playground" fund. The term "360 Playground" was the Board's accounting designation for a fund from which overtime was to be paid in connection with Park District programs prior to the 1992-93 school year. See Pls.' Rule 12 (N) Statement, P 6, Def.'s Statement of Material Facts, P 6. In fiscal year 1993 (i.e., September 1992 through August 1993), the Board of Education substantially reduced appropriations for overtime. See Def.'s Statement of Material Facts, P 8. The overtime payments which were eventually made to the Plaintiffs were charged against both the "552 Public Building Commission" fund and the "360 Playground" fund. See Def.'s Statement of Material Facts, P 16.
Prior to this reduction in overtime appropriations, in February 1992, the Board of Education had adopted a new accounting procedure utilizing "bucket numbers" (i.e., payroll accounting numbers). Thereafter, whenever a custodial employee worked overtime, the overtime had to be charged to a particular bucket number. To establish a bucket number for custodial compensation, an administrator must estimate the amount of regular and overtime wages anticipated for that particular purpose and transmit to the Budget department this estimate along with the "fund" to be charged. The Budget department then issues a bucket number. If the overtime is not charged to a valid bucket number, the Board of Education will not pay the employee for the overtime worked. The bucket number is inserted by the chief engineer of each school on Board of Education forms submitted for each payroll period. It was the failure of the custodial employees' supervisors to charge overtime to a bucket number, or to submit overtime for which no bucket number was available, which resulted in the delayed payment of overtime wages in this case. See Pls.' Rule 12(N) Statement, P 7, Def.'s Reply to Pls.'s 12(N) Statement, PP 6-7.
C. Arguments of the Parties
The Plaintiffs and Defendant disagree on the reasons for this failure to properly charge the custodial overtime to a bucket number. Defendant alleges the delay was due to the Board of Education's inability to establish a bucket number because it could not gather sufficient information to estimate the overtime wages associated with Park District programs. See Def.'s Reply to Pls.'s 12(N) Statement, P 7(c). The Board of Education contends that this delay was due in part to the difficulty it experienced in using its contract with the Chicago Park District to generate its' estimate of overtime compensation. See Brody Dep. at 26. The Board of Education also contends that it did not even realize it had a widespread problem until January 1993. See Def.'s Statement of Material Facts, P 14. Carl Brody, the Director of Plant Operations and Maintenance, was being informed of individual incidents of unpaid overtime in the Fall of 1992 and reacted to these reports in the following manner:
I would check it. I knew I was doing these other things. As of this date I wasn't doing a heck of a lot as of November 27th, you see, because it was the beginning of the school year. A lot of other things to do. I would say okay, I would check into it. I wouldn't spend every waking hour worrying about this.
I have a lot of problems and this is just one of them.