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Bailey v. Loudoun County Sheriff's Office

Supreme Court of Virginia

September 12, 2014

BRANDI BAILEY, ET AL.
v.
LOUDOUN COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, ET. AL

Page 764

FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF LOUDOUN COUNTY. Alfred D. Swersky, Judge Designate.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Timothy P. Bosson (H. Robert Showers; Daniel J. Hebda; Randy Singer; Rosalyn Singer; Simms Showers; Singer Legal Group, on briefs), for appellants.

Leslie A. Winneberger (William F. Etherington; Beale, Davidson, Etherington & Morris, on brief), for appellees.

Present: Kinser, C.J., Lemons, Goodwyn, Millette, Mims, and McClanahan, JJ., and Russell, S.J.

OPINION

Page 765

LEROY F. MILLETTE, JR, JUSTICE

In this appeal we consider whether the Virginia Gap Pay Act, Code § 9.1-700 et seq., prohibits three employment practices adopted to avoid paying law-enforcement employees at least at a one and one-half overtime rate for hours of work accrued in " the gap:" that is, hours of work more than the employees' regularly scheduled work hours but less than the federally established maximum limit after which an overtime rate must be paid. We also consider whether one such employment practice is prohibited by the law-enforcement employees' contractual employment rights.

I. Facts and Proceedings

The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office receives funds from Loudoun County, pursuant to a cooperative agreement, and from the Commonwealth. To receive funds from Loudoun County, the Sheriff's Office agrees to be treated " as any other department" under Loudoun County's authority. The consequences of this arrangement are significant. The Sheriff acts both in his county-affiliated capacity as a department head, and in his state-affiliated capacity as a constitutional officer. Also, Loudoun County approves the Sheriff's Office's budget and retains authority to dictate the Sheriff's Office's policies regarding its deputies' salaries, benefits, and overtime.

Loudoun County's Board of Supervisors, compelled by budget concerns, focused on limiting overtime compensation to reduce expenditures. To address the Sheriff's Office's use of overtime, the Board required the Sheriff's Office to implement three employment practices to reduce the hours that would be considered overtime. The Board also raised the number of hours constituting the deputies' regularly scheduled work hours.

These actions prompted the litigation giving rise to this appeal. The Sheriff's Office employed deputies who worked in the Adult Detention Center (" ADC Deputies" ) and deputies who worked on patrol (" Patrol Deputies" ). The ADC Deputies and Patrol Deputies[1] brought an action under the Multiple Claimant Litigation Act, Code § § 8.01-267.1 through -267.9,

Page 766

against Loudoun County,[2] the Sheriff's Office, and Sheriff Michael L. Chapman. The ADC Deputies alleged that the defendants violated both state and federal law by wrongfully calculating and underpaying overtime hours. Both the ADC Deputies and the Patrol Deputies alleged that the defendants engaged in employment practices to avoid paying overtime in violation of state law and the deputies' employment contracts.

After considering trial testimony and post-trial briefs, the circuit court issued a letter opinion resolving these claims. The circuit court (1) denied all requested injunctive relief, (2) awarded the ADC Deputies judgment in the amount of $107,451.00 together with prejudgment interest from February 1, 2011, and (3) denied the Patrol Deputies' claims and entered judgment in favor of the defendants on those claims. After the court denied the Patrol Deputies' motion for reconsideration, it entered a final order memorializing its letter opinion and also awarding costs and attorneys' fees.

The Patrol Deputies timely filed a petition for appeal with this Court. We granted the following assignments of error, each of which identifies an allegedly impermissible employment practice brought before the circuit court at trial:

1. The Court wrongly held that the Sheriff did not violate Va. Code § 9.1-703 when he refused to pay [Patrol] Deputies overtime for all hours when the deput[ies were] in a " paid status," which violates the express language of [Code § ] ...

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