Carlson v. City of Minneapolis, MN

Decision Date08 February 1991
Docket NumberNo. 89-5412MN,89-5412MN
Citation925 F.2d 264
Parties30 Wage & Hour Cas. (BN 249, 118 Lab.Cas. P 35,446 Virgil CARLSON, Frank Kurth, Harold Hagen, Walter Shermer, Gary Piekarczyk, Appellees, v. CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

Jerome R. Jallo, Minneapolis, Minn., for appellant.

Thomas A. Woodley, Washington, D.C., for appellees.

Before JOHN R. GIBSON and FAGG, Circuit Judges, and BRIGHT, Senior Circuit Judge.

PER CURIAM.

Five investigators for the Minneapolis Fire Department's arson squad brought a declaratory judgment action against the City of Minneapolis, Minnesota (the city), seeking back pay for unpaid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. Secs. 201-219 (1988). The five investigators claimed they engage in law enforcement activities rather than fire protection activities within the meaning of 29 U.S.C. Sec. 207(k). The city appeals the district court's order denying its motion for summary judgment and granting summary judgment in favor of the investigators.

This case arose because the city classifies the investigators as employees engaged in fire protection activities, making them eligible for overtime pay only for hours worked in excess of fifty-three during a seven-day work period (workweek). See 29 U.S.C. Sec. 207(k); 29 C.F.R. Secs. 553.210(a), .230(a), .230(c) (1990). The investigators, however, claim they engage in law enforcement activities--not fire protection activities--entitling them to overtime compensation after forty-three hours of work per workweek. See 29 U.S.C. Sec. 207(k); 29 C.F.R. Secs. 553.211(a), .230(b)-(c). The district court rejected the city's classification and awarded overtime compensation to the investigators based on the court's view that the investigators engage in law enforcement activities. We affirm the district court's rejection of the fire protection activities classification used by the city, and its acceptance of the law enforcement activities classification.

The FLSA requires employers to pay overtime compensation to employees who work more than forty hours per workweek. 29 U.S.C. Sec. 207(a). Section 207(k), however, excepts public employees engaged in fire protection or law enforcement activities from the forty-hour standard. We must decide whether the city properly classified the investigators as employees engaged in fire protection activities, or whether, as the investigators contend and the district court held, they are engaged in law enforcement activities.

The rules we apply are well established. The city carries the burden of proving the investigators engage in fire protection activities. Hearnsberger v. Gillespie, 435 F.2d 926, 929 (8th Cir.1970) (citing Idaho Sheet Metal Works v. Wirtz, 383 U.S. 190, 208-09, 86 S.Ct. 737, 748-49, 15 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966)). We must narrowly construe this classification against the city. Id.; see also Mitchell v. Kentucky Fin. Co., 359 U.S. 290, 295-96, 79 S.Ct. 756, 759-60, 3 L.Ed.2d 815 (1959); Donovan v. Williams Chem. Co., 682 F.2d 185, 191 (8th Cir.1982). Whether the city has correctly classified the investigators depends on the character of the investigators' responsibilities and tasks, not on their job title or place of work. Overstreet v. North Shore Corp., 318 U.S. 125, 132, 63 S.Ct. 494, 498, 87 L.Ed. 656 (1943); Hearnsberger, 435 F.2d at 929; Walling v. W.D. Haden Co., 153 F.2d 196, 199 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 328 U.S. 866, 66 S.Ct. 1373, 90 L.Ed. 1636 (1946); Reeves v. I.T. & T. Corp., 357 F.Supp. 295, 302 (W.D.La.1973), aff'd, 616 F.2d 1342, 1351 (5th Cir.1980), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1077, 101 S.Ct. 857, 66 L.Ed.2d 800 (1981). In sum, the city must show the investigators plainly and unmistakably come within the terms and spirit of the fire protection activities exception. See Donovan, 682 F.2d at 191; Hearnsberger, 435 F.2d at 929.

Applying these principles to the undisputed facts in the record, we agree with the district court that the investigators do not engage in fire protection activities. Although the investigators work for the Minneapolis Fire Department, are assigned to fire stations, respond to fire calls, and spend time at fire scenes, they do not "perform[ ] activities [that] are required for, and [are] directly concerned with, the prevention, control or extinguishment of fires...." 29 C.F.R. Sec. 553.210(a)(4). The investigators investigate arson: they look for signs of arson at fires, follow up leads, compile evidence, and assist in the arrest and prosecution of suspected arsonists.

The investigators neither extinguish nor control fires, and we find unconvincing the city's argument that the investigators prevent fires by "remov[ing] arsonists from society and deter[ring] others from intentionally setting fires." The investigators do not anticipate, counter, or stop fires from happening; rather, their work begins after fires occur when they search for incendiary origins and, if required, identify perpetrators for prosecution. Thus, we do not believe the investigators engage in fire protection activities. 1 The district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the investigators in their claim that they engage in law enforcement activities.

In calculating the investigators' overtime compensation, the district court properly applied the law enforcement activities exception asserted by the investigators. The controversy before the district court was simply whether the arson squad was engaged in law enforcement or fire protection activities, and this was the issue presented to this court by the parties. We recognize that in the pleadings before...

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6 cases
  • Lockwood v. Prince George's County, Md., CIV. A. AW 98-1385.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • 29 Julio 1999
    ...at the "character of the investigators' responsibilities and tasks, not [at] their job title or place of work." Carlson v. City of Minneapolis, 925 F.2d 264, 265 (8th Cir.1991). Both parties agree that until June, 1997, Plaintiffs were subject to the law enforcement exemption until June of ......
  • Martin v. ConAgra, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Iowa
    • 21 Enero 1992
    ...Donovan v. Williams Chemical Co., Inc., 682 F.2d 185, 191 (8th Cir.1982) (citations omitted); cf. Carlson v. City of Minneapolis, 925 F.2d 264, 265 (8th Cir.1991) (for purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act, City had burden of showing that employees plainly and unmistakenly came within th......
  • Justice v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville, Davidson County, Tenn.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit
    • 24 Septiembre 1993
    ...the employer carries the burden of proving that the Plaintiffs are employees in fire protection activities, see Carlson v. City of Minneapolis, 925 F.2d 264, 265 (8th Cir.1991), and the court must construe this classification strictly against the employer. See id.; Idaho Sheet Metal Works, ......
  • Ball v. District of Columbia, Civ. A. No. 91-1633.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • 22 Mayo 1992
    ...in training as dispatchers still qualify under 207(k) exemption as performing fire protection services); Carlson v. City of Minneapolis, 925 F.2d 264 (8th Cir.1991) (fire investigators for arson squad do fall within the 207(k) exemption, but qualify as law enforcement personnel rather than ......
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