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Quinn v. Alaska State Employees Association (8/29/97), 944 P 2d 468
Notice: This opinion is subject to formal correction before
publication in the Pacific Reporter. Readers are requested to bring errors to the
attention of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts, 303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska
99501, phone (907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878.
THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA
WILLIAM QUINN, )
) Supreme Court No. S-6929
) Superior Court No.
v. ) 3AN-94-1634 CI
ALASKA STATE EMPLOYEES ) O P I N I O N
FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY ) [No. 4877 - August 29, 1997]
AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, )
LOCAL 52, )
Petition for Hearing from the Superior Court
of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Brian
C. Shortell, Judge, on appeal from the District Court, Anchorage,
John R. Lohff, Judge.
Appearances: Kenneth W. Legacki, Kenneth W.
Legacki, P.C., Anchorage, for Petitioner. Thomas R. Lucas, Law
Office of Thomas R. Lucas, P.C., Anchorage, for Respondent.
Before: Compton, Chief Justice, Matthews,
Eastaugh, and Fabe, Justices. [Rabinowitz, Justice, not
COMPTON, Chief Justice.
William Quinn petitioned for review of the superior
court's decision to uphold the district court's limitation of the
period for which Quinn could seek unpaid overtime and penalties
from his former employer. Alaska R. App. P. 402(a)(1). We granted
the petition. Alaska R. App. P. 402(b). We vacate the order of
the district court and remand for further proceedings.
II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
Quinn was employed by the Alaska State Employees
Association (ASEA) as a Business Agent from February 26, 1990, to
August 14, 1993. On February 23, 1994, Quinn sued ASEA in district
court for unpaid overtime and penalties under AS 23.05.140(b) [Fn.
1] and the Alaska Wage & Hour Act (AWHA), AS 23.10.050-.150. [Fn.
2] His claim for unpaid overtime covered a period running from
sometime in 1990 to January 1993. The district court granted
ASEA's motion for partial summary judgment, limiting Quinn's
recovery to unpaid overtime going back two years before he filed
suit, in accordance with AWHA's two-year statute of limitation.
See AS 23.10.130. [Fn. 3] The court did not apply the Fair Labor
Standards Act (FLSA) three-year statute of limitation. [Fn. 4]
Quinn petitioned for superior court review of the
district court's order. The superior court denied the petition.
Quinn then filed with this court a petition for hearing from the
superior court's decision. We granted Quinn's petition, limited to
the following issues:
a. Does the statute of limitations under
FLSA as to willful violations preempt the limitations period in AS
b. Does the limitations period in
AS 09.10.070(3) apply? If so, does it run
from the date of the employer's alleged non-compliance with the
termination payday requirement of AS 23.05.140(b)?
c. Based on the employer's alleged breach of
the collective bargaining agreement regarding overtime, does the
six-year statute of limitations for contracts in AS 09.10.050(1)
A. The Statute of Limitation for Willful Violations under
FLSA Does Not Preempt the Limitation Period in AS 23.10.130.
Federal law can preempt state law in three
ways: explicitly, if Congress declares that state law is
preempted; implicitly, if Congress enacts comprehensive laws that
leave no room for additional state regulation; or, if state law
actually conflicts with Federal law.
Dayhoff v. Temsco Helicopters, Inc., 848 P.2d 1367, 1369 (Alaska
1993); see also Totemoff v. State, 905 P.2d 954, 958 (Alaska 1995),
cert. denied, 116 S. Ct. 2499 (1996). A conflict between state and
federal law occurs where compliance with both laws is a "physical
impossibility,"or where "the state law stands as an obstacle to
the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and
objectives"of the federal law. Webster v. Bechtel, Inc., 621 P.2d
890, 900-01 (Alaska 1980) (quoting Ray v. Atlantic Richfield Co.,
435 U.S. 151, 158 (1978)).
This court addressed the issue of whether FLSA preempts
AWHA in Webster. After comparing the history and purposes of the
two Acts, we concluded that FLSA did not explicitly or implicitly
preempt AWHA in its entirety. Id. at 894-900. We also determined
that AWHA's more generous minimum wage, overtime pay, and
liquidated damages provisions did not actually conflict with
similar provisions in FLSA. Id. at 900-05. This holding was
grounded on the principle that states "are given freedom of action
to establish higher standards than those established by"FLSA.
