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Boise County v. Yardley

United States District Court, D. Idaho

July 31, 2018

BOISE COUNTY, Plaintiff,
GARY YARDLEY, et al., Defendants.


          B. Lynn Winmill Chief U.S. District Court Judge


         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for a declaratory judgment regarding wages owed to employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). (Dkt. 10.) The Court finds these matters appropriate for decision without oral argument. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds it does not have jurisdiction over the case. Therefore, the Court will deny the motion and dismiss the case.


         Defendants are, or at relevant times were, employees of Boise County's Solid Waste and Noxious Weeds Departments. Pl's Br. at 1-2, Dkt. 11. After receiving an inquiry from an employee, Boise County discovered that during various periods from 2014 through 2016, each named employee in the course of his or her job duties was required to take the Solid Waste Transfer Site's cash box and receipt book home at the end of certain shifts and return the items to work the next day. Compl. ¶ 11, Dkt. 1. An internal audit showed that these employees were not compensated for the time spent traveling from the transfer site to their homes and back, or reimbursed for the corresponding mileage. Id.

         After discovery was undertaken, Boise County conducted a further self-audit to determine the amount of unpaid wages and mileage reimbursement owed to the affected employees. Id. ¶ 12. In addition, Boise County calculated liquidated damages owed consistent with the provisions of 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).[1] Id. ¶ 13. In letters that were each dated February 28, 2018, Boise County notified the affected employees of its process, determinations, and calculations. Id. ¶ 15. The notice asked each employee to review the hours and calculations and advise Boise County of any errors by March 16, 2016.[2] Id.

         On April 4, 2018, Boise County filed a petition for declaratory relief. Compl., Dkt. 1. Boise County filed the present motion for declaratory judgment on June 4, 2018. Mot. Dkt. 10. Boise County asks the Court to declare the proposed payments of unpaid wages and liquidated damages are fair and reasonable settlements pursuant to the requirements of the FLSA. Id. at 1. In support of its request, Boise County filed signed affidavits from each of the affected employees. See Affs, Dkts. 16-21. The individual affidavits each state that the employee has reviewed the settlement calculations, found no errors, and has no objection to Boise County's proposed settlement. Id.


         Subject matter jurisdiction is a “threshold matter, ” which a court must determine before proceeding to the merits (Image Omitted) of the case. Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94 (1998). A court may determine subject matter jurisdiction from the facts alleged in the complaint or, if necessary, from the actual facts in the case. Thornhill Pub. Co. v. General Tel. & Elecs. Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir. 1979) (citations omitted). “If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). It is appropriate for the Court to “raise the question of subject matter jurisdiction, sua sponte, at any time during the pendency of the action.” Snell v. Cleveland, Inc., 316 F.3d 822, 826 (9th Cir. 2002).


         1. FLSA Settlement Routes

         The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) protects workers from imposition of substandard wages and oppressive working hours. Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight System, Inc., 450 U.S. 728, 739 (1981). Among its provisions, the Act addresses overtime pay-generally requiring compensation of at least one and one-half times the regular rate of pay for hours worked by an employee in excess of 40 hours a week. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). If an employer violates the overtime pay requirement, the employer is liable to the affected employee in the amount of the unpaid wages, or unpaid overtime compensation, and an additional equal amount as liquidated damages. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).

         The FLSA provides two distinct routes to address violations of overtime requirements. See Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. U.S., 679 F.2d 1350, 1352-53 (11th Cir. 1982) (“There are only two ways in which back wage claims arising under the FLSA can be settled or compromised by employees.”). The first is an employee-driven process that uses the judicial system. Dent v. Cox Commc'ns Las Vegas, Inc., 502 F.3d 1141, 1144 (9th Cir. 2007). The second is an employer-driven process with oversight provided by the Department of Labor (DOL). Id. Each route is detailed below.

         The employee-driven route, set forth in Section 216(b), gives the employee the ability to initiate a suit against the employer to recover wages and damages. 29 U.S.C § 216(b). Alternatively, under Section 216(c), the DOL Secretary may do so on behalf of the employee. 29 U.S.C § 216(c). In either case, the court must approve any settlement that is reached. Lynn's, 679 F.2d 1350, 1352-53 (11th Cir. 1982); Fenn v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 2012 WL 6680358, at *1 (Dec. 21, 2012). This approach promotes fair ...

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