Rodriguez v. Township of Holiday Lakes, Civ. A. No. G-94-125.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
Writing for the CourtKENT
Citation866 F. Supp. 1012
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. G-94-125.
Decision Date27 October 1994
PartiesEdgar RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff, v. TOWNSHIP OF HOLIDAY LAKES, et al., Defendants.

866 F. Supp. 1012

Edgar RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF HOLIDAY LAKES, et al., Defendants.

Civ. A. No. G-94-125.

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division.

October 27, 1994.


866 F. Supp. 1013
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
866 F. Supp. 1014
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
866 F. Supp. 1015
Eileen C. Depew, Houston, TX, for plaintiff

Barry Abrams, Abrams Scott & Bickley, Houston, TX, for defendants.

ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

KENT, District Judge.

This is an employment-termination case in which Plaintiff Edgar Rodriguez ("Rodriguez") claims that the Township of Holiday Lakes ("Holiday Lakes") has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., by refusing to pay him minimum wage or overtime compensation in his capacities as a patrol officer and Police Chief. Before the Court now is the Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the FLSA claim. For reasons described below, Defendants' Motion is DENIED in part and GRANTED in part.

1. Background and Procedural History

Holiday Lakes is a Type B1 general-law Texas municipality with approximately 1,030 residents. It operates as a political subdivision of the State of Texas and is governed by a five-member City Council as well as a Mayor. Defendant Schroeder is the mayor of Holiday Lakes; Defendant Douglas is a City Council member. The township created a Police Department in September, 1991. Under the Holiday Lakes' Town Charter of September 17, 1991, both the Chief of Police and all police officers are dischargeable by an affirmative vote of a majority of the City Council with or without cause. (See Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Instrument # 22, Exhibit A). In addition, the Town Charter also specifically states that "nothing in this ordinance ... shall be construed to give the chief of police sic or any police officer a property interest in and to their job, nor to create an expectation of future or continued employment by the Town." (See id.).

Plaintiff Rodriguez served as a patrol officer for the Holiday Lakes Police Department between November 19, 1991 and September 19, 1993. He was classified during that time as a "non-paid, full-time" employee who, like all the township's patrol officers, worked without pay. (See Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Exhibit 1). By all accounts, this arrangement was made to the satisfaction of all parties involved in order that patrol officers could be classified as fulltime police officers and therefore made eligible for employment as road-construction flagmen in neighboring Harris County. Beginning in July, 1993, however, Holiday Lakes began to pay its police officers the nominal sum of $5.00 per month when Harris County required that flagmen be paid, full-time police officers.2

On September 20, 1993, the City Council voted by a margin of 3-2 to hire the Plaintiff as the town's Chief of Police at the rate of

866 F. Supp. 1016
$400.00 per month for a minimum work-week of twenty hours. The minutes of the town meeting explicitly state that Plaintiff's hiring was for a probationary period of ninety days, pending Plaintiff's application for a Texas Intermediate Peace Officer's license. On November 1, 1992, prior to the end of the ninety-day probationary period, the City Council voted unanimously to terminate Rodriguez's employment as Police Chief for "want of confidence."

On January 18, 1994, Rodriguez filed suit against the Defendants in Brazoria County State District Court, claiming a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause, FLSA, and a variety of state-law claims. Defendants removed the action to this Court. On April 13, 1994, Schroeder and Douglas moved for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims. Conceding in his summary judgment response that he lacked evidence to pursue any of his claims against Mayor Schroeder, Plaintiff then moved to dismiss those claims voluntarily.

On May 31, 1994, this Court entered a preliminary Order on the parties' motions, ruling that (1) Plaintiff's Motion to Remand was temporarily denied, pending the Court's disposition of his federal claims; (2) all of Plaintiff's claims against Mayor Schroeder were dismissed with prejudice under Fed. R.Civ.P. 41; (3) Plaintiff's FLSA claims against Councilman Douglas were dismissed with prejudice under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41; and (4) Douglas' Motion for Summary Judgment was temporarily denied, pending the Court's disposition of Plaintiff's federal claims. In its May 31, 1994 Order, the Court invited Plaintiff to dismiss his Fourteenth Amendment claim, and the Plaintiff later agreed. Consequently, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's federal Constitutional claims, remanded his state-law termination claims to the Brazoria County state court, and retained jurisdiction solely over Plaintiff's FLSA claims. Thus, the only issue currently before the Court is Rodriguez's claim that Holiday Lakes violated provisions of the FLSA.

2. Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate if no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. A fact is material if its resolution in favor of one party might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists if there is a genuine issue for trial that must be decided by the trier of fact. In other words, summary judgment should not be granted if the evidence indicates that a reasonable fact-finder could find in favor of the nonmoving party. Id. See also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).

In ruling on a Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court must accept the evidence of the nonmoving party and draw all justifiable inferences in his favor. Credibility determinations, weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of reasonable inferences are left to the trier of fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, supra, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. at 2513.

Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), the moving party bears the initial burden of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the record which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once this burden is met, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to establish the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Matsushita, supra, 475 U.S. at 585-87, 106 S.Ct. at 1355-56; Leonard v. Dixie Well Serv. & Supply, Inc., 828 F.2d 291, 294 (5th Cir. 1987).

