Each New Paycheck Starts New Statute Of Limitations Under FLSA

Officers of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department sued the District under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), alleging that the District had failed to calculate their overtime based on enhanced pay owed to detective sergeants under the District of Columbia Code. The procedurally complicated case started with a grievance filed by three officers, who alleged that they had fulfilled the duties of detective sergeant but had not received the additional $595 per year stipend called for by the Code.

In a December 29, 2003 letter, the Chief of Police denied the grievance, stating that the Department had not utilized the position of detective sergeant for more than two decades. An arbitrator later upheld the grievance, and awarded the officers the requested pay. The District’s Public Employee Relations Board denied the District’s challenge to the Arbitrator’s decision.

Following the PERB’s ruling, the District took steps to compensate retroactively those officers who had served as detective sergeants. In 2007, it amended the personnel forms of the officers to show that they had served and continued to serve as detective sergeants, and it gave them lump sum payments of $595 per year for every year they were assigned to the position. The District did not, however, recalculate the officers’ overtime based on the $595 stipend.

On November 5, 2007, the officers filed a federal court lawsuit against the District, alleging that the FLSA obligated the District to recalculate their overtime. The District sought to dismiss the lawsuit on statute of limitations grounds, arguing that the FLSA’s usual two-year statute of limitations began running on December 29, 2003, when the Chief denied the grievance, and that the lawsuit was untimely.

The federal District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the District’s argument. Quoting from the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007), the Court noted that “it is well established that the statute of limitations for violations of the overtime provisions of the FLSA runs anew with each paycheck.

“Accordingly, although the officers refer to their ‘each paycheck’ theory as one involving ‘continuing claims,’ that term is something of a misnomer. In fact, the gravamen of this theory is not that there has been one continuing violation of the FLSA, but rather that there have been a series of repeated violations of an identical nature. And because each violation gives rise to a new cause of action, each failure to pay overtime begins a new statute of limitations period as to that particular event.”

Figueroa v. District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Dept., 2011 WL 476624 (D.C. Cir. 2011).