141 F.3d 533 (4th Cir. 1998), 97-1731, Roy v. County of Lexington, South Carolina

Docket Nº:97-1731, 97-1798.
Citation:141 F.3d 533
Party Name:(BNA) 869 John R. ROY; Gary Waller; David Rhoten; Crystal Galloway; Gary W. Holmes; Eric T. Bushey; M.T. Hammond; John R. Lillard; David H. Dixon; Gary Semones; Richard McManus; Jason Hentz; Patricia H. Dupuis; Curtis Scott Ward; Mike Tanner; Gary A. Seibert; Robert McKeever; John L. Windhorn; Bobby Daggerhart; Melissa P. Harrison; Jay F. Burton; T
Case Date:April 14, 1998
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 533

141 F.3d 533 (4th Cir. 1998)

(BNA) 869

John R. ROY; Gary Waller; David Rhoten; Crystal Galloway;

Gary W. Holmes; Eric T. Bushey; M.T. Hammond; John R.

Lillard; David H. Dixon; Gary Semones; Richard McManus;

Jason Hentz; Patricia H. Dupuis; Curtis Scott Ward; Mike

Tanner; Gary A. Seibert; Robert McKeever; John L.

Windhorn; Bobby Daggerhart; Melissa P. Harrison; Jay F.

Burton; Teresa Hill; Dwight C. Nolff; Thad C. Miller;

David W. Shull; David E. David; Patricia H. Barnett;

Joseph J. Rooney; Kevin G. Hicks; Robbie Kubler; Dalton

E. Shull, Jr.; John V. Ruff, Jr.; Eric McFarland; James

Garcia; Cynthia D. Plant; Robert D. McClanahan; George E.

Hardy; Fern Jenkins; Mildred H. Miller; Linda W. Semones;

Michael K. Kaczmarek; Michael G. Jones; Joey Keisler;

Rhett Loudenback; Joseph A. Bastedo, Sr.; David C. Hunter;

Loretta Hunter; Betty Koerner; J. Stuart Platt; Evelyn

J. Williams; Jacqueline Fink; Jonathon L. Humphrey;

Carroll W. Bledsoe, Jr.; Jonathan M. Sebring; Alice H.

Bennett; Tony L. Wingard; Kenneth L. White, III; Morris

F. Anderson; Stephen C. Sightler; Jeff Barchus; Anthony

Bruce Taylor; Tami Leigh Steinlage, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

and

Daniel C. Force; B.L. Burnes; John W. Smith, Plaintiffs,

v.

COUNTY OF LEXINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA, Defendant-Appellee.

John R. ROY; Gary Waller; David Rhoten; Crystal Galloway;

Gary W. Holmes; Eric T. Bushey; M.T. Hammond; John R.

Lillard; David H. Dixon; Gary Semones; Richard Mcmanus;

Jason Hentz; Patricia H. Dupuis; Curtis Scott Ward; Mike

Tanner; Gary A. Seibert; Robert McKeever; John L.

Windhorn; Bobby Daggerhart; Melissa P. Harrison; Jay F.

Burton; Teresa Hill; Dwight C. Nolff; Thad C. Miller;

David W. Shull; David E. David; Patricia H. Barnett;

Joseph J. Rooney; Kevin G. Hicks; Robbie Kubler; Dalton

E. Shull, Jr.; John V. Ruff, Jr.; Eric McFarland; James

Garcia; Cynthia D. Plant; Robert D. McClanahan; George E.

Hardy; Fern Jenkins; Mildred H. Miller; Linda W. Semones;

Michael K. Kaczmarek; Michael G. Jones; Joey Keisler;

Rhett Loudenback; Joseph A. Bastedo, Sr.; David C. Hunter;

Loretta Hunter; Betty Koerner; J. Stuart Platt; Evelyn

J. Williams; Jacqueline Fink; Jonathon L. Humphrey;

Carroll W. Bledsoe, Jr.; Jonathan M. Sebring; Alice H.

Bennett; Tony L. Wingard; Kenneth L. White, III; Morris

F. Anderson; Stephen C. Sightler; Jeff Barchus; Anthony

Bruce Taylor; Tami Leigh Steinlage, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

and

Daniel C. Force; B.L. Burnes; John W. Smith, Plaintiffs,

v.

COUNTY OF LEXINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA, Defendant-Appellee.

Nos. 97-1731, 97-1798.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

April 14, 1998

Argued Jan. 28, 1998.

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Page 536

ARGUED: James B. Richardson, Jr., Svalina, Richardson & Larson, Columbia, SC, for Appellants. Stephen Terry Savitz, Gignilliat, Savitz & Bettis, Columbia, SC, for Appellee.

Page 537

ON BRIEF: Gerald F. Smith, Svalina, Richardson & Larson, Columbia, SC, for Appellants. Linda P. Edwards, Gignilliat, Savitz & Bettis, Columbia, SC, for Appellee.

Before MURNAGHAN, NIEMEYER, and MOTZ, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge DIANA GRIBBON MOTZ wrote the opinion, in which Judge MURNAGHAN and Judge NIEMEYER joined.

