94 F.3d 152 (4th Cir. 1996), 95-1923, Bailey v. County of Georgetown

Docket Nº:95-1923.
Citation:94 F.3d 152
Party Name:(BNA) 776 Christopher C. BAILEY; Armand Berube; Terryl J. Cobb; Jerry L. Farr; Martha J. Hunt; James R. Jackson; Kenneth M. Johnson; Drury L. Keesler, Jr.; Larry M. Lewis; Joseph D. Livingston; J. Barry Marsh; David W. McConnell; Samuel Moudtrie, Jr.; Edward Wayne Pope; Walter Allen Poston; Isaac L. Pyatt; Thomas L. Rea; Terri Sisinni; George W. Sm
Case Date:August 29, 1996
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 152

94 F.3d 152 (4th Cir. 1996)

(BNA) 776

Christopher C. BAILEY; Armand Berube; Terryl J. Cobb;

Jerry L. Farr; Martha J. Hunt; James R. Jackson; Kenneth

M. Johnson; Drury L. Keesler, Jr.; Larry M. Lewis; Joseph

D. Livingston; J. Barry Marsh; David W. McConnell; Samuel

Moudtrie, Jr.; Edward Wayne Pope; Walter Allen Poston;

Isaac L. Pyatt; Thomas L. Rea; Terri Sisinni; George W.

Smith; Wilbert H. Thacker, Jr.; William M. Tisdale, Jr.;

Gary W. Todd; Alan Wayne Walters; David A. Wheeler;

Willie B. Grate; David L. Barr; Darryel C. Carr; Leroy

Gasque; William Mark Mullins; Lawrence B. Smalls; David

Altman, Jr.; Tyrun Y. Greene; Anthony Craig Mitchum;

Joseph E. Howell; Fred Lytle; Ernest A. Hampton; Wallace

E. Dingle; Wallace C. Medlin; Anthony L. Feagin; Ursular

L. Armstrong; Denise G. King; Matthew Grayson; William A.

Pierce; Michael Cox; Kenneth Wayne Davis; Detective

Benito Reves; Marybeth Morris as the Personal

Representative for the Estate of William Robert Morris, Jr.,

Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

COUNTY OF GEORGETOWN, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 95-1923.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

August 29, 1996

Argued May 6, 1996.

Page 153

ARGUED: Michael Kurt Kendree, Law Offices of William Stuart Duncan, Georgetown, South Carolina, for Appellants. Stephen Terry Savitz, Gignilliat, Savitz & Bettis, Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: William S. Duncan, Law Offices of William Stuart Duncan, Georgetown, South Carolina, for Appellants. Linda Pearce Edwards, Gignilliat, Savitz & Bettis, Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellee.

Before MURNAGHAN, WILLIAMS, and MOTZ, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge MURNAGHAN wrote the opinion, in which Judge WILLIAMS and Judge MOTZ joined.

OPINION

MURNAGHAN, Circuit Judge:

I.

On July 6, 1994, Appellants--forty-seven current and former deputy sheriffs 1 for Georgetown County, South Carolina--filed an amended complaint against Georgetown County in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina. In their complaint, Appellants alleged that the County had violated sections 6 and 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 206, 207, by failing to pay them for overtime work at rates required by that statute. Appellants requested an award of all unpaid overtime wages covering the preceding three years, as well as liquidated damages, attorneys' fees, and an injunction prohibiting the County from violating the FLSA in the future. Appellants demanded and received a jury trial. The district court bifurcated the case in the manner described below.

Much of the evidence presented during the first stage of the trial concerned the "fluctuating pay plan" that the County adopted for the deputies in 1990 after the United States Department of Labor determined that overtime wages to which the deputies were entitled under the FLSA were unlawfully being withheld. Linda J. McCants, the County's payroll supervisor, explained the pay plan as follows. Each deputy sheriff is paid a specified annual salary; no additional compensation is paid unless the deputy works more than 171 hours during a given twenty-eight-day cycle. For each hour in excess of 171 hours worked by a deputy during such a cycle, the deputy receives overtime pay. The overtime rate to be paid to the deputy is determined by dividing his or her base salary for that twenty-eight-day period by the total number of hours worked, yielding an adjusted hourly rate of pay. An overtime premium of one-half of that adjusted hourly amount is

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then paid for each hour worked in excess of 171 hours. 2

The principal dispute during the first stage of the trial concerned whether the deputy sheriffs had clearly understood the manner in which their overtime pay was being calculated under the plan. The issue is potentially made significant by section 7 of the FLSA and by 29 C.F.R. § 778.114. Section 7 requires that overtime wages be paid "at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which [an employee] is employed." 29 U.S.C. § 207(a) (Supp.1996). Section 778.114 describes one of the means by which a salaried employee's "regular rate" of pay may be determined. 3 That regulation states:

An employee employed on a salary basis may have hours of work which fluctuate from week to week and the salary may be paid to him pursuant to an understanding with his employer that he will receive such fixed amount as straight time pay for whatever hours he is called upon to work in a workweek, whether few or many. Where there is a clear mutual understanding of the parties that the fixed salary is compensation (apart from overtime premiums) for the hours worked each workweek, whatever their number, rather than for working 40 hours or some other fixed weekly work period, such a salary arrangement is permitted by the [Fair Labor Standards] Act if the amount of the salary is sufficient to provide compensation to the employee at a rate not less than the applicable minimum wage rate for every hour worked in those workweeks in which the number of hours he works is greatest, and if he receives extra compensation, in addition to such salary, for all overtime hours worked at a rate not less than one-half his...

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