Appeal from Superior Court, Washington Unit, Civil Division
Timothy B. Tomasi, J. Matthew M. Shagam and Richard T.
Cassidy of Hoff Curtis, Burlington, for Plaintiff-Appellant.
William H. Sorrell, Attorney General, and Todd W. Daloz,
Assistant Attorney General, Montpelier, for
PRESENT: Reiber, C.J., Dooley, Skoglund, Robinson and Eaton,
1. A former employee of the Vermont Department of Labor
(Department) appeals from a judgment on the pleadings denying
his suit against the Department seeking unpaid overtime pay.
Employee first argues that he is entitled to overtime pay for
hours worked in excess of forty hours per week
because-through a 1994 revision to 21 V.S.A. § 384(b)(7)
that refers to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act
(FLSA)-the Legislature intended to provide state employees
not only with minimum wage-and-hour rights, but also with a
statutory private right of action to enforce those rights.
Employee next argues that state employees also have a private
right of action to enforce those claimed rights through
Article 4 of the Vermont Constitution. Vt. Const. ch. I, art.
4. We affirm.
2. Employee worked at the Department from 2010 to 2014, and
he claims to have worked 704 hours of overtime during this
period. After his termination, employee sued the Department
on the basis that he had not been paid at the overtime rate
of time-and-a-half for hours worked in excess of forty hours
per week. Employee initially brought two claims-one under 21
V.S.A. § 384(b)(7) and another under FLSA-but withdrew
the FLSA claim after the State filed a motion to dismiss in
which it argued that sovereign immunity prevented the claim.
The State later filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings.
See V.R.C.P. 12(c) ("After the pleadings are closed but
within such time as not to delay the trial, any party may
move for judgment on the pleadings."). The court granted
the motion on the basis that 21 V.S.A. § 384(b)(7)
"does not extend a statutory right to the overtime rate
that [employee] seeks, " but rather "plainly
exempts State employees." The court also concluded that
Article 4 of the Vermont Constitution did not give state
employees a private right of action to seek damages
compensating them for unpaid overtime. Vt. Const. ch. I, art.
3. Employee now appeals the court's judgment on the
pleadings. In reviewing the judgment, "we accept as true
all factual allegations contained in the complaint and all
reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those
allegations." Sorge v. State, 171 Vt. 171, 174,
762 A.2d 816, 818 (2000). This is because when the court
assesses a motion for judgment on the pleadings, "all
well pleaded factual allegations in the nonmovant's
pleadings and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn
therefrom are assumed to be true and all contravening
assertions in the movant's pleadings are taken to be
false." Bressler v. Keller, 139 Vt. 401, 403,
429 A.2d 1306, 1307 (1981). We therefore focus our analysis
on the court's conclusions of law, which we review de
novo. Anderson v. State, 2013 VT 73, ¶ 7, 194
Vt. 437, 82 A.3d 577 ("[W]e review the trial court's
conclusions of law de novo."). Regarding these
conclusions of law, employee argues that the court erred
because (1) 21 V.S.A. § 384(b)(7) does provide state
employees with both minimum wage-and-hour rights and a
statutory private right of action to enforce those rights,
and (2) state employees do have a private right of action to
enforce those claimed rights through Article 4 of the Vermont
Constitution. Vt. Const. ch. I, art. 4.
4. We first address employee's argument that he is
entitled to overtime pay because 21 V.S.A. § 384(b)(7)
provides state employees with both minimum wage-and-hour
rights and a statutory private right of action to enforce
those rights. In relevant part, § 384(b)(7) reads:
(b) . . . an employer shall not pay an employee less than one
and one-half times the regular wage rate for any work done by
the employee in excess of 40 hours during a workweek.
However, this subsection shall not apply to:
. . .
(7) State employees who are covered by the federal Fair Labor
5. In interpreting a statute, our primary aim is always to
determine the intent of the Legislature and implement that
intent. See Miller v. Miller, 2005 VT 89, ¶ 14,
178 Vt. 273, 882 A.2d 1196 ("In construing a statute,
our paramount goal is to discern and implement the intent of
the Legislature."). In determining that intent, we begin
by looking to the plain language of the statute. Tarrant
v. Dep't of Taxes, 169 Vt. 189, 197, 733 A.2d 733,
739 (1999) ("[I]n our attempts to ascertain legislative
intent we look for guidance in the plain meaning of the words
used."). If the intent of the Legislature is apparent on
the face of the statute because the plain language of the
statute is clear and unambiguous, we implement the statute
according to that plain language. See Harris v.
Sherman, 167 Vt. 613, 614, 708 A.2d 1348, 1349 (1998)
("[W]here legislative intent can be ascertained on its
face, the statute must be enforced according to its ...