Prakash v. American University

Decision Date10 February 1984
Docket NumberNo. 82-1788,82-1788
Citation234 U.S. App. D.C. 75,727 F.2d 1174
Parties26 Wage & Hour Cas. (BN 1061, 234 U.S.App.D.C. 75, 100 Lab.Cas. P 34,503, 16 Ed. Law Rep. 392 Anand PRAKASH, Appellant, v. AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, et al.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Civil Action No. 78-02294).

Anand Prakash, pro se.

Hugh B. Gordon, Washington, D.C., with whom Anthony C. Morella and William F. Causey, Washington, D.C., were on brief, for appellees.

Before ROBINSON, Chief Judge, TAMM, Circuit Judge, and GORDON, * Senior District Judge.

Opinion for the Court filed by Chief Judge SPOTTSWOOD W. ROBINSON, III.


This appeal marks the second occasion upon which Anand Prakash has appeared before this court to litigate questions emanating from the termination of his appointment as a professor in the Physics Department of The American University. 1 Still maintaining that the University breached a contract to employ him permanently, Prakash asserts entitlement to minimum and overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act 2 and damages under local law, which allegedly the University has wrongfully withheld from him. 3 The District Court entered a summary judgment dismissing Prakash's action, ruling that he was outside the coverage of the Act, 4 and that no jurisdictional basis for consideration of his nonfederal claims existed. 5 We find that Prakash made out a colorable case of inclusion within the Act, and resultantly that the District Court has pendent jurisdiction to entertain his local-law contentions. Accordingly, we reverse the District Court's judgment and remand for further consideration.


It cannot be said at this point in the litigation that Prakash necessarily lacks the protection of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Section 13(a)(1) of the Act exempts from coverage of the minimum wage and overtime provisions 6 anyone employed in a "bona fide ... professional capacity," as defined in regulations promulgated by the Secretary of Labor. 7 The regulations prescribe five conditions to a finding of employment in that capacity, 8 each of which must be met to establish the exemption. 9 In applying these regulatory standards, the District Court apparently concluded that Prakash, an academic physicist, satisfied the first four conditions, 10 but the court declined to determine whether, in fulfillment of the fifth, Prakash was paid at or above the rate of $170 per week. 11 Instead, the court held the requirement of a threshold weekly wage invalid as "an 'arbitrary and fanciful classification of professional status' " 12 and inconsistent with the "plain meaning" of the Act. 13

We do not agree. Congress expressly authorized the Secretary to "defin[e] and delimit" the term "bona fide ... professional," 14 and, acting pursuant to this delegation, the Secretary conducted hearings in 1940 to assist his response. 15 A minimum-wage requirement in the regulatory definition was applauded by employers participating in the hearings as "a valuable and easily applied index to the 'bona fide' character for which exemption is claimed." 16 Employers felt, and the Secretary agreed, that the salary paid the employee was "the best single test of the employer's good faith in characterizing the employment." 17 We thus conclude that the Secretary, in imposing the minimum-wage condition, "acted within the statutory bounds of his authority, and that his choice among possible alternative standards ... is one which a rational person could have made." 18 Accordingly we hold, in common with many other courts, 19 that this requirement is valid. 20

We must, then, return the case to the District Court for consideration of Prakash's minimum-wage and overtime claims under the provisions of the Act. On remand, the University will have the burden of proving that Prakash was employed in a bona fide professional capacity, and therefore was exempted from the Act's coverage. 21 We caution that this exemption is to be construed narrowly, 22 and that the University must demonstrate that Prakash's employment met each of its five demands; 23 perhaps most importantly, the University must show that Prakash was compensated at the rate of at least $170 per week. The District Court must, of course, make such additional findings as may be necessary for full resolution of Prakash's claims on the record as it exists or as it may be augmented by evidence.