Where the moving party has met its Rule 56(c) burden, the nonmovant "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.... The nonmoving party must come forward with `specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.' Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Matsushita, supra, 475 U.S. at 586-87,

866 F. Supp. 1017
106 S.Ct. at 1355-56 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)) (emphasis in original)

3. Analysis

1. Rodriguez's Volunteer Status

The Court is faced in this case with the difficult question of whether Rodriguez's affiliation with the Holiday Lakes Police Department brings him within the provisions of the FLSA. The precise nature of the case appears to be one of first impression, for neither party has directed the Court's attention to any guiding authority, and the Court has found no controlling case law directly addressing the facts presently before it. The Court begins, therefore, by considering the general purpose and construction of the Act itself.

The FLSA was passed by Congress in 1938 in an attempt to eliminate low wages and long hours and to correct conditions that were detrimental to the health and well-being of workers. See Rutherford Food Corp. v. McComb, 331 U.S. 722, 727, 67 S.Ct. 1473, 1475, 91 L.Ed. 1772 (1947). The purpose of the Act is thus remedial, and courts have long held that in light of its humanitarian intent, the Act's coverage should be construed liberally. See, e.g., McComb v. Farmers Reservoir & Irr. Co., 167 F.2d 911 (10th Cir.1948), aff'd., 337 U.S. 755, 69 S.Ct. 1274, 93 L.Ed. 1672 (1949); Brennan v. Plaza Shoe Store, Inc., 522 F.2d 843 (8th Cir.1975) (stating that the Act should be construed to encompass the outer reaches of Congressional intent). In particular, the Supreme Court has directed courts considering FLSA claims to define "employer" and "employee" under the Act expansively and to construe exemptions from the FLSA's coverage narrowly and in favor of employees. Tony & Susan Alamo Foundation v. Secretary of Labor, 471 U.S. 290, 295-96, 105 S.Ct. 1953, 1958-59, 85 L.Ed.2d 278 (1985); Goldberg v. Whitaker House Cooperative, Inc., 366 U.S. 28, 32, 81 S.Ct. 933, 936, 6 L.Ed.2d 100 (1961). That Court has clearly stressed that "to extend an exemption to other than those plainly and unmistakably within its terms and spirit is to abuse the interpretative process and to frustrate the announced will of the people." Arnold v. Ben Kanowsky, Inc., 361 U.S. 388, 392, 80 S.Ct. 453, 456, 4 L.Ed.2d 393 (1960).

One of the exemptions to the FLSA's mandate for minimum wages was added in 19853 to exclude volunteers who perform services for states, political subdivisions like municipalities, or interstate agencies. 29 U.S.C. § 203(e)(4)(A) provides:

The term "employee" does not include any individual who volunteers to perform services for a public agency which is a State, a political subdivision of a State, or an interstate governmental agency, if —
(i) the individual receives no compensation or is paid expenses, reasonable benefits, or a nominal fee to perform the services for which the individual volunteered; and
(ii) such services are not
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18 practice notes
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    ...88 L.Ed.2d 255 (1985); Henderson v. Inter-Chem Coal Co., Inc., 41 F.3d 567, 571 (10th Cir.1994); Rodriguez v. Township of Holiday Lakes, 866 F.Supp. 1012, 1017-18 In a series of what are often noted to be circular and less-than-helpful definitions, the FLSA defines an "employer" as "any per......
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    ...hours and to correct conditions that were detrimental to the health and well-being of workers." Rodriguez v. Township of Holiday Lakes, 866 F.Supp. 1012, 1017 (S.D.Tex.1994); see Rutherford Food Corp. v. McComb, 331 U.S. 722, 727, 67 S.Ct. 1473, 91 L.Ed. 1772 (1947); Cash v. Conn Appliances......
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    ...Helicopter Servs., Inc., 8 F.3d 1018, 1024 (5th Cir.1993) (citing 29 U.S.C. § 202); see also Rodriguez v. Township of Holiday Lakes, 866 F.Supp. 1012, 1017 (S.D.Tex.1994) (citing Rutherford Food Corp. v. McComb, 331 U.S. 722, 727, 67 S.Ct. 1473, 91 L.Ed. 1772 (1947)). The Act created minimu......
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18 cases
  • Hesseltine v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., No. Civ.A. 1:03-CV-865.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • August 23, 2005
    ...hours and to correct conditions that were detrimental to the health and well-being of workers." Rodriguez v. Township of Holiday Lakes, 866 F.Supp. 1012, 1017 (S.D.Tex.1994); see Rutherford Food Corp. v. McComb, 331 U.S. 722, 727, 67 S.Ct. 1473, 91 L.Ed. 1772 (1947); Cash v. Conn Appliances......
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    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
    • May 29, 2007
    ...Helicopter Servs., Inc., 8 F.3d 1018, 1024 (5th Cir.1993) (citing 29 U.S.C. § 202); see also Rodriguez v. Township of Holiday Lakes, 866 F.Supp. 1012, 1017 (S.D.Tex.1994) (citing Rutherford Food Corp. v. McComb, 331 U.S. 722, 727, 67 S.Ct. 1473, 91 L.Ed. 1772 (1947)). The Act created minimu......
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    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • November 17, 1998
    ...88 L.Ed.2d 255 (1985); Henderson v. Inter-Chem Coal Co., Inc., 41 F.3d 567, 571 (10th Cir.1994); Rodriguez v. Township of Holiday Lakes, 866 F.Supp. 1012, 1017-18 In a series of what are often noted to be circular and less-than-helpful definitions, the FLSA defines an "employer" as "any per......
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