Regan v. City of Charleston, C.A. No.: 2:13–cv–3046–PMD

Citation142 F.Supp.3d 442
Decision Date03 November 2015
Docket NumberC.A. No.: 2:13–cv–3046–PMD
CourtU.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
Parties James Regan, Jesse Faircloth, Michael Pack, Thomas Haffey, Jacob Stafford, and Kyle Watkins, Each on Behalf of Himself and All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs, v. City of Charleston, South Carolina, Defendant.

142 F.Supp.3d 442

James Regan, Jesse Faircloth, Michael Pack, Thomas Haffey, Jacob Stafford, and Kyle Watkins, Each on Behalf of Himself and All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs,
City of Charleston, South Carolina, Defendant.

C.A. No.: 2:13–cv–3046–PMD

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division.

Signed November 3, 2015

142 F.Supp.3d 444

Ben Leclercq, Leclercq Law Firm, Mt. Pleasant, SC, Carlos V. Leach, Jeffrey Corbett Moore, Morgan and Morgan, Orlando, FL, for Plaintiffs.

Caroline Wrenn Cleveland, Caroline Wrenn Cleveland Law Office, Charleston, SC, for Defendant.

142 F.Supp.3d 445


PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY, United States District Judge

This matter is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Defendant City of Charleston, South Carolina ("City") (ECF No. 156) and by Plaintiffs (ECF No. 158). For the reasons set forth herein, both motions are granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiffs James Regan, Jesse Faircloth, Michael Pack, Thomas Haffey, Jacob Stafford, and Kyle Watkins ("Plaintiffs"), current or former employees of the City's Fire Department ("Department"), commenced this action on November 7, 2013, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, seeking unpaid overtime compensation pursuant to the collective action provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). More specifically, the above-named Plaintiffs, as well as those who have subsequently given notice of their consent to join this action, are current or former firefighters1 who were paid by the City pursuant to the fluctuating workweek ("FWW") method.

Plaintiffs' Complaint primarily alleges that the City's pay plan—in particular its incentive-pay ("IP") provision—failed to comply with the statutory and regulatory requirements pertaining to the FWW method. Plaintiffs' Complaint also asserts claims related to the method by which the City previously compensated firefighter recruit trainees. Moreover, Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges that certain named Plaintiffs, as well as others similarly situated, were not properly compensated for training hours that they contend constituted compensable time under the FLSA. Finally, Plaintiffs claim that the City's alleged violations of the FLSA were willful and knowing. Plaintiffs seek an award of unpaid overtime compensation, liquidated damages in an amount equal to the amount of unpaid overtime compensation, attorneys' fees, costs, and interest. In response to these allegations, the City admits that it utilized the FWW method but contends that its pay plan complied with the FLSA and all applicable rules and regulations. Accordingly, the City has denied the asserted claims and any resulting liability.

On February 7, 2014, Plaintiffs moved for conditional certification of a proposed primary class and several subclasses. Following extensive briefing and a status conference, the Court issued an Order granting in part and denying in part Plaintiffs' Motion for Conditional Certification on July 16, 2014. Although the Court declined to conditionally certify Plaintiffs' proposed subclasses, the Court did conditionally certify the following primary class:

All persons employed in a non-exempt capacity by the City of Charleston, South Carolina at any time from November 7, 2010 to the present who served, or trained to serve, as a uniformed suppression member of the City of Charleston Fire Department, and who were paid pursuant to the City's Fluctuating Workweek pay plan.

In conditionally certifying this matter as a collective action, the Court authorized Plaintiffs to provide putative class members with notice of the opportunity to opt-in to this lawsuit. To date, over 200 firefighters have joined this action.

On February 23, 2015, prior to the discovery deadline, the City filed a motion for partial summary judgment on three affirmative defenses. First, the City argued it

142 F.Supp.3d 446

was entitled to the complete, "good-faith reliance" defense available under 29 U.S.C. § 259(a). Second, the City contended that the applicable limitations period is two years. Finally, it asked the Court to rule that Plaintiffs could not recover liquidated damages on any claims they might prove. After briefing, the Court denied that motion in an order dated September 14, 2015 ("Prior Order"). In particular, the Court concluded that the City had not established it was entitled to summary judgment on the § 259 defense. As for the limitations period and liquidated damages, the Court found the City's motion premature.