Eastern Sugar Assocs. v. Pena, 222 F.2d 934, 936 (1st Cir. 1955);
Alaska Int'l Indus. v. Musarra, 602 P.2d 1240, 1246 (Alaska 1979)
("[I]t is only where state law is more restrictive or more
favorable to the employee that it governs in lieu of"FLSA.).
The two-year statute of limitation in AWHA does not
explicitly or implicitly conflict with the three-year period
contained in FLSA. The statute of limitation contained in FLSA
applies only to actions brought under FLSA itself. Conversely, the
shorter limitation period outlined in AWHA applies to a purely AWHA
cause of action. Since the different limitation periods apply to
different causes of action, with different applicable defenses [Fn.
5] and substantive provisions, [Fn. 6] they are not in tension with
one another. In the absence of a conflict between the state
measure and its federal counterpart, the state statute is not pre-
empted. Quinn's AWHA claim therefore is governed by the two-year
limitation period contained in AWHA itself.
However, in view of the fact that the time between the
filing of the complaint and the partial judgment on the pleadings
was relatively short, Quinn should be permitted to amend his
complaint to allege a claim under FLSA, which would be governed by
the longer limitation period contained in that statute. See
Webster, 621 P.2d at 901-02 (contemplating that suits for unpaid
overtime may be filed under both federal and state statutes,
reducing enforcement costs and permitting offset of state award by
amount of federal award as appropriate). We remand the case to
afford Quinn an opportunity to do so. [Fn. 7]
B. Alaska Statute 23.05.140(b) Offers Quinn an Alternative
Form of Relief, but It Does Not Revive AWHA Claims Barred by AS
In addition to making a claim under AWHA, Quinn also
asserted that ASEA violated AS 23.05.140(b) by failing to pay him
all the overtime he was allegedly due within three days of his
termination. See statutes cited supra note 1. In Reed v.
Municipality of Anchorage, 741 P.2d 1181 (Alaska 1987), we held
that the statute of limitation for "liability created by statute,"
AS 09.10.070(3), applied to claims made under AS 23.05.140(b), and
that the combined effect of these two statutes was to give a
terminated employee up to two years and three days after
termination to file a claim for unpaid wages under AS 23.05.140(b).
Reed, 741 P.2d at 1184-85. [Fn. 8] Quinn filed his complaint
approximately six months after he was terminated. His claim for
unpaid overtime and a penalty under AS 23.05.140(b) and (d), which
provide for recovery of "all wages, salaries, or other compensation
for labor or services"and for "a penalty in the amount of the
employee's regular wage . . . from the time of demand to the time
of payment, or for 90 working days, whichever is the lesser
amount,"was timely filed. Id. However, it is not the case, as
Quinn implies, that his timely filing under AS 23.05.140(b) revives
AWHA claims "forever barred"by AS 23.10.130. To hold otherwise
would be to do violence to the plain language of that statute. [Fn.
C. The Six-Year Statute of Limitation for Contracts in
AS 09.10.050(1) Applies to ASEA's Alleged Breach of the
Collective Bargaining Agreement.
In our decision in Reed, we construed Reed's cause of
action to allege a breach of the collective bargaining agreement
between the Municipality and Reed's union, as well as a cause of
action under AS 23.05.140(b). We held that while the latter claim
was governed by the limitation period contained in AS 09.10.070(3),
the six-year statute of limitation for contract actions contained
in AS 09.10.050 applied to Reed's claim for breach of contract.
Id. at 1185.
