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Creamer v. Anderson County Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson Division

August 7, 2014

Michael Dalen Creamer and other similarly situated employees of the Anderson County Sheriff's Office, Plaintiff,
v.
Anderson County Sheriff's Office, Defendant.

ORDER AND OPINION

J. MICHELLE CHILDS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Michael Dalen Creamer ("Creamer") and other similarly situated employees of the Anderson County Sheriff's Office (collectively "Plaintiffs") filed this action alleging violation of the South Carolina Payment of Wages Act ("SCPWA"), S.C. Code Ann. § 41-10-10 to -110 (Supp. 2011), violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219, and for breach of contract/covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

This matter is before the court on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) by Defendant Anderson County Sheriff's Office ("Defendant") (ECF No. 5). Specifically, Defendant seeks to dismiss the third claim in Plaintiffs' complaint for breach of contract/covenant of good faith and fair dealing (ECF No. 1-1 at 11-12). (ECF No. 5 at 1.) For the reasons set forth below, the court DENIES Defendant's motion to dismiss.

RELEVANT BACKGROUND TO PENDING MOTION

The following recitation presents the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs are employed by Defendant as canine ("K9") officers. (ECF No. 1-1 at 2.) Plaintiffs allege that pursuant to Garcia v. San Antonio Metro. Transit Auth., 469 U.S. 528, 554 (1985)[1], and its progeny, as well as Defendant's General Order 211[2] (the " Garcia Order"), Plaintiffs are supposed to "receive compensation for the at-home care and feeding that they perform for the canines they house and care for during their off-duty time." ( Id. at 3.) Plaintiffs are supposed to receive such compensation even on days when they are not on duty because the canines require such care, and such care benefits Defendant. ( Id. ) Plaintiffs have never received compensation for taking care of the animals since the date Plaintiffs began working for Defendant.[3] ( Id. ) Even on Plaintiffs' days off, Plaintiffs were never reimbursed for time used to care for the canines. ( Id. )

Around December 2011, Creamer became aware of the Garcia case by reading the Garcia Order which provided that, "Anderson County Sheriff's Office complies with the U.S. Supreme Court Decision regarding Garcia vs. San Antonio (1985) and, as such, provides compensation for Canine handlers working overtime." ( Id. at 3-4.) Upon learning this information, on January 4, 2012, Plaintiffs met with Sergeant Jamie Crawford, who was in charge of the Patrol K9's, to discuss the issue. ( Id. at 4.) Plaintiffs were informed that not receiving compensation for the at-home care of the canines was "the way it has always been done at the Sheriff's Office." ( Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).) Plaintiffs were also informed that if the topic ever reached Defendant's administration, the Sheriff or Lieutenant Binninger would "retaliate against" Plaintiff by removing the canines entirely. ( Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).) Crawford was later injured and replaced by Lieutenant Payne. ( Id. ) In early 2013, Plaintiff also discussed the Garcia situation with Payne. ( Id. ) Payne explained that "he knew that the law was not being followed correctly, " but that was "the way it had always been.'" ( Id. )

Defendant's General Order 107 part "hh" (the "Whistleblower Order") provides that:

Whistlerblower Protection and Procedure - Employees are required to immediately report any evidence of another employees' criminal wrongdoing through the chain of command.
....
In the event the immediate supervisor, Command Officer within the chain of command, or the Deputy Chief is suspected of criminal wrongdoing or of covering up another employee's wrongdoing, employees are required to report such information directly to the next higher Command Officer in the chain of command or to the Sheriff. Thereafter, should no action be taken on the information provided, the employee should report the wrongdoing to an appropriate prosecuting agency such as the Attorney General's Office. Employees are subject to termination for any activity that interferes with or hinders the successful prosecution of an employee's criminal misconduct. Employees [sic] are not subject to retaliatory disciplinary action for reporting under this rule. However, employees are subject to discipline for making frivolous reports.

( Id. at 6.) Furthermore, General Order 107, part "s" states that, "[a]ll employees shall observe and obey all General Orders, Standard Operating Procedures and Special Orders issued by the Sheriff's Office." ( Id. at 11.) None of these General Orders have a "non-contract" disclaimer. ( Id. )

In July 2012, Plaintiff went to Captain Loftis, part of Defendant's administration, to express concern over threats made by Binninger to members of the C.A.T.C.H.[4] Team. ( Id. at 6-7.) On August 16, 2012, Binninger told Plaintiffs that he was going to remove them from the C.A.T.C.H. Team because of the complaints they made about him. ( Id. at 7.) Thereafter, Binninger tried to write Plaintiffs up "for frivolous things." ( Id. )

In September 2012, "employees of Defendant chased a fleeing suspect" into Georgia. ( Id. ) After the vehicle stopped, a K9 "was commanded to attack the suspect and the suspect suffered injuries." ( Id. ) In violation of 18 U.S.C. § 3182, Defendant's Sergeant Hamby instructed "deputies on the scene to take the prisoner back across the state line and into Anderson County and place him under arrest." ( Id. ) "[Creamer] heard about the dog bite incident and pulled up the report the next morning." ( Id. at 8.) The report stated that "the suspect was apprehended at the state line' and transported to the hospital.'" ( Id. ) Creamer informed both Captain Loftis and Chief Smith, part of Defendant's administration, of this alleged discrepancy. ( Id. ) "It was determined that the original report was altered to cover up the Georgia incident." ( Id. ) Creamer also ...


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