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DeKalb County v. Kirkland

Court of Appeals of Georgia

October 15, 2014

DeKALB COUNTY
v.
KIRKLAND et al

Sovereign immunity. DeKalb Superior Court. Before Judge Flake.

Laura K. Johnson, Bennett D. Bryan, Sam L. Brannen, Jr., for appellant.

Schulten Ward & Turner, Dean R. Fuchs, for appellees.

MILLER, Judge. Andrews, P. J., and Ray, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 868

Miller, Judge.

Timothy W. Kirkland and Steven L. Pruitt (" the Plaintiffs" ) sued DeKalb County (" the County" ) for, inter alia, breach of contract based on the County's refusal to allow the Plaintiffs to use their accrued compensatory time or compensate them for that time. The County filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that the Plaintiffs' claims were barred by sovereign immunity and the statute of limitation. The trial court denied the County's motion for summary judgment, and the County appeals.[1] For the reasons that follow, we reverse.

Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. We apply a de novo standard of appellate review and view the evidence, and all reasonable conclusions and inferences drawn from it, in the light most favorable to the nonmovant.

(Footnote omitted.) Community Marketplace Properties v. SunTrust Bank, 303 Ga.App. 403, 404 (693 S.E.2d 602) (2010).

So viewed, the evidence shows that Kirkland began working for DeKalb County Fire Rescue Department (" DCFR" ) in 1988. Pruitt [329 Ga.App. 263] began working for DCFR in February 1989. Neither had a written contract of employment.

DCFR created a volunteer K-9 Search and Rescue Team and provided team members with food and veterinary care for the dogs. Volunteer K-9 handlers were responsible for housing and training their dogs, in addition to their regular DCFR duties. On or about May 7, 2003, DCFR began awarding 24 hours of compensatory time per month (firefighters normally work 24-hour shifts) to K-9 handlers to compensate them for the hours they spent training, housing and caring for their dogs. Prior to that time, K-9 handlers received additional compensation rather than compensatory time.

In 2000, Kirkland volunteered to join the K-9 team and in 2004, Kirkland was promoted to the position of captain. Pruitt was promoted to captain in 2003 and became a volunteer K-9 handler in 2008. Fire captains in the County are overtime-exempt employees, and upon promotion to captain, Kirkland and Pruitt understood that they were no longer eligible to receive overtime wages, but remained eligible to receive compensatory

Page 869

time. Overtime-exempt employees were not eligible to receive cash compensation for compensatory time and had to use accrued compensatory time within one year. ...


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