Federal Court Grants Summary Judgment to County in Georgia Sheriff Department Employees’ FLSA and Breach of Contract Suit

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, most employees are entitled to a minimum wage, as well as certain overtime pay benefits. An employee who believes that his or her employer has acted wrongfully under the Act should consult an attorney about the possibility of filing an Atlanta wage and hour lawsuit.

In such a suit, the plaintiff has the burden of proof, meaning that he or she must be able to convince the court of his or her entitlement to relief by a preponderance of the evidence.

If he or she is unable to do so, it is likely that the case will be dismissed on summary judgment or at trial.

Facts of the Case

In a recent federal case, the plaintiffs were current and former employees of the defendant county’s sheriff’s department. The plaintiffs numbered more than 500 and included deputies, custodial officers, clerks, and administrative personnel. In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendant had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (and breached certain contracts) with regard to its application of credits for overtime, vacation, holiday pay, and sick leave. More specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendant used a “rollover” provision to wrongfully deprive them of pay for accumulated compensatory time in order to unjustly enrich itself.

The plaintiffs sought $6 million in damages, as well as attorney’s fees and revisions to the defendant’s personnel policy concerning the accrual of certain benefits. In an earlier order, the trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ FLSA claims, leaving only the breach of contract claims. Both the plaintiffs and the defendants sought summary judgment.

The Federal District Court’s Opinion

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, as well as its motion for sanctions. The court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment as well as their motion to certify their lawsuit as a class action. The court began by noting that, although both parties sought summary judgment, these cross-motions had to be considered separately. The filing of cross-motions did not give rise to any presumption as to whether any genuine issues of material fact existed in the case.

The court went on to discuss the elements of a breach of contract claim under Georgia law. According to the court, those elements were breach, resulting damages, and damages to a party who had a right to complain about the breach. The defendant argued that the plaintiffs had failed to produce evidence establishing that a contract existed which prohibited the conduct about which the plaintiffs complained. Acknowledging that an employer’s policies that are in place when an employee is hired can create a contract concerning employee benefits mentioned in the policy, the court found that the plaintiffs had produced evidence of certain written policies but had failed to submit proof concerning the defendant’s alleged unwritten policies.

In reviewing the totality of the evidence submitted by the plaintiffs, the court concluded that there was no genuine issue of material fact concerning the defendant’s alleged breach of its policies as to holiday pay, sick leave, vacation leave, or compensatory damages. Thus, the court opined that the defendant was entitled to summary judgment on the issue of breach of contract.

Consult an Atlanta Wage and Hour Law Attorney

If you believe that your employer has violated state or federal wage and hour laws, you should consult an attorney who is experienced in this area of the law. To schedule a consultation with knowledgeable Atlanta employment lawyer John L. Mays at Parks, Chesin & Walbert, call 404-873-8048 today.

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