Braddock v. Madison County, Ind., No. IP 96-1233-C H/G.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
Writing for the CourtHamilton
Citation34 F.Supp.2d 1098
Decision Date30 November 1998
Docket NumberNo. IP 96-1233-C H/G.
PartiesHelen Jean BRADDOCK, Karen J. McCord, Mary M. Martin, and David M. Surratt, Plaintiffs, v. MADISON COUNTY, Indiana, Defendant.
34 F.Supp.2d 1098
Helen Jean BRADDOCK, Karen J. McCord, Mary M. Martin, and David M. Surratt, Plaintiffs,
v.
MADISON COUNTY, Indiana, Defendant.
No. IP 96-1233-C H/G.
United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division.
November 30, 1998.

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COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

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Arend J. Abel, Leagre, Chandler & Millard, Indianapolis, IN, for Plaintiffs.

David A. Gunter, Beers, Mallers, Backs & Salin, Fort Wayne, IN, for Defendant.

Wayne Uhl, Office of the Indiana Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, for State.

FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

HAMILTON, District Judge.


Introduction

Three court reporters and a former bailiff with the Unified Courts of Madison County seek additional compensation from Madison County, Indiana, for hours the plaintiffs worked beyond the minimum scheduled 35 hours a week each was expected to work. The case was tried to the court. Findings of fact and conclusions of law are set forth in this entry.

Plaintiffs seek relief under two radically different legal regimes: contract law and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). See 29 U.S.C. § 207 (FLSA overtime requirements). As explained below, plaintiffs have not shown that Madison County breached any contract with them. The root of contract law is enforcement of promises objectively manifested by the statements and conduct of the parties. Madison County never manifested any intention or promise to pay the plaintiffs cash for hours they worked in excess of 35 hours a week. Plaintiffs continued to work for years under that regime without any indication that the county intended to pay them for any of the hours in question here. Madison County did not breach its contracts with plaintiffs.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act, however, was carefully designed to trump contracts and to give employees rights that they could not waive or contract away. Under the FLSA, the plaintiffs are entitled to some but not all of the relief they seek. All four plaintiffs are non-exempt employees who are eligible for overtime pay. All four plaintiffs worked overtime hours for which they have not been paid. The county's principal defense on the FLSA claims is that plaintiffs' employer is the Unified Courts rather than the county itself. Indiana has established a system of governmental checks and balances that divides authority over the administration of the courts in Madison County. In a nutshell, the judges of the courts control the plaintiffs' working hours while the Madison County Council controls the plaintiffs' compensation. Plaintiffs seek damages not from the courts, which are entitled to protection from liability for damages under the Eleventh Amendment as arms of the state government, but from only Madison County, which has defended itself by trying to blame the overtime violations on the judges.

Plaintiffs' claims for overtime pay under the FLSA depend on the relationship between hours worked and compensation. As explained below, the division of authority between the judges (over working hours) and

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the County Council (over compensation) does not allow the County Council to avoid its responsibilities as an employer of these plaintiffs. The County Council had ample authority and opportunity to be able to prevent the overtime violations. Madison County is liable as an employer for those violations even though the judges might also have been able to prevent the violations.

Plaintiffs are entitled to overtime wages from the County Council, but they are not entitled to relief under the FLSA for so-called "gap time," hours they worked in excess of 35 schedule hours a week but below the 40 hour overtime threshold of the FLSA. Plaintiffs also are not entitled to relief under the Indiana Wage Claim Statute, Ind.Code § 22-2-5-1. They are all salaried employees who are entitled to overtime under the FLSA and are therefore excluded from the statute by Ind.Code § 22-2-5-1.1.

