Alexander v. City of Chicago

Decision Date17 August 1993
Docket Number92-1442 and 92-1448,Nos. 92-1441,s. 92-1441
Citation994 F.2d 333
Parties125 Lab.Cas. P 35,808, 1 Wage & Hour Cas.2d (BNA) 657 Julie ALEXANDER, Carmel G. Abbate, Bozeman Anderson, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. CITY OF CHICAGO, a municipal corporation, Defendant-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit

Susan P. Malone, Perry M. Berke (argued), Burton I. Weinstein, John R. Malkinson, Baskin, Server, Berke & Weinstein, Chicago, IL, for plaintiffs-appellants.

Jennifer Naber, Asst. Corp. Counsel, Kathryn Zeledon Nelson, Kelly R. Welsh, Asst. Corp. Counsel, Benna R. Solomon, Joan Flynn, Asst. Corp. Counsel (argued), Office of Corp. Counsel, Appeals Div., Chicago, IL, for defendant-appellee.

Before BAUER, Chief Judge, CUDAHY, Circuit Judge, and CRABB, District Judge. *

CUDAHY, Circuit Judge.

A group of Chicago police officers alleged that the extent of the restrictions applied to their half-hour meal breaks required that they be compensated for such breaks under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219. The district court granted the City's motion for judgment on the pleadings in the first of three related cases and subsequently dismissed the companion cases. The officers appeal. We reverse.

I.

Under section 7(a) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers must pay overtime to employees who work more than forty hours weekly. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a). An exception to that provision, embodied in section 7(k) of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 207(k), allows public law enforcement and fire departments to declare work periods from seven to 28 consecutive days; under that scheme, employees working within a 28-day work period are entitled to overtime if they work more than 171 hours. The City of Chicago, which has elected to use the permitted exemption, allows its police officers overtime at time and a half of their pay for any hours over 171 in a 28-day period. The officers work shifts of 8.5 hours, which includes one uncompensated half-hour meal period.

Twenty current and former Chicago police officers initiated this action in state court in November 1989 alleging that the rules and restrictions applied to their half-hour meal periods necessitated that those periods be counted as compensable hours within the tour of duty pursuant to the FLSA. Leahy v. City of Chicago, 785 F.Supp. 724 (N.D.Ill.1992).

Specifically, the plaintiffs' complaint puts forth an extensive list of requirements to which the officers must adhere during their meal breaks: officers must receive permission--frequently denied--to take a meal period, and cannot take that period during the last hour of a shift assignment; they must remain within their district; they must remain in full uniform while adhering to myriad regulations regarding conduct while in uniform; officers are not permitted to take meals at locations other than establishments serving food and those in two-person units must take meals together; officers must be available to terminate their meals upon request; no more than two officers may be present in the same establishment; officers must refrain from conduct that the department deems inappropriate for an officer, apparently including playing golf, reading nondepartmental publications, resting and napping; officers must refrain from drinking alcohol; they must respond to emergencies and requests for assistance by the public; and they must either spend the period where they can be reached by phone, or, if assigned to portable units, keep the units with them. Officers also are subject to report and review by inspectors during meal periods. In limited circumstances, officers can request prior permission to disregard some of the above-noted restrictions, such as that prohibiting more than two officers from eating at the same place.

The action was removed to federal court and about 5,600 other police officers joined the original plaintiffs in the first case, Leahy v. City of Chicago, 785 F.Supp. 724 (N.D.Ill.1992). Others who missed the cutoff date for joining the action filed separate complaints in Alexander v. City of Chicago and Accosta v. City of Chicago. The complaints allege the same restrictions; amended complaints in the Alexander and Accosta actions also allege that requests by the public for assistance and information and interruptions by supervisors and inspectors occur regularly and frequently.

The City moved in the Leahy case for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). The district court granted the City's motion for judgment on the pleadings and then granted the City's motions to dismiss the Alexander and Accosta complaints for failure to state a claim. This appeal consolidates the three separate cases.

II.