While the City's motion for partial summary judgment was pending, the parties filed the two instant motions on July 2, 2015. In their motion, Plaintiffs ask this Court to hold that five types of acts and omissions by the City violated the FLSA's overtime pay requirements. The City, in its motion, asks this Court to reach the opposite conclusion—that none of its pay practices in question violated the FLSA. Alternatively, the City reasserts its prior request for an order restricting the limitations period to two years and denying Plaintiffs liquidated damages.

Plaintiffs and the City filed Responses in Opposition to each other's motions on July 20, 2015. The City filed a Reply in support of its motion on July 30, and Plaintiffs filed a reply in support of their motion on August 5. Accordingly, both motions are now ripe for consideration.


To grant a motion for summary judgment, a court must find that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The judge is not to weigh the evidence but rather must determine if there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). All evidence should be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Perini Corp. v. Perini Constr., Inc., 915 F.2d 121, 124 (4th Cir.1990). "[I]t is ultimately the nonmovant's burden to persuade [the court] that there is indeed a dispute of material fact. It must provide more than a scintilla of evidence—and not merely conclusory allegations or speculation—upon which a jury could properly find in its favor." CoreTel Va., LLC v. Verizon Va., LLC, 752 F.3d 364, 370 (4th Cir.2014) (citations omitted). "[W]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, disposition by summary judgment is appropriate." Teamsters Joint Council No. 83 v. Centra, Inc., 947 F.2d 115, 119 (4th Cir.1991). Summary judgment is not "a disfavored procedural shortcut," but an important mechanism for weeding out "claims and defenses [that] have no factual basis." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).


The Court will address the parties' arguments seriatim ; however, before doing so, both a thorough explanation of the FWW method and a more detailed examination of the City's pay plan are required.

I. The FLSA and the FWW Method


The FLSA "is a remedial statute designed to ‘eliminate ... substandard labor conditions' in the United States." Gaxiola v. Williams Seafood of Arapahoe, Inc., 776 F.Supp.2d 117, 124 (E.D.N.C.2011) (quoting Powell v. U.S. Cartridge Co., 339 U.S. 497, 510, 70 S.Ct. 755, 94 L.Ed. 1017 (1950) ). "The FLSA is best understood as the ‘minimum wage/maximum hour law.’ " Trejo v. Ryman Hosp. Props., Inc., 795 F.3d 442, 446 (4th Cir.2015) (quoting

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Mon ahan v. Cty. of Chesterfield, 95 F.3d 1263, 1266 (4th Cir.1996) ). "In enacting the FLSA, Congress intended ‘to protect all covered workers from substandard wages and oppressive working hours.’ " Id. (quoting Barrentine v. Ark.–Best Freight Sys., Inc. , 450 U.S. 728, 739, 101 S.Ct. 1437, 67 L.Ed.2d 641 (1981) ). Consequently, the FLSA's substantive sections " ‘narrowly focus[ ] on minimum wage rates and maximum working hours,’ " id. (quoting Monahan , 95 F.3d at 1267 ), requiring the payment of a minimum wage and providing specific limits on the maximum hours an employee may work without receiving the requisite overtime compensation, see id. (citing 29 U.S.C. §§ 206(a), 207(a) ). Following the Supreme Court's decision in Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority , 469 U.S. 528, 105 S.Ct. 1005, 83 L.Ed.2d 1016 (1985), these requirements also apply to state governments and their municipal subdivisions. See West v. Anne Arundel Cty. , 137 F.3d 752, 760 (4th Cir.1998) (citing Garcia , 469 U.S. 528, 105 S.Ct. 1005, 83 L.Ed.2d 1016 ); Monahan , 95 F.3d at 1267 (same).

The FLSA "generally requires employers to compensate employees at the overtime rate for all work performed over 40 hours per week." Roy v. Cty. of Lexington, 141 F.3d 533, 538 (4th Cir.1998) ; see also Flood v. New Hanover Cty., 125 F.3d 249, 251 (4th...

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