Christensen v. Harris County Case Brief

Facts of the Case

(The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA),), permits States and their political subdivisions to compensate their employees for overtime work by granting them compensatory time in lieu of cash payment. If the employees do not use their accumulated compensatory time, the employer must pay cash compensation under certain circumstances.)(3)-(4). Fearing the consequences of having to pay for accrued compensatory time, Harris County (Texas) adopted a policy requiring its employees to schedule time off in order to reduce the amount of accrued time. Petitioners, 127 county deputy sheriffs, brought this suit against the sheriff, Tommy B. Thomas, and Harris County, claiming that the FLSA does not permit an employer to compel an employee to use compensatory time in the absence of an agreement permitting the employer to do so. The District Court granted petitioners summary judgment and entered a declaratory judgment that the policy violated the FLSA. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that the FLSA did not speak to the issue and thus did not prohibit the county from implementing its policy. The deputy sheriffs filed a petition for certiorari review.



“No. In an opinion delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court held 6-3 that “[n]othing in the FLSA or its implementing regulations prohibits a public employer from compelling the use of compensatory time.” Justice Thomas wrote for the Court that, “under the FLSA, an employer is free to require an employee to take time off work, and an employer is also free to use the money it would have paid in wages to cash out accrued compensatory time. The compelled use of compensatory time challenged in this case merely involves doing both of these steps at once.””

Case Information

Citation: 529 US 576 (2000)
Argued: Feb 23, 2000
Decided: May 1, 2000
Case Brief: 2000