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Wood v. City of Elgin

October 9, 2008

WILLIAM F. WOOD, JR., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF ELGIN, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable David H. Coar

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Several police officers ("Plaintiffs") brought a consolidated action in Illinois state court against their employer, the City of Elgin ("City") for alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 ("FLSA"). Based upon 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446, the action was removed to this Court. Before the Court now is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on three grounds: 1) the City has implemented a 28-day "work period," which avails it to the FLSA overtime exemption at 29 U.S.C. § 207(k); (2) the City provides Plaintiffs a paid work break of forty minutes per day, which reduces the duration of each work shift to under eight hours a day; and (3) Plaintiffs' lawsuit is barred by the common law doctrine of laches. For the reasons stated below, the motion is GRANTED with respect to the first basis and DENIED with respect to the other two.

BACKGROUND*fn1

The City is a municipal corporation located within the State of Illinois. The City employs its own local law enforcement officers, the Plaintiffs, as well as other municipal employees. Plaintiffs are all current employees of the City, holding either the rank of Patrol Officer or Sergeant in the City's Police Department. Plaintiffs are also members of a union called the Policemen's Benevolent Protective Association Unit 54 (the "Union"), which has been designated as their sole and exclusive bargaining agent for the purposes of establishing wages, hours of work, and other conditions of employment.

The City and the Union entered into a collective bargaining agreement*fn2 ("CBA") that governs the employment relationship between Plaintiffs and the City. The CBA provides that a "normal work period... shall not exceed fourteen (14) days" and that a normal work week shall constitute a 41.25 hour work week consisting of daily shifts of eight hours of work and a fifteen minute training period. From January 1, 2005, the date the CBA went into effect, until the present, Plaintiffs have worked the 41.25 hour work weeks. Plaintiffs have not been paid at an overtime rate for the 1.25 hour beyond the standard forty hour work week established by the FLSA. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1); SOF ¶ 21. Instead, Plaintiffs are paid overtime for time worked beyond the daily 8.25 hour work shift and work on a regularly-scheduled day off. SOF ¶ 26-27. Thus, Plaintiffs are suing the City for violating the FLSA and they seek unpaid overtime wages, liquidated damages, and reasonable attorneys' fees.

STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists only if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The movant bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant meets this burden, the non-movant must set forth specific facts (a "scintilla of evidence" is insufficient) demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. When reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. See Schuster v. Lucent Tech., Inc., 327 F.3d 569, 573 (7th Cir. 2003).

ANALYSIS

I. The City Has Established That Plaintiffs Work a 28-Day "Work Period" Subject to the Overtime Exemption at 29 U.S.C. § 207(K)

The FLSA provides that employees are entitled to receive overtime pay at one and one-half times their regular rate for all hours worked in excess of forty per week. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). However, public agencies are exempted from the general overtime requirement with respect to firefighters and law enforcement officers when there is an established "work period" that satisfies certain statutory criteria. 29 U.S.C. § 207(k) (hereinafter "Section 7(k)").

The term "work period" is not defined by the FLSA. However, the Department of Labor has promulgated regulations that define a "work period" as follows:

As used in section 7(k) [of the FLSA], the term "work period" refers to any established and regularly recurring period of work which, under the terms of the Act and legislative history, cannot be less than 7 consecutive days nor more than 28 consecutive days. Except for this limitation, the work period can be of any length, and it need not coincide with the duty cycle or pay period or with a particular day of the week or hour of the day.

29 C.F.R. § 553.224(a) (emphasis added). Employees under the purview of Section 7(k) are entitled to time and one-half pay only after they have worked more than 171 hours in a 28 day work period or approximately 43 hours in a 7 day work period. 29 U.S.C. § 207(k)(2).

A "work period" is not a talisman'; a public employer does not have to express a specific declaration of intent to fall within the Section 7(k) exception. Barefield v. Village of Winnetka, 81 F.3d 704, 710 (7th Cir. 1996). It need only demonstrate that it meets all the factual criteria for Section 7(k). Id. The issue, then, is whether the City "established" a work period of not less than 7 consecutive days nor more than 28 consecutive days, and if so, whether that work ...


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