Prakash's common-law bases for relief include breach of contract, interference with contractual relations, conversion, deceit and defamation. He presses these theories of recovery against the University, which is operated in the District of Columbia, and individually against two officers of the University who are domiciliaries of Maryland. Since, from the beginning of the litigation, Prakash has acknowledged a residence in Maryland, 24 diversity of citizenship as a basis for federal jurisdiction has been uncertain. 25 Prakash more fully describes himself, however, as "a citizen of the United States with a temporary residence in the State of Maryland and a permanent domicile in the State of Pennsylvania." 26

Following our earlier remand, Prakash, in support of diversity jurisdiction, submitted numerous documents 27 to the District Court in an effort to establish a Pennsylvania domicile at the time he sued. 28 Without any sort of hearing on the issue, the District Court held that Prakash planned to remain in Maryland indefinitely. 29 The court stated that "[t]he entire scenario of this case is, on its face, inconsistent with an intent to return to Pennsylvania," 30 and that "[a]part from [Prakash's] bald allegations of intent to return to Pennsylvania ... there is no manifest pattern in his movements indicating that he treated Pittsburgh as his home base at the time of suit." 31 The court felt also that Prakash's original litigative objective undercut his assertion of a Pennsylvania domicile. His insistence that the University had dishonored a contract of permanent employment, and his effort to gain reinstatement at the University in a tenured position, were taken as indications that he did not intend to return to Pennsylvania. 32 The court thus concluded, simply on the paper record before it, that Prakash had not made out a Pennsylvania domicile, and therefore could not demonstrate diversity of citizenship. 33

We are unable to sustain the court's ruling on the diversity issue. In the first place, we cannot subscribe to the procedures the court utilized in determining that diversity was lacking. When subject-matter jurisdiction is questioned, the court must, of course, satisfy itself of its authority to hear the case, 34 and in so doing, it may resolve factual disputes. 35 The court has considerable latitude in devising the procedures it will follow to ferret out the facts pertinent to jurisdiction, 36 and normally it may rely upon either written or oral evidence. 37 The court must, however, afford the nonmoving party "an ample opportunity to secure and present evidence relevant to the existence of jurisdiction." 38 That, we believe, was not fully done here.

When diversity of citizenship is the issue, the relevant evidence is that relating to the domiciles of the parties. 39 Domicile is determined by two factors: physical presence in a state, and intent to remain there for an unspecified or indefinite period of time. 40 In many instances, and perhaps in most, a party's intent will appear, at least in part, from facts established by documents. When, however, as here, a party expressly declares his intent, and the opposing written submissions do not demonstrate the falsity of the declaration with reasonable certainty, the issue necessarily becomes one of the declarant's credibility. In that event, the court cannot rest its decision simply on the paper record, but must hold a hearing in order to adequately assess credibility. 41 Only in that way is a sound decision on intent possible. 42

As we mentioned earlier, 43 the District Court did not conduct an evidentiary hearing; instead, it relied solely upon documents submitted by the parties in finding that Prakash lacked the intent essential to domicile in Pennsylvania. The court noted two factors that convinced it that Prakash did not plan to return to Pennsylvania. The first was that Prakash, "a renowned physics professor, [had] moved from one university town to the next and lived in several states." 44 It does not strike us as unusual, however, for a professor, particularly one who is recognized as a scholar, to spend time during the course of his career at academic institutions variously located about the country. The mere fact of the academician's movement from one institution to another thus cannot provide reliable evidence of a determination not to return to a particular place and remain there for an indeterminate period of time. The second factor influencing the District Court was that Prakash in his complaint sought both reinstatement and tenure at American University. 45 Again, Prakash's desire for a tenured position at the University, while warranting consideration in determinations on intent, is hardly potent evidence that he did not mean eventually to return to and remain in Pennsylvania indefinitely. At the very least, each of the two factors relied upon by the court had to be weighed against Prakash's unequivocal declaration of the intent that makes for domicile in Pennsylvania, and with that the issue necessarily became one of Prakash's credibility. An evidentiary hearing, therefore, was necessary to resolve suitably the question of Prakash's intent, and the District Court should not have undertaken to settle that question on the documents alone.

We encounter another problem deserving comment. Even if the District Court had proceeded properly in finding diversity of citizenship wanting, it...

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