LCW Defeats Former Police Officer’s Attempt To Revive FLSA Lawsuit

Category: Fire Watch
Date: Dec 9, 2019 02:20 PM

LCW Partner Geoffrey Sheldon, and Associate Attorneys Danny Yoo, and Emanuela Tala helped a city defeat a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lawsuit that a police officer brought.

Before filing this case, the officer had pursued two other FLSA collective action cases.  First, he opted into an FLSA “donning and doffing” collective action on February 13, 2007. The trial court held that the “donning and doffing” of police uniforms was not compensable and dismissed the case. Two months later, the officer pursued a second FLSA case against the city, which the court dismissed on April 6, 2015. The officer appealed the dismissal of both cases. The Ninth Circuit affirmed both dismissals in 2018. The officer filed the present case on June 24, 2019. The officer claimed the Ninth Circuit did not notify him of its decision until early 2019, and therefore he did not know his obligations under the FLSA statute of limitations.

The FLSA statute of limitations is generally two years. For willful FLSA violations, however, the limitations period is three years. Here, the lawsuit alleged that the city “knew or should have known” of the alleged FLSA violations, thus the three-year statute of limitations applied.

The court reasoned that the officer retired in 2008, so he had to file his FLSA claim no later than December 31, 2011. The officer opted into the first case within that period. When the court dismissed the first case, the limitations period had expired. However, the district court tolled the statute for 60 days. The officer then joined the second lawsuit within the 60-day tolling period, but the court dismissed that case on April 6, 2015. The court found that there was no evidence that the officer requested an additional tolling period or that the officer refiled his individual claims at that time. The officer filed the present case over four years later.

The officer offered three alternative theories why the running of the statute of limitations should have been suspended from the time of the dismissal of the second case to the Ninth Circuit’s decision. The court agreed with LCW that there was no basis to stop the running of the statute of limitations.  The court held that the officer’s lawsuit was time-barred, and dismissed with prejudice.

Note:

This case confirms that courts do not generally extend a statute of limitations unless there is a legal or equitable reason to do so.

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