Settlement Reached in Postal Workers' Overtime Class Action Suit


source: US District Court, Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division


Florida District Judge Dismiss Claims of Non-Resident Postal Workers  in Class-Action Overtime Suit


On January 18, 2005, the Court preliminarily certified this case to proceed as a collective action on behalf of “Affected Employees”:

“i) who reside within the district of this Court;

ii) who were employed by the USPS in non-exempt positions;

iii) who were subjected to a clock ring deletion that resulted in the loss of wages for overtime hours worked and which occurred within three (3) years of the date the Affected Employee files his or her Consent to Join form in this litigation; and

 iv) whose claims do not exceed $10,000.00, including attorneys’ fees and costs.” 

Pursuant to the District Court’s January 18, 2005 Order, on February 23, 2005, a court-approved notice was sent to 32,323 individuals. In order to participate in the case "Affected Employees" were given until April 25, 2005 to submit their consent to join forms with the Court-approved escrow agent. As of May 6, 2005, 1769 consent to join forms had been filed with the escrow agent.

Clock Rings’ Lawsuit Limited
A federal judge has certified but limited a class-action lawsuit against the USPS regarding management’s policy of arbitrarily deleting employees’ clock rings in order to avoid paying overtime.

Judge Richard A. Lazzara certified a collective action against the USPS in the Middle District of Florida, which comprises the metropolitan areas of Jacksonville, Ocala, Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Myers. Postal workers outside of these areas, however, are excluded from the lawsuit. Attorneys from the Tampa law firm of Burr & Smith originally had sought to establish a nationwide class action. They will continue to represent plaintiffs in the Florida district and may seek to bring suits in federal courts in other locations. The national APWU is reviewing the matter to determine whether to take nationwide action. source: American Postal Worker Magazine- March/Apr 2005

  February 14, 2005-A Florida U.S. District Court judge on Jan 18th ordered that FLSA claims of any non-resident Postal Workers  and all claims in excess of $10,000.00, including fees and costs, are due to be dismissed .  Any dismissed FLSA claims are subject to refiling in the U.S. District Court for the district in which they reside or in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Over 4,000 employees from nearly every state and territory of the United States signed consent forms to join this lawsuit.

USPS Sued for Allegedly Deleting Parts of Employees' Time Records to Avoid Paying Overtime.

The lawsuit  filed 1/30/04 on behalf of  four postal workers in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District Court of Florida , alleged that USPS has a practice of deleting overtime hours from the payroll records of its non-exempt employees ("clock ring deletions"), thereby avoiding the payment of wages owed to a potential class of  200,000 employees (letter and rural carriers, mail handlers, maintenance workers, distribution clerks, window clerks, drivers, and other employees). The suit sought to redress the wrongs caused by various USPS supervisors .  In a three-count complaint filed by Attorney Samuel Bearman of Pensacola, Florida alleged USPS  violated the following laws:

     1.  The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
     2.  The Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)
     3.  The Privacy Act of 1974

Court Dismissed Two of Three Allegations

On August 26, 2004, the District Court dismissed allegations against USPS of violating the RICO Act and Privacy Act  from the overtime suit.  USPS petitioned the District Court to dismiss a lawsuit that accuses postal officials of intentionally deleting parts of employees' Time Records to Avoid Paying Overtime by arguing that, " The Postal Service is not Subject to RICO Liability As Part of the Federal Government; and  "Postal Service Officials Cannot Be Held Criminally Liable for Acts Committed in Their Official Capacity." Donahue vs FBI (pdf) . The petition further stated "the Supreme Court  observed ( in USPS vs Flamingo Industries (pdf) ) that while the Postal Reorganization Act of 1971 may have waived the Postal Service's immunity from suit, it...did not strip it of its governmental status."

The only allegation that remained in this suit is USPS'  violation of Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

USPS Argues Little Tucker Act  Puts Limit on FLSA Claims and "Affected Employees"

The USPS argued to the court that "jurisdiction over FLSA claims against the Government does not arise out of the FLSA, but rather arises exclusively from the "Little Tucker Act," 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(2). Under the terms of the Little Tucker Act’s waiver of sovereign immunity, this Court’s jurisdiction extends solely to non-tort, statutory civil actions against the United States which do not exceed $10,000.00, for each Plaintiff, including attorneys’ fees and costs. Further, "[a]ny civil action in a district court against the United States under subsection (a) of section 1346 of this title may be prosecuted only ... in the judicial district where the plaintiff resides." USPS also argued  that there is a three-year statute of limitations for FLSA claims, based upon a defendant’s willful acts, such as the ones before the Court.

