Boyle v. City of Pell City

Decision Date10 August 2017
Docket NumberNo. 16-16362,16-16362
Citation866 F.3d 1280
Parties Paul BOYLE, Plaintiff–Appellant, v. CITY OF PELL CITY, Defendant–Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit

Sonya C. Edwards, Edwards Law Office, Jeffrey W. Bennitt, Jeff W. Bennitt & Associates, LLC, Birmingham, AL, for PlaintiffAppellant.

Alfred Huey Perkins, Jr., Breanna Harris Young, Starnes Davis Florie, LLP, Birmingham, AL, for DefendantAppellee.

Before JULIE CARNES and FAY, Circuit Judges, and GOLDBERG,* Judge.

FAY, Circuit Judge:

Paul Boyle, a former employee of the City of Pell City ("the City"), appeals the dismissal of his claims under state law and the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 – 219, as well as the grant of summary judgment in favor of the City as to his claims under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794. On appeal, Boyle argues that the district court erred by dismissing his FLSA and state-law claims because he sufficiently stated a claim under the FLSA and his state-law claims are not barred by Alabama's statutory notice requirement. He further contends that he made a prima facie showing with respect to both of his Rehabilitation Act claims. Contrary to Boyle's arguments, he failed to state a claim for a violation of the FLSA and his state-law claims are barred. He also did not establish a prima facie case as to either of his Rehabilitation Act claims. Accordingly, we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

Boyle was employed by the City's Street Department from March 2001 until October 2012.1 In June 2001, while working as a Heavy Equipment Operator, he suffered an on-the-job injury that caused him to develop spinal stenosis, chronic nerve pain, and other related conditions. After the injury, he could no longer perform the duties of a Heavy Equipment Operator. Mike Martin, the Street Department Superintendent, initially accommodated Boyle by letting him do office work.

In 2005, Martin began allowing Boyle to perform the duties of the Street Department Foreman, while the actual Foreman, Jeff Crowe, voluntarily worked as a mechanic. On November 9, 2005, Boyle, Martin, and Judy Tipton, the City's Director of Human Resources, memorialized this arrangement through a written "[A]greement Between Mike Mar[tin] & Paul Boyle," in which Boyle agreed to act as the Street Department Foreman "for a period of time not exceeding but not limited to two years without renegotiating the agreement." The agreement stated that this would be "considered a lateral move ... at Heavy Equipment Operator ['s] pay" (approximately $15.00 per hour), which was $8.00 or $9.00 less per hour than the Foreman rate. Although Boyle performed the duties of a Foreman from 2005 until June 2012, he was paid at the Heavy Equipment Operator rate. Crowe retained the Foreman job title and earned Foreman's pay during this time.

On June 6, 2012, Martin wrote a memorandum noting that the 2005 agreement was overdue for renegotiation. He stated, "It is in my opinion ... that [Boyle] is to be compensated for the time ... that he has rendered, beyond the scope of the agreement, being the [Foreman]/Supervisor of the Street Department...." The memorandum was signed by Boyle and Martin. Although Boyle or Martin took the memorandum to Tipton, she refused to sign it.

Around the same time he wrote the memorandum, Martin retired from the Street Department and Greg Gossett became the new Superintendent. Before Gossett was hired, Boyle heard a rumor that Gossett intended to fire him. After hearing this, Boyle decided to apply for disability retirement. He did not do anything to verify whether the rumor was accurate, and Gossett never told him, before he applied for disability retirement, that he would be fired.

Boyle filed his first application for disability retirement with the Retirement Systems of Alabama ("RSA") in June 2012, before Gossett became Superintendent. Attached to his application was a "Report of Disability," in which a physician confirmed that, in his professional opinion, Boyle was "totally incapacitated for further performance of his ... duty." The physician further opined that the City could not make any reasonable accommodation that would allow Boyle to continue his employment. The RSA denied Boyle's application.

