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Juan Espinoza, et al v. County of Fresno

August 2, 2011

JUAN ESPINOZA, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF FRESNO, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION RE: MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Docs. 90, 142)

I. INTRODUCTION.

Plaintiffs proceed with this action against the County of Fresno ("County") pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 207 et seq. (Doc. 27).

On May 1, 2009, the County filed a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 90). Plaintiffs filed opposition on May 20, 2009. (Doc. 100). On June 18, 2009, the court stayed this action pending the Ninth Circuit's decision in Bamonte v. City of Mesa, 598 F.3d 1217 (2010). (Doc. 117). The court lifted the stay on April 8, 2010. (Doc. 123).

Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment on January 3, 2011. (Doc. 142). The County filed opposition on February 22, 2011. (Doc. 144). Plaintiffs filed a reply on March 1, 2011. (Doc. 145).

On May 19, 2011, the parties submitted a joint statement setting forth their respective positions regarding Bamonte's impact on this case. (Doc. 151).

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND.

Plaintiffs are Fresno County Deputy Sheriffs that serve as Patrol Deputies and Courtroom Deputies. In connection with their duty assignments, Patrol Deputies and Courtroom Deputies wear "Class 'B' Uniforms" comprised of a long or short-sleeve shirt, shoulder patches sewn onto the sleeves, rank insignia (if applicable), badge, nameplate, trousers/skirts, belts, and footgear. The County also issues Sheriff's Patrol Deputies and Courtroom Deputies a duty belt to hold various safety gear and equipment. The safety gear and equipment worn on a duty belt include a duty weapon, holster, handcuffs, handcuffs carrier, collapsible baton, baton holder, ammunition, two ammunition magazines, flashlight, radio, radio holder, chemical spray and holder, latex gloves, and glove holder. The County does not compensate deputies for the time it takes them to don and doff their uniforms and safety gear before and after their regularly scheduled shifts.

The County operates a "Take Home Patrol Vehicle Program" ("THPVP"), pursuant to which deputies are allowed to commute to and from their residences to their duty assignments in a patrol vehicle assigned to them. Participation in the THPVP is voluntary. Participants in the THPVP are not compensated for the time spent commuting to and from their duty assignments or for time spent cleaning and maintaining their vehicles outside of on-duty time.

The County requires deputies to qualify their duty weapons on a quarterly basis. The County provides on-duty time to participate in weapons qualification. County policy provides that overtime may be approved for weapons qualification outside of on-duty time, but such overtime is discouraged as on-duty time is provided. Plaintiffs contend they are denied overtime compensation for required off-duty qualification notwithstanding the County's policy.

Courtroom Deputies are entitled to an unpaid meal period. There is no requirement that Courtroom Deputies remain in uniform during their meal break, however, if they remain in uniform, they are required to keep their radios on and may be called upon to perform regular employment duties.

III. LEGAL STANDARD.

Summary judgment/adjudication is appropriate when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The movant "always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Where the movant will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, it must "affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party." Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007). With respect to an issue as to which the non-moving party will have the burden of proof, the movant "can prevail merely by pointing out that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984.

When a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the non-movant cannot defeat the motion by resting upon the allegations or denials of its own pleading, rather the "non-moving party must set forth, by affidavit or as otherwise provided in Rule 56, 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986)). "A non-movant's bald assertions or a mere scintilla of evidence in his favor are both insufficient to withstand summary judgment." FTC v. Stefanchik, 559 F.3d 924, 929 (9th Cir. 2009). "[A] non-movant must show a genuine issue of material fact by presenting affirmative evidence from which a jury could find in his favor." Id. (emphasis in original). "[S]ummary judgment will not lie if [a] dispute about a material fact is 'genuine,' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In determining whether a genuine dispute exists, a district court does not make credibility determinations; rather, the "evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255.

IV. DISCUSSION.

A. Donning and Doffing Claims

The FLSA requires employers to pay employees for all hours worked. E.g., Bamonte v. City of Mesa, 598 F.3d 1217, 1220 (9th Cir. 2010). Early Supreme Court cases interpreting the scope of the FLSA defined the term "work" broadly as "physical or mental exertion (whether burdensome or not) controlled or required by the employer and pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the employer and his business." IBP, Inc. v. Alvarez, 546 U.S. 21, 25 (2005) (quoting Tennessee Coal, Iron & R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321 U.S. 590, 598 (1944)).

In 1945, Congress passed the Portal-to-Portal Act, amending the FLSA in order to provide remedies to employers faced with "wholly unexpected liabilities" arising out of the expansive reach of the FSLA that evolved from the Supreme Court's jurisprudence. IBP, 546 U.S. at 26. Part III of the Portal-to-Portal Act provides in relevant part:

Relief from Certain Future Claims Under the Fair Labor

Standards Act of 1938 . . .

(a) Activities not compensable. Except as provided in subsection (b), no employer shall be subject to any liability or punishment under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended, . . . on account of the failure of such employer to pay an employee minimum wages, or to pay an employee overtime compensation, for or on account of any of the following activities of such employee engaged in on or after the date of the enactment of this Act--

(1) walking, riding, or traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which such ...


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