This case falls squarely under Reed. Quinn did not
attach a copy of the collective bargaining agreement to his
complaint, as did Reed. Id. However, he did attach a copy to his
motion for summary judgment, and he argued below that the six-year
statute of limitation applies. Also, as in Reed, "[b]oth parties
agree that they are bound by the collective bargaining agreement."
Id. Thus, it is fair to construe Quinn's complaint as alleging a
breach of the collective bargaining agreement, and to hold that the
six-year statute of limitation for contracts applies. Id. Quinn
filed his complaint in February 1994. He seeks unpaid overtime
dating back to 1990. Quinn's claim for unpaid overtime under a
breach of contract theory is not barred by AS 09.10.050(1).
However, as discussed supra, Quinn's timely filing under
the contract statute of limitation does not rekindle unpaid
liquidated damages claims "forever barred"by the statute of
limitation in AWHA. Quinn incorrectly asserts that because he
satisfied the contract statute of limitation, he may seek "all
wages and penalties for up to six years." He may seek full
recovery of all unpaid overtime, [Fn. 10] but whatever penalties he
is entitled to under AWHA are subject to the statute of limitation
in AS 23.10.130.
There is no merit to ASEA's argument that Quinn's breach
of contract action is governed by the six-month statute of
limitation in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). See 29
U.S.C. sec. 160(b). In DelCostello v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 462
U.S. 151 (1983), the United States Supreme Court held that the
NLRA's six-month statute of limitation applies to "hybrid"claims
in which the employee has a cause of action against the employer
for breach of a collective bargaining agreement, and against his or
her union for breach of its duty of fair representation. Id. at
169-70; see Cabarga Cruz v. Fundacion Educativa Ana G. Mendez Inc.,
822 F.2d 188, 191 (1st Cir. 1987) ("The typical hybrid action
involves a claim that the employer violated the collective
bargaining agreement and the union failed to handle properly the
grievance of the plaintiff-employee who was injured as a result of
the employer's action."). However, when an employee only sues the
employer for breach of a collective bargaining agreement, the state
statute of limitation for contract actions applies. See
International Union v. Hoosier Cardinal Corp., 383 U.S. 696, 704-07
(1966); Cabarga Cruz, 822 F.2d at 191 ("If a claim represents, in
essence, purely a breach of contract action against the employer,
the proper limitations period is not the six month period
established by DelCostello, but rather that provided by state law
for breach of contract actions."). Quinn is suing ASEA for breach
of contract, and therefore AS 09.10.070(3) applies.
Under either AS 23.05.140(b) or a breach of contract
theory, Quinn is entitled to seek recovery of the entire amount of
unpaid overtime allegedly due. In addition, under AS 23.05.140(d)
Quinn may be entitled to receive a penalty not to exceed his
regular wage for ninety days. Quinn's AWHA claims were properly
limited by the district court, but he is entitled to amend his
complaint to seek recovery of unpaid overtime and liquidated
damages under FLSA. However, Quinn may not combine theories to
seek double recovery of unpaid overtime. The district court's
order is VACATED, and the case is REMANDED for further proceedings.
AS 23.05.140(b) provides in part that if an employee is
terminated, "all wages, salaries, or other compensation for labor
or services become due immediately and shall be paid within three
working days after the termination . . . ." An employer who
violates this provision "may be required to pay the employee a
penalty in the amount of the employee's regular wage, salary, or
other compensation from the time of demand to the time of payment,
or for 90 working days, whichever is the lesser amount."
Under AWHA, an employee working in excess of forty hours a
week or eight hours a day must be paid for the overtime at the rate
of one and one-half times the regular rate of pay.
AS 23.10.060(b). An employer violating this provision "is liable
to an employee affected in the amount of . . . unpaid overtime
compensation . . . in an additional equal amount as liquidated
damages." AS 23.10.110(a).
AS 23.10.130 provides in part:
An action for . . . unpaid overtime
compensation . . . under [AWHA] is forever barred unless it is
started within two years after the cause of action accrues. For
the purposes of this section an action is considered to be started
on the date when the complaint is filed.