Immediately after becoming Superintendent, Gossett removed Boyle from the Foreman position, replaced him with Crowe, and assigned Boyle to work inventory. Boyle told Gossett that the physical activities involved in conducting inventory made the job hard for him to do, but Gossett ignored his complaints and told him to continue working. Gossett also assigned Boyle to operate heavy equipment on one day and disregarded Boyle's protests that he could not operate the equipment because of his back. When Boyle asked to be returned to the Foreman position, Gossett refused. Gossett stated that since Crowe had the title and received the pay he should do the work of the Foreman position.

Boyle filed a second application for disability retirement with the RSA in August 2012. He attached another Report of Disability, which was substantially similar to the prior Report of Disability. The RSA approved Boyle's second application; Boyle retired on October 1, 2012. He also applied for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration and was ultimately approved.

On August 18, 2014, Boyle filed a complaint against the City, which he amended three times to assert violations of the Rehabilitation Act and FLSA, as well as state-law claims for quantum meruit, unjust enrichment, and breach of contract. As to his Rehabilitation Act claims, he alleged that (1) the City unlawfully denied him a reasonable accommodation by refusing to return him to the Foreman position, and (2) he was constructively discharged. He also argued that the City violated the FLSA by paying him overtime at the Heavy Equipment Operator rate rather than the Foreman rate. Finally, he asserted that the City was liable under state law because it breached the 2005 agreement and failed to compensate him for the value of his services as a Foreman.

The City filed a motion to dismiss Boyle's FLSA and state-law claims, which the district court granted. The district court concluded that Boyle failed to state a claim for a violation of the FLSA because his "regular rate" did not violate the FLSA's minimum-wage requirement and he had alleged that he was paid for overtime based on his regular rate. The court further determined that Boyle's state-law claims were barred under Alabama's statutory notice requirement, Ala. Code § 11–47–23.

The City subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, which the district court also granted. First, the court determined that Boyle's Rehabilitation Act claims failed because he did not offer a sufficient explanation for the inconsistencies between his current claims and his representations in his disability-retirement applications. Alternatively, Boyle could not establish that the City failed to provide him with a reasonable accommodation, given that he did not identify any reasonable accommodation that would have allowed him to perform the essential functions of the Heavy Equipment Operator position. Finally, the district court found that Boyle could not meet the standard for constructive discharge, and, in any event, he failed to show that the alleged constructive discharge occurred solely because of his disability. Accordingly, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the City. Boyle filed this timely appeal.

II. DISCUSSION
A. Dismissal of Boyle's FLSA claim

We review de novo a district court's order granting a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Ray v. Spirit Airlines, Inc. , 836 F.3d 1340, 1347 (11th Cir. 2016). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a defendant may move to dismiss a claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). "To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must plead ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ " Ray , 836 F.3d at 1347–48 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) ). A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads sufficient facts to allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Id. at 1348.

Subject to exceptions not relevant here, the FLSA provides that an employer must pay its employee an overtime rate of at least one and one-half times the employee's "regular rate." 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). An employee's regular rate is "the hourly rate actually paid the employee for the normal, non-overtime workweek for which he is employed." Walling v. Youngerman–Reynolds Hardwood Co. , 325 U.S. 419, 424, 65 S.Ct. 1242, 1245, 89 L.Ed. 1705 (1945). "The regular rate by its very nature must reflect all payments which the parties have agreed shall be received regularly during the workweek, exclusive of overtime payments." Id.

Boyle failed to plead facts sufficient on their face to state a plausible claim for a violation of the FLSA. See Ray , 836 F.3d at 1347–48. Assuming arguendo that Martin and Tipton had the authority to effectuate the 2005 agreement on the City's behalf, the agreement stated that Boyle would be paid at the Heavy Equipment Operator rate.2 The fact that Martin later opined that Boyle should have been paid at a higher rate does not change the calculation of his regular rate for purposes of the FLSA, given that the parties agreed he would be paid at the Heavy Equipment Operator rate. See Walling , 325 U.S. at 424, 65 S.Ct. at 1245. Thus, Boyle's "regular rate" was $15.00 per hour—the rate at which he was actually paid. See id . He did not assert that he renegotiated his pay rate after the expiration of the two-year term specified in the 2005 agreement, nor did he allege that the City failed to compensate him for overtime hours based on the Heavy Equipment Operator rate. Accordingly, the...

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