We review de novo the district court's order granting the motion for judgment on the pleadings. There remains some confusion, however, regarding the nature of the district court's inquiry--that is, whether the case is governed by the standard for motions to dismiss or should instead be treated as a motion for summary judgment. 1 In United States v. Wood, 925 F.2d 1580 (7th Cir.1991), this court held, seemingly without qualification, that a 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is subject to the same standard as a rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Id. at 1581. In that event, the district court, viewing all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, may grant the motion only if "it is beyond doubt that the non-movant can plead no facts that would support his claim for relief." Id. (citing Thomason v. Nachtrieb, 888 F.2d 1202, 1204 (7th Cir.1989)); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 101-102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). The district court may not look beyond the pleadings, and all uncontested allegations to which the parties had an opportunity to respond are taken as true. Wood, 925 F.2d at 1581.

The defendant counters that judgment on the pleadings is, in the context of this case, more like summary judgment than like a motion to dismiss. Notwithstanding Wood, 2 there may be some validity to this argument. In National Fidelity Life Insurance Co. v. Karaganis, 811 F.2d 357 (7th Cir.1987), this court required a party moving for judgment on the pleadings to establish that there were no material issues of fact to be resolved and that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. at 358; see also 5A Charles A. Wright and Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1368 at 530 (1990) (noting that courts will not grant a rule 12(c) motion if a material issue of fact exists); id. § 1369 at 535 (stating that the standard courts apply for summary judgment and for judgment on the pleadings "appears to be identical").

A defendant may use a rule 12(c) motion after the close of the pleadings to raise various rule 12(b) defenses regarding procedural defects, in which case courts apply the same standard applicable to the corresponding 12(b) motion. Thomason v. Nachtrieb, 888 F.2d 1202, 1204 (7th Cir.1989); 5A Wright & Miller, § 1367 at 516 (noting that rule 12(c) can serve as an "auxiliary device" for asserting such defenses). Here, however, the City seems to use rule 12(c) in its customary application to attempt to dispose of the case on the basis of the underlying substantive merits. Defendant's Br. at 16, 20; see also 5A Wright & Miller, § 1367 at 509, 515 (stating that rule 12(c) is "primarily addressed to" this function). We therefore believe the appropriate standard is that applicable to summary judgment, except that the court may consider only the contents of the pleadings. Karaganis, 811 F.2d at 358. Thus, we take all well-pleaded allegations in the plaintiffs' pleadings to be true, and we view the facts and inferences to be drawn from those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs. Republic Steel Corp. v. Pennsylvania Eng'g Corp., 785 F.2d 174, 177 n. 2 (7th Cir.1986). We will not affirm the granting of the City's 12(c) motion unless no genuine issues of material fact remain to be resolved and unless the City is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Karaganis, 811 F.2d at 358.

III.

Although the FLSA does not define "work," its federal regulations set out the circumstances in which meal periods can be excluded from hours worked. Section 785.19(a) provides:

(a) Bona fide meal periods. Bona fide meal periods are not work time. Bona fide meal periods do not include coffee breaks or time for snacks. These are rest periods. The employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purposes of eating regular meals.... The employee is not relieved if he is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating. For example, an office employee who is required to eat at his desk or a factory worker who is required to be at his machine is working while eating.

19 C.F.R. § 785.19(a). For those agencies using the 7(k) exemption, section 553.223(b) provides that meal time may be excluded from hours worked on tours of duty of less than 24 hours

provided that the employee is completely relieved from duty during the meal period, and all the other tests in § 785.19 of this title are met. On the other hand, where law enforcement personnel are required to remain on call in barracks or similar quarters, or are engaged in extended surveillance activities (e.g., "stakeouts"), they are not considered to be completely relieved from duty, and any such meal periods would be compensable.

29 C.F.R. § 553.223(b).

The district court, in ascertaining whether the officers' mealtimes here are compensable work time under the FLSA, looked only to the more specific regulation, section 553.223(b), and the examples furnished there. Deciding that the Chicago officers' mealtimes "in no way resemble" section 553.223's examples involving stakeouts or confinement to barracks, the district court concluded that they are not...

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