Findings of Fact1

Plaintiffs Helen Braddock, Karen J. McCord, and Mary M. Martin are all court reporters who work with judges of the Unified Courts of Madison County, Indiana. Plaintiff Helen Jean Braddock has worked as a court reporter for Superior Court 1 since 1981. Plaintiff Karen J. McCord has worked as a court reporter in Superior Court Division 1 since June 1987. From February 1983 until June 1987, McCord worked in the Court Administrator's office. Plaintiff Mary M. Martin has worked as a court reporter for County Court 2 since January 1, 1981. The three court reporters' duties include running audio recording equipment in court, keeping written records of court proceedings, filing and docketing papers filed in cases before the respective courts, and performing some secretarial duties for the judges of their respective courts. When the court reporters have also prepared transcripts, they have performed that work on their own time and have been compensated separately for that work.

Plaintiff David M. Surratt worked as a bailiff in Superior Court 1 from December 7, 1986, until March 31, 1996. His duties included organizing and updating files each morning for cases scheduled to be heard, managing the court calendar, preparing periodic reports on the court's business, and shepherding jurors in the court's trials.

Plaintiffs were hired by the judges of their respective courts. Each judge has sole power to fire the employees who work under that judge's supervision. See Ind.Code § 33-5-33.1-8 (superior court may appoint bailiffs, court reporters, and other personnel who "shall perform such duties as are prescribed by the court" and "serve at the pleasure of the court"); Ind.Code § 33-10.5-8-2(b) & -3(b) (judge of county court shall appoint a bailiff and reporter, and county shall pay salary of bailiff and reporter). Each judge has also controlled each plaintiff's working schedule, including whether the plaintiff has been permitted to work more than 35 or more than 40 hours a week.

The judges of the Unified Courts have no direct control over the compensation of the plaintiffs. Instead, all funds used to operate the Unified Courts, including paying compensation to the plaintiffs, are appropriated by the Madison County Council, the fiscal body of Madison County. The County Council determines the number of positions of court reporters and bailiffs in the Unified Courts, and sets the classification for each position and the annual compensation for each position.

The County Council exercises its budgetary power by reviewing budget requests submitted by officials of the Unified Courts. The Council decides on matters as specific as adding a single part-time employee to the courts' staff. For example, the County Council approved a request by Judge Thomas Clem and appropriated funds to hire some part-time employees to help with his court's workload. See Tr. 262-63; 266-67. The County Council has rejected requests by the Unified Courts to increase staffing. For example, in the 1997 budget hearings, the County Council rejected a request for an additional secretarial position for the courts.

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The County Council also decides whether to appropriate money to pay overtime compensation for employees of the governmental entities it funds. For example, the County Council has approved specific requests for appropriations for overtime pay for employees of the Sheriff's Department and the County Highway Department. The County Council rejected in 1997 a request for overtime compensation for employees of the Unified Courts. The County Council has also rejected more specific requests for special appropriations for overtime for court employees. The County Council has never approved payment of overtime compensation for court staff.

At all relevant times, plaintiffs Braddock, McCord, Martin, and Surratt were paid a total yearly compensation based upon a 35-hour week for 52 weeks per year. That compensation for each plaintiff's specific position was determined by the County Council in its annual budgeting process.

Paychecks for plaintiffs and other court staff are issued and signed by the Auditor of Madison County. The Auditor may not issue a warrant (equivalent to a check) without identifying the specific appropriation item against which it is drawn, and it is a crime for the Auditor knowingly to permit an item of appropriation to be overdrawn. Ind.Code § 36-2-9-13.

The Madison County government has adopted a general personnel system and policies that apply to employees of county agencies and offices such as the County Auditor or the County Highway Department. The judges of the Unified Courts have insisted that the employees who work directly with them (including plaintiffs) are not subject to those more general personnel policies. The judges have essentially "borrowed" some of the more general county personnel policies, however, by adopting or at least following general county personnel policies on matters such as holiday and vacation schedules, sick leave, and the like, for the plaintiffs and other employees who work most closely with the judges.

During the relevant time periods here, the standard work week for employees of county agencies in Madison County has been 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., five days a week, with one hour off for lunch. Before 1997, Madison County treated that schedule as a 35-hour week, but in 1997 the County began treating the schedule as a 40-hour week for certain record-keeping purposes by counting lunch hours as part of the work week. The Unified Courts made the same change. See Pl. Exs. 17 & 18. The change in record-keeping did not affect actual working hours of employees.

