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Home / Courts / 4th Circuit / Labor & Employment — No FLSA Claim Against State Hospital Supervisors

Labor & Employment — No FLSA Claim Against State Hospital Supervisors

Martin v. Wood (Lawyers Weekly No. 14-01-1085, 11 pp.) (Niemeyer, J.) No. 13-2283, Nov. 18, 2014; USDC at Newport News, Va. (Allen, J.) 4th Cir.

Holding: Although a registered nurse alleges she is suing her supervisors at a state hospital in their individual capacities for refusing to authorize overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the 4th Circuit says the supervisors’ actions were inextricably linked to their official duties and the suit is barred by the 11th Amendment.

To avoid sovereign immunity, plaintiff did not sue Eastern State Hospital but rather only her supervisors, naming them in their individual capacities. The district court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss.

To identify the real, substantial party in interest, we examine the substance of the claims stated in the complaint. Plaintiff’s complaint alleges the hospital, as her employer, failed to compensate her for overtime because her supervisors refused to approve such compensation. It further alleges that her supervisors exercised authority and controlled her work hours at the hospital and they failed and refused to include overtime hours in the computation of plaintiff’s weekly wages. Plaintiff also alleges the supervisors acted directly and indirectly in the interest of the hospital. The complaint includes no allegation that, in so acting, the supervisors acted in an ultra vires manner or attempted to serve personal interests distinct from the hospital’s interests.

Virtually every factor indicates the supervisors are being sued in their official capabilities. The complaint alleges the supervisors had the authority to authorize overtime pay and refused to do so and that, if they had authorized overtime pay, it would have been funded by the hospital. The inevitable conclusion follows that the supervisors’ actions were “inextricably tied” to their official duties at the hospital.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is the real party in interest in this action. Since the 11th Amendment has withdrawn jurisdiction over suits of this nature against the states, effectively giving the commonwealth immunity, we reverse and remand with instructions to dismiss the complaint.

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