Moreau v. Klevenhagen

PETITIONER: Lynwood Moreau
RESPONDENT: Johnny Klevenhagen, Sheriff of Harris County, Texas
LOCATION: Harris County Sheriff’s Department

DOCKET NO.: 92-1
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 508 US 22 (1993)
ARGUED: Mar 01, 1993
DECIDED: May 03, 1993
GRANTED: Oct 05, 1992

ADVOCATES:
Harold M. Streicher - on behalf of the Respondents
Michael T. Leibig - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) allows public employers to give employees compensatory time off instead of overtime pay in some situations. The employees of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department had a union representative who dealt with workers' compensation and filing grievances, but Texas law prohibited collective bargaining agreements. Each employee had an individual employment agreement with the Sheriff’s Department. These agreements provided that employees would receive 1 ½ hours of compensatory time for each hour of overtime work.

Lynwood Moreau, president of the union, sued the Sheriff’s Department for giving compensatory time instead of overtime pay. He argued that where there is a designated union representative, the FLSA requires a collective bargaining agreement to authorize this kind of compensation. The Sheriff’s Department argued that, because Texas prohibited collective bargaining agreements, there was no properly designated union representative, and the individual employment agreements were effective. The district court ruled in favor of the Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed.

Question

Can the Sheriff’s department take advantage of the compensatory time exception from the FLSA absent a collective bargaining agreement in a state that prohibits collective bargaining agreements, but employees have a union representative for other purposes?

Media for Moreau v. Klevenhagen

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 01, 1993 in Moreau v. Klevenhagen

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in No. 92-1, Lynwood Moreau v. Johnny Klevenhagen.

Mr. Leibig.

Michael T. Leibig:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The concern before the Court today involves the precise rules under which a state or local employer may reach agreements to substitute time off for cash overtime with their employees.

It involves the interpretation of section 207(o) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and regulations issued under that section.

It is important that, under the usual rules, to realize that the Fair Labor Standards Act makes non-cash payment for overtime work illegal completely.

It always has, and there is a reason for this.

In 1937 when President Roosevelt first sent a message to Congress about the Fair Labor Standards Act he emphasized that one of the main purposes was to protect the unorganized and to establish an hours of work rule.

It might seem that the comp time rule, or the cash overtime rule, isn't directly related to the overtime rules, but it is.

The reason cash overtime is required is because other schemes that were in existence widely in the United States before 1937, for instance paying for overtime in script or paying for overtime in time off or comp time are easily manipulated to avoid the 40-hour-a-week work rule.

And that's the reason that the Fair Labor Standards Act itself, prior to the 1985 amendments which adjusted the act to the public sector, always outlawed compensatory time as a means of paying for overtime work.

In the 1985 amendments, after this Court's decision in Garcia, Congress responded a request from state and local governments to lighten the burdens that the Fair Labor Standards Act without a special statute would place on state and local government, and made a number of changes in the acts in specific response to pleas by state and local governments and their employees that special adjustments be made to recognize the special status of the states.

The states were effective in those pleas, and section 2 of the 1985 amendments allowed the use of comp time and also changed the rules with regard to volunteers and a number of other rules with regard to joint employment.

Part of the amendments, section 6, expressly directed the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations interpreting and implementing the 1985 amendments.

It is our argument that section 207(o) that deals with compensatory time and the conditions under which a public employer may use compensatory time that is not otherwise available, and are laid out in 207(o)(2)(A), require an agreement.

And the issue that the Court needs to address today are the precise conditions under which an agreement needs to be reached.

There are a couple--

Antonin Scalia:

Speaking of the Secretary of Labor, Mr. Leibig, why isn't he here?

Do we know that or do you know that?

Michael T. Leibig:

--Why isn't the Secretary of Labor?

Antonin Scalia:

Yes.

I mean, why hasn't the Government expressed any view in this case?

Michael T. Leibig:

Your Honor, I'm not sure completely.

I'm not... I wouldn't be surprised if it had something to do with the fact that the briefs in this case were due almost immediately after the election in which the administration changed.

Antonin Scalia:

I see.

Michael T. Leibig:

And I think that relates directly to one of the arguments I want to make which has to do with why regulations, when there's a statute... the way the Fair Labor Standards Act works generally is that it's an administrative act which is very dependent on the regulations not only for the use of comp time but across the board.

And one of the flexibilities in the act, the portions of the act that are in regulations are in the Executive Branch, given to the Executive Branch by Congress, I think, partly specifically because of the increased flexibility that that allows over if they were in the statute themselves.

And I think the increased flexibility has been demonstrated particularly under the 1985 amendments.

Not only did Congress make new amendments, but since then on issues in which the states have been particularly concerned they have gone to the Department of Labor and got adjustments to the regulations.

In the Abshire case, which is a Ninth Circuit case dealing with who is exempt and who is not, that case was appealed to the Court and the Court denied cert. But at the same time state and local governments went to the Department of Labor and the Department of Labor changed the rules with regard to exemption specifically to recognize the special needs of state and local government.