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Officers’ Overtime Pay Suit Dismissed

A Southampton County Circuit Court dismisses this lawsuit filed by 25 former and current police officers for the city of Franklin, alleging the city breached its contract with plaintiffs by forcing them to work 11 uncompensated hours each 28-day pay period before they could receive overtime pay; the court will not extrapolate from internal administrative documents to determine a payment scheme that conforms to plaintiffs’ assertions.

In their complaint, plaintiffs allege a breach of a written contract with each of the plaintiffs. In their Memorandum in Opposition to the Demurrer, plaintiffs explained that they did not plead breach of oral or implied contracts in their cause of action because an action based on these types of contracts would be barred by the statute of limitations. Each of the offer and acceptance letters presented by plaintiff clearly state the elements of the agreement: an offer by the drafter and acceptance by the employee. The letters are signed by the human resources manager and thus are acknowledged by the one accused of breach, i.e., the city of Franklin. All the offer letters state a salary to be paid “per annum” in exchange for services, with no other detail regarding pay structure. The offer letters with the employees’ acceptance constitute contracts of employment.

Perhaps the most significant issue is whether the police officers were hourly or salaried employees. The offer letter, which is the basis of the breach of contract claim, lists only a yearly salary with no reference to an hourly rate. There are no minimum or maximum hours required to be worked for an employee to receive the per annum salary. The other documents offered by plaintiffs are mere internal recordkeeping documents and do not represent valid employment contracts. None of these documents are employment contacts. None of the contracts treat plaintiffs as hourly employees or require them to work a prescribed number of hours per pay period to earn their salaries. The court hesitates to extract certain sums and calculations from various different internal documents to find that the resulting amalgamation is a definitive employment contract

This entire dispute rests upon 29 U.S.C. § 207(K), a part of the Fair Labor Standards Act. That section permits municipalities to require firefighters and law enforcement officers to work 171 hours in a 28-day period before becoming entitled to overtime pay. Whether an employee receives overtime pay is either based on the grace of the employer or upon a statute. Plaintiffs would prevail in this action under Bailey v. Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, 288 Va. 159 (2014), if defendant employed 100 or more officers. While that code section does not require the city of Franklin to pay plaintiffs for the “gap” hours, neither does  it prohibit the city from doing so. Plaintiffs seek a remedy the court cannot grant. Their remedy, if any, rests with the city council or the General Assembly.

Bailey v. City of Franklin (Poston, J.D.) No. CL 15-509, March 3, 2017; Southampton County Cir. Ct.; Jack T. Randall for plaintiffs; C. Michael DeCamps for defendant. VLW 017-8-035, 3 pp.

VLW 017-8-035