The term "accrues"is not defined in AWHA. When AWHA does not
define a term, the definition contained in the federal Fair Labor
Standards Act controls. AS 23.10.145. When additional analysis is
required, Alaska courts seek guidance from federal case law
interpreting FLSA. See, e.g., Jeffcoat v. State, Dep't of Labor,
732 P.2d 1073, 1075 (Alaska 1987). In interpreting FLSA's statute
of limitation, federal courts have held that a cause of action for
unpaid overtime accrues at the end of each pay period in which
overtime is due. See, e.g., Freeman v. National Broad. Co., Inc.,
846 F. Supp. 1109, 1159 (S.D.N.Y. 1993) ("A cause of action for
overtime compensation accrues at each regular payday immediately
following the work period during which services were rendered and
for which overtime compensation is claimed."), rev'd on other
grounds, Freeman v. National Broad. Co., Inc., 80 F.3d 78 (2d Cir.
1996). The district court implicitly accepted this definition in
limiting Quinn's recovery to unpaid overtime claims dating back two
years before he filed suit.
Any action . . . to enforce any cause of action for . . .
unpaid overtime compensation . . . under the Fair Labor Standards
Act . . . shall be forever barred unless commenced within two years
after the cause of action accrued, except that a cause of action
arising out of a willful violation may be commenced within three
years after the cause of action accrued . . . .
29 U.S.C. sec. 255(a) (1947) (emphasis added).
At the time Quinn brought the instant action, AWHA did not
provide for a "good faith"defense to the liquidated damages
provision, in contrast to FLSA. Compare former AS 23.10.110 with
29 U.S.C. sec. 260.
As noted, AWHA's provisions for minimum wage, overtime pay,
and liquidated damages are more generous than those contained in
We note that in order to prevail in an action under FLSA
following remand, Quinn would have to demonstrate that ASEA's
breach was "willful." The term "willful"is "a term of art as used
in the F.L.S.A. context." Donovan v. Public Serv. Co. of New
Mexico, 607 F. Supp. 784, 786 (D.N.M. 1984). A "willful"violation
does not require an intentional disregard of FLSA. Id.; see
Donovan v. Simmons Petroleum Corp., 725 F.2d 83, 85 (10th Cir.
1983) ("A violation may be willful even if an employer does not
have specific knowledge that his actions violate the Act.").
Rather, "[a]n employer acts willfully and subjects himself to the
three[-]year liability provision if he knows, or has reason to
know, that his conduct is governed by the Fair Labor Standards
Act." Brennan v. Heard, 491 F.2d 1, 3 (5th Cir. 1974). There is
evidence in the record that ASEA knew as of January 1993 that Quinn
and other Business Agents were covered by FLSA. The record is
silent as to whether ASEA knew or had reason to know FLSA governed
Business Agents prior to January 1993. This issue therefore
remains unresolved, and must be addressed on remand, assuming Quinn
amends his complaint to allege a claim under FLSA.
Reed did not claim wages or penalties under AWHA. Reed, 741
P.2d at 1184-85.
Dayhoff v. Temsco Helicopters, Inc., 772 P.2d 1085 (Alaska
1989), did not hold that the longer statute of limitation created
by combining AS 09.10.070(3) and AS 23.05.140(b) applies to claims
of unpaid overtime under AWHA. In fact, Dayhoff states that AS
23.10.130 governs unpaid overtime claims under AWHA. Id. at 1087
("The employees' claims for unpaid overtime are subject to a two-
year statute of limitations. AS 23.10.130."). The court in
Dayhoff was not called upon to resolve the question presented by
the facts of this case because the employees in Dayhoff filed their
complaint after even the longer statute of limitation had run.
Dayhoff speaks to the "latest"date the statutes of limitation may
have begun to run, id., but does not address the "earliest"such
date, which is the issue here. Dayhoff therefore does not dictate
a result in the present case.
In addition, while Quinn may recover all actual unpaid
overtime, he may not seek double recovery of such funds by
attempting to recover unpaid wages multiple times under different