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7th Circuit Court finds former county employee’s FLSA rights were not violated

September 23, 2016

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found Thursday that Tippecanoe County adequately compensated a former employee who sued the county for violation of his rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

In James Melton v. Tippecanoe County, 14-3599, James Melton was fired from his job with the Tippecanoe County surveyor’s officer in September 2010 after he failed to follow his supervisor’s order to not work extra time throughout the week.

Melton had asked to shorten his lunch breaks and come in early a few days a week to make up for time he wanted to take out of the work day to take a class. His supervisor had told him that he could take the class, but that he could not adjust his schedule to make up for the time. However, when Melton’s class began, he worked through lunch one day and came in early three days during the first week of class, which prompted his termination.

Melton filed suit against the county, alleging that the Fair Labor Standards Act was violated because he was not paid for the hours he certified he worked on his weekly timecard. The former county employee testified that each week he certified that he worked more than 37.5 hours, but that the office secretary would reduce the hours listed on his time card to 37.5 hours each week, telling him that he could not be paid for any additional time worked. Melton also produced a spreadsheet made from memory that he said showed all the hours he worked during his 14 months of employment with the county.

The county moved for summary judgment, arguing that Melton was compensated for all hours worked and that he had not notified his employer of any instances of inadequate compensation. Further, the county said Melton had only presented evidence of about one hour and 40 minutes of extra time worked a week, which only added up to 39.2 hours per week, failing to establish an FLSA violation for uncompensated hours in excess of 40 hours per week.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of Tippecanoe County. In his appeal to the 7th Circuit Court, Melton argued that he had produced sufficient evidence to prove that the county would adjust his time cards to reflect only 37.5 hours per week, regardless of how many hours he said he had actually worked.

But in its affirmation of the district court’s judgment on Thursday, the 7th Circuit Court wrote that Melton had not produced enough evidence, specifically in regard to his claims that he had worked through all or part of his lunch break several days a week.

Although Melton produced a spreadsheet that he said accurately reflected uncompensated working hours, county records show that many of those hours were compensated, the circuit court wrote. Additionally, although Melton claimed that he worked through lunch several days a week, the spreadsheet does not show a single day where he did not take his full one-hour lunch break.

The 7th Circuit did concede that there was evidence that a juror could use to establish that Melton had come in early some days, but the court also wrote that such evidence does not add up to show an FLSA violation of failure to compensate for more than 40 hours worked per week.

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