At all relevant times, all four plaintiffs understood that they were required to work 35 hours a week to earn the annual compensation appropriated for their respective positions by the Madison County Council. Their understandings were based on statements by the judges they have worked with directly and by the court administrator, on the...

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20 practice notes
  • Runnels v. Newell, No. 1374, Sept. Term, 2006.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 28 Marzo 2008
    ...the relevant aspects of employment need not be exclusive. See Elliott Travel & Tours, 942 F.2d at 966; Braddock v. Madison County, 34 F.Supp.2d 1098, 1107 The County and appellants agree that the economic reality test outlined in Braddock v. Madison County, supra, is the appropriate one......
  • Newell v. Runnels, No. 48, September Term, 2008.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 13 Marzo 2009
    ...test has been applied by other courts in circumstances similar to those apparently involved here. See Braddock v. Madison County, 34 F.Supp.2d 1098, 1107 (S.D.Ind.1998) (applying four-factor test where court employees whose positions were funded by county government sought overtime pay from......
  • In re Texas Ezpawn Fair Labor Standards Act Lit., 1:07-cv-00553-AWA
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • 18 Junio 2008
    ...884 F.Supp. 283 (N.D.Ill.1995); Dingwall v. Friedman Fisher Assocs., P.C., 3 F.Supp.2d 215 (N.D.N.Y. 1998); Braddock v. Madison County, 34 F.Supp.2d 1098, 1105 (S.D.Ind.1998); Rainey v. Am. Forest and Paper Ass'n, Inc., 26 F.Supp.2d 82 (D.D.C.1998); Cowan v. Treetop Enters., 163 F.Supp.2d 9......
  • Va. Villareal v. El Chile Inc., No. 07 C 1656.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • 9 Marzo 2011
    ...a sufficient factor, in and of itself, to place an employment relationship beyond the scope of the FLSA.”); Braddock v. Madison County, 34 F.Supp.2d 1098, 1107 (S.D.Ind.1998) (stating that “[t]he defendant's control over the relevant aspects of employment need not be exclusive”). 11. For pu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • Runnels v. Newell, No. 1374, Sept. Term, 2006.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 28 Marzo 2008
    ...the relevant aspects of employment need not be exclusive. See Elliott Travel & Tours, 942 F.2d at 966; Braddock v. Madison County, 34 F.Supp.2d 1098, 1107 The County and appellants agree that the economic reality test outlined in Braddock v. Madison County, supra, is the appropriate one......
  • Newell v. Runnels, No. 48, September Term, 2008.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 13 Marzo 2009
    ...test has been applied by other courts in circumstances similar to those apparently involved here. See Braddock v. Madison County, 34 F.Supp.2d 1098, 1107 (S.D.Ind.1998) (applying four-factor test where court employees whose positions were funded by county government sought overtime pay from......
  • In re Texas Ezpawn Fair Labor Standards Act Lit., 1:07-cv-00553-AWA
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • 18 Junio 2008
    ...884 F.Supp. 283 (N.D.Ill.1995); Dingwall v. Friedman Fisher Assocs., P.C., 3 F.Supp.2d 215 (N.D.N.Y. 1998); Braddock v. Madison County, 34 F.Supp.2d 1098, 1105 (S.D.Ind.1998); Rainey v. Am. Forest and Paper Ass'n, Inc., 26 F.Supp.2d 82 (D.D.C.1998); Cowan v. Treetop Enters., 163 F.Supp.2d 9......
  • Va. Villareal v. El Chile Inc., No. 07 C 1656.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • 9 Marzo 2011
    ...a sufficient factor, in and of itself, to place an employment relationship beyond the scope of the FLSA.”); Braddock v. Madison County, 34 F.Supp.2d 1098, 1107 (S.D.Ind.1998) (stating that “[t]he defendant's control over the relevant aspects of employment need not be exclusive”). 11. For pu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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