Attorneys Argue the Postal Reorganization Act Governs Suits Against USPS

In response to the Postal Service assertion, attorneys argued "that it is the Postal Reorganization Act (PRA) that governs jurisdiction in suits such as this one against the USPS. They argue that the "sue and be sued" clause in section 409(a) of the PRA waives immunity and makes the USPS amenable to suit in its official name. The attorneys maintained that while the Little Tucker Act may provide an alternative, non-exclusive basis for jurisdiction in this suit, the more specific waiver of sovereign immunity provided for in the PRA, which expressly governs jurisdiction of suits against the USPS, endows this Court with the jurisdictional authority to decide this case

District Court Judge Rejects Attorneys Argument, Agrees with USPS

District Court Judge Richard Lazzara wrote in his decision that "The Little Tucker Act provides the sole jurisdictional basis for a federal court to hear claims against the federal government to recover compensation for violations of the FLSA." The judge also wrote,  "absent an express statement from Congress that the Little Tucker Act does not apply to these cognizable FLSA claims against the Postal Service, the Court should not imply such a Congressional intent." See United States v. Flamingo Industries (USA) Ltd., 540 U.S. 736, 746-47 (2004). Therefore, the Court will allow the class action lawsuit  to go forward only on the claims of the Postal Workers and opt-ins who reside within the district of this Court that do not exceed $10,000.00 each, including attorneys’ fees and costs.


Sidebar: under the Tucker Act, the Court of Federal Claims has exclusive jurisdiction over civil actions or  claims against the Government for greater than $10,000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1491. Determinations of the Court of Federal Claims may be appealed to the Federal Circuit or  The “Little Tucker Act,” 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(2), confers jurisdiction on district courts for claims of $10,000 or less. 

 More of  District Court Judge's Ruling

- The claims of the named Plaintiffs and opt-in Plaintiffs that fall outside the FLSA limitations period, or more specifically, that date back more than three (3) years from the date the Affected Employee filed his or her Consent to Join form in this litigation, are dismissed.

- Plaintiffs’ Motion to Facilitate Notice Under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (dkt.73) is granted to a limited extent. This case will proceed as a collective action for overtime compensation under the FLSA on behalf of the narrowly defined "Affected Employees":

i) who reside within the district of this Court;

ii) who were employed by the USPS in non-exempt positions;

iii) who were subjected to a clock ring deletion that resulted in the loss of wages for overtime hours worked and which occurred within three (3) years of the date the Affected Employee files his or her Consent to Join form in this litigation; and

iv) whose claims do not exceed $10,000.00, including attorneys’ fees and costs.

All four of these criteria must be met by each "Affected Employee" in order to opt into this case.

- Plaintiffs’ counsel shall, within seven (7) days from the date of this Order, submit to the Court for its review revised versions of their proposed "Notice of Rights in Connection With Pending Fair Labor Standards Act (Overtime Compensation) Lawsuit Against the United States Postal Service" and "Consent to Join Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §216(b)" that strictly conform to the dictates of this Order.

-. Within twenty (20) days from the date of this Order, the USPS shall produce to Plaintiffs’ counsel a computer-readable data file containing the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all potential "Affected Employees," as defined in paragraph 4 above, so that notice may be accomplished in an expedited manner.

- Once the Notice and Consent form have been approved by the Court, Plaintiffs’ counsel will be authorized to cause the mailing of said documents to all "Affected Employees." Plaintiffs shall expedite such mailing in light of the FLSA limitations period.

- Unless Plaintiffs’ counsel otherwise designate, in light of the Court’s limitation on the class of Plaintiffs to only those "Affected Employees" who reside within the district of this Court, Rosenthal & Company of Novato, California is authorized to act as the escrow service for this action, to mail the Notices and Consent forms, to receive returned Consent forms from Affected Employees, and to enter the date on which Consent forms are returned and deemed to be filed and to file all such forms with the Court within ten (10) days of the close of the opt-in period.

note:  the judge also wrote, "After discovery has ended (and, therefore, the time frame for opting in also has expired), the USPS may move under the more stringent evidentiary standard to decertify the class based on a lack of evidence of similarity among the Plaintiffs."


STONE, et al., individually and on behalf of other similarly situated persons  v. United States Postal Service


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