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Decided: June 6, 2014

The Fourth Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider Appellees’ and Appellant’s interlocutory appeals and, thus, dismissed the appeals.

Appellees previously worked as security investigators in Appellant GEICO’s Claims Department, and investigated suspected fraudulent claims.  Appellant classifies its security investigators as exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) overtime pay protections, and Appellees filed suit in 2010 seeking recovery of the overtime pay they were allegedly owed, and that Appellant wrongfully withheld in violation of the FLSA, and New York state law.  The district court rejected Appellant’s classification of Appellees as exempt under the “administrative function” exemption, and granted Appellees’ motion for partial summary judgment.  The district court entered an order, which it described as a “final judgment,” that contained a formula for calculating the back pay owed to Appellees.  The Order also stated that the district court retained jurisdiction to resolve or oversee any issue concerning the back pay remedy.  Appellant appealed the Order, and Appellees cross-appealed the district court’s remedy rulings.

The Fourth Circuit stated that its appellate jurisdiction, with limited exceptions, extends only to reviewing any final decisions rendered by the district courts.  28 U.S.C. § 1291.  A final decision is one that ends litigation on its merits, and leaves only the execution of a judgment for the court.  A judgment on liability where the damages are not fixed is not a final judgment, as an assessment of damages consists of part of a claim on the merits, and must be determined for a final judgment.  Further, the label given to an order by a district court does not determine whether an order is final.  The Fourth Circuit found that although the district court decided many of the issues determinative of the amount of damages Appellees are entitled to, the district court’s order was not final because it did not determine all of the facts necessary to be able to compute Appellees’ damages, nor did it determine how its back pay formula applies to the facts of the case.  The Court noted that a number of factual or legal issues could potentially arise that may affect the amount of damages, as evidenced by the district court’s retention of jurisdiction should any disputes arise between the parties in calculating Appellees’ damages.  Thus, the district court had to accomplish more than merely enforcing its judgment, and its judgment was not final.  The Fourth Circuit, therefore, concluded it did not have a final decision to review, and had no choice but to dismiss the parties’ appeals.

Full Opinion

Alysja S. Garansi