OPINION

DIANA GRIBBON MOTZ, Circuit Judge:

Current and former Lexington County Emergency Medical Service (EMS) employees brought this action against the County, alleging that they had been denied overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 201 et seq. (West 1978) (the Act). After a bench trial, the district court concluded that the County could not classify the employees as firefighters or law enforcement officers for purposes of calculating their overtime pay, but could exclude their meal periods and sleep periods from hours worked for purposes of this calculation. The court further held that although the County did not qualify for immunity from liability under the Act, the County's good faith precluded an award of liquidated damages to the employees. Roy v. County of Lexington, 928 F.Supp. 1406 (D.S.C.1996). Both sides appeal, contesting these and related issues. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.

I.

EMS is not part of the County's fire or police departments but a separate and independent subdivision of the County's Public Safety Division. EMS paramedics and technicians provide emergency medical care and transportation services throughout the county, which includes nine EMS areas, each averaging 82 square miles. Every EMS area contains an EMS substation, and six of those substations are housed with the area's fire department. The individual substations are manned at all times by a "response team" of two EMS workers.

An EMS team must respond within two minutes after receiving a 911 emergency call requiring EMS assistance. EMS responds to a wide range of emergencies, including domestic accidents and various medical ailments. According to two Lexington County manuals on "standard operating procedures"--one for EMS employees and one for Communications Center workers--EMS teams are "routinely" dispatched to handle such crisis situations as (1) moving patients to a hospital emergency or critical care facility such as a coronary, labor and delivery, or intensive care unit; (2) transporting patients who require life support; and (3) responding to crises at the request of either an EMS supervisor or on-scene crew chief. EMS teams also "routinely support" County law enforcement and fire agencies, but only 25% of the calls are executed in conjunction with law enforcement services and 5% of the calls involve the fire department. Thus, approximately 70% of the calls to EMS are strictly "medical" in that they do not involve either law enforcement or fire protection services.

Following the Supreme Court's decision in Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, 469 U.S. 528, 105 S.Ct. 1005, 83 L.Ed.2d 1016 (1985), announcing the applicability of the Act to state and local governments, the County convened a meeting of its top officials to develop a compensation plan to meet the Act's requirements. The County's labor attorney, private practitioner Julian Gignilliat, advised the County officials that the County could pay its EMS workers pursuant to § 7(k) of the Act. Section 7(k) provides a partial exemption for those public agencies employing persons "engaged in fire protection or law enforcement activities," by increasing the number of hours such employees must work above the regular 40-hour workweek before they are entitled to overtime compensation. See 29 U.S.C.A. § 207(k) (West 1965 & Supp.1997) ( § 7(k)). Gignilliat also told County officials that they could exclude eight hours per shift for sleep time and two and one-half hours per shift for meals from EMS personnel's compensable hours. Lexington incorporated these recommendations into its overtime policy for EMS employees.

Page 538

Until 1995, the County paid EMS workers an annual salary in equal bi-weekly installments, which compensated them for up to 86 hours worked every two weeks (43 hours per week); only when EMS personnel worked more than 86 hours were they entitled to overtime pay for those hours. Since July 1, 1995, the County has compensated EMS employees for overtime on the basis of the standard 40-hour workweek, thus paying them overtime for all hours worked in excess of 40 per week or 80 every two weeks.

The County calculates the overtime rate according to the fluctuating workweek method of payment. This results in overtime being paid, on a per-hour basis, at an additional one-half of the employee's regular hourly rate of pay. The County determines the "regular hourly rate" by dividing the bi-weekly salary by the total number of compensable hours an EMS employee works in a two-week pay period. EMS personnel work a "one day on two days off schedule" of three regularly recurring shifts of 24 1/2 hours (8:30 a.m. until 9:00 a.m. on the following day) each week. Each shift cycle repeats itself every 21 days.

Within each shift, EMS workers receive three meal periods: 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. for breakfast; 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. for lunch; and 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for dinner. They need not take their meals at these times; instead they can eat whenever they wish as long as meals do not interfere with answering emergency calls. The County also provides EMS employees with a specified sleep period from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. According to County policy, EMS employees "must not be interrupted during meal or sleep times for any reason" except emergency calls. If emergencies disturb any portion of an hour of the meal or sleep periods, the County pays employees for the entire hour. When EMS personnel cannot sleep for five consecutive hours during the sleep period, the County compensates them for the entire eight-hour sleep period.

Sixty-three current and former EMS employees filed this action against the County, alleging that the County's compensation scheme--specifically, its overtime, sleep, and meal policies--violated the Act. Following a bench trial, the district court found that: (1) the County could not calculate EMS overtime hours pursuant to § 7(k), but could exempt EMS employees' uninterrupted sleep and meal periods from total compensable hours; (2) the "fluctuating workweek" payment method did not apply to EMS employees; and (3) the County did not qualify for immunity from liability for past statutory violations because it did not rely on any Department of Labor policy in classifying EMS employees, but that the County's good faith limited the...

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