Tag Archives: PMWA

E.D.Pa.: Following Third Circuit Precedent, Pharmaceutical Rep Administratively Exempt

Kesselman v. Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC

Continuing a split with virtually every other circuit, another court within the Third Circuit has held that a pharmaceutical representative, performing typical duties is administratively exempt under the FLSA (and PMWA, which requires exercise of discetion and independent judgment, but not that same be exercised with regard to matters of significance) is exempt from overtime under the administrative exemption.

Discussing the Third Circuit precedent, the court stated:

The Third Circuit has recently found pharmaceutical sales representatives exempt as administrative employees under the FLSA and the PMWA. In Smith v. Johnson & Johnson, the Court held a sales representative was engaged in work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer because the “position required her to form a strategic plan designed to maximize sales in her territory,” which “involved a high level of planning and foresight.” Because Smith “executed nearly all of her duties without direct oversight” and considered herself “the manager of her own business who could run her own territory as she saw fit [,]” the Court concluded that Smith was subject to the administrative employee exemption under the FLSA.

In Baum v. AstraZeneca, the Court, relying on Smith, held that plaintiff’s work related to her employer’s general operation because she marketed and advertised its pharmaceutical products. The plaintiff also had “significant discretion in how she would approach physicians, whether it be through access meals, peer-to-peer meetings, or other means,” “spent the majority of her time in the field, unsupervised,” “decided how much time she would spend with a given physician …. [and] whether she would use a detail aid,” such that her “day-to-day activities involved making numerous independent judgments on how best to promote [her employer's] products.” The Third Circuit therefore held that plaintiff was subject to the administrative employee exception to the PMWA.

The court rejected plaintiff’s contention that her duties were distinguishable from prior cases within the Third Circuit:

Having carefully considered the undisputed and stipulated facts of this case, Kesselman’s deposition testimony, and record documents reflecting Kesselman’s own assessment of her job responsibilities and accomplishments, the Court finds Smith and Baum controlling. Like the plaintiffs in Smith and Baum, Kesselman spent most of her working hours unsupervised and was responsible for developing her own target list of physicians, daily and monthly sales call itineraries, and a business plan for her territory based on her extensive knowledge of clients and sales data. Although, like Smith and Baum, she often worked from company-approved materials and was expected to convey certain product information during calls, she otherwise had discretion as to how to organize and conduct the calls. In general, she considered herself the “boss” of her territory.

These activities, which closely parallel the activities of Smith and Baum, “reflect [her] ability to develop strategies; to approach, communicate, and cultivate relationships with physicians; and to operate without constant supervision in the field.” Furthermore, they “are consistent with relevant definitions of exempt administrative work because they affect Defendant’s business operations to a substantial… work on behalf of Defendant that reflect the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance….”

While the issue of whether the outside sales exemption applies to pharmaceutical representatives has reached the Supreme Court, with a resolution to be forthcoming shortly, it is not clear whether the administrative exemption issue will have the same fate. Whereas the outside sales exemption issue hinges on the legal definition of the term “sale,” the administrative exemption requires a more fact specific inquiry. Thus, for the foreseeable future, pharmaceutical representatives whose cases are decided in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania may be exempt from the FLSA under the administrative exemption, while those whose cases are adjudicated in the other 47 states are not. Of course, to the extent that the Supreme Court holds that their positions are outside sales exempt, the whole issue will be rendered moot.

Click Kesselman v. Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC to read the entire Memorandum Opinion and Order.

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W.D.Pa.: Following Denial of Class Cert as Incompatible With 216(b) Collective Action, Plaintiffs’ Motion to Dismiss State Law Claims to Re-File in State Court Granted

Bell v. Citizens Financial Group, Inc.

Although all circuit courts that have taken up the issue have held that so-called hybrid wage and hour cases- comprised of both opt-in collective actions (FLSA) and opt-out class action (state wage and hour law)- are permissible, some courts within the Third Circuit continue to hold otherwise.  As a result, not surprisingly, defendant-employers in such cases continue fighting the class action components of such cases on “inherent incompatibility” grounds.  Such was the case here, where the court had previously conditionally certified the FLSA claims, but denied plaintiffs related motion for class certification of Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (“PMWA”) claims on compatibility grounds.  However, in what may become a frequently cited case going forward, the plaintiffs took the logical next step and asked the court to dismiss the PMWA claims so they could re-file them in state court alone, where there would be no issue of compatibility.  Not surprisingly, the defendants then threw up their arms, essentially arguing that the plaintiffs should not be able to bring their class claims in federal court and therefore not be able to proceed as a class in any venue.  The court rejected the defendants argument, permitting the voluntary dismissal of the state law claims to be pursued separately in state court.

After reviewing the applicable standards under Rule 41, the court granted plaintiffs’ motion for voluntary dismissal of the PMWA claims.  The court reasoned:

“Here, defendants have already filed an answer and do not stipulate to the dismissal. Therefore, the court must weigh the equities and decide whether to enter an order of dismissal. Defendants do not assert, and the court cannot ascertain, that they would suffer any plain legal prejudice as a result of dismissal of Watson’s claims. Watson’s intent to re-file a PMWA claim in state court is not plain prejudice. Pouls, 1993 WL 308645, at *1.

Upon weighing the factors set forth in Pouls, we conclude that it is appropriate to grant Watson’s motion to voluntarily dismiss her case. Defendants are not prejudiced by their efforts and expenses in this litigation, because other opt-in plaintiffs remain and the instant suit will continue. Defendants have failed to identify any efforts or expenses unique to Watson. Similarly, the progression of the litigation and Watson’s diligence in moving for dismissal are not determinative factors, due to the ongoing nature of the collective action suit. Consideration of the final factor, the duplicative or excessive expense of subsequent litigation, yields some possibility of prejudice to defendants. If Watson does file a PMWA case in state court and if defendants successfully remove it to federal court, defendants might incur some duplicative expenses in future federal court litigation on issues of claim incompatibility. However, at this time, such expenses are highly speculative. Therefore, we do not find plain prejudice to defendants based on duplicative expenses.

Accordingly, because there is no plain legal prejudice and because the equities weigh in favor of dismissal, we will grant plaintiff Watson’s motion to dismiss her claims without prejudice to her right to refile these claims in state court. An appropriate order follows.”

With the issue of permissibility of so-called hybrids up at the Third Circuit right now it will be interesting to see if this decision gains legs in its trial courts.  For now however it is safe to say that defendants in so-called hybrid cases should be careful what they wish for in seeking dismissal of state classes, because two is not always better than one.

Click Bell v. Citizens Financial Group, Inc. to read the entire Memorandum and Order.

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Filed under Class Certification, Collective Actions, Hybrid

W.D.Pa.: Although FLSA Does Not Provide Coverage For Work Performed In Foreign Countries, Pennsylvania Wage And Collection Act (PMWA) Does

Truman v. DeWolff, Boberg & Associates, Inc.

Plaintiff commenced this action against Defendant alleging violations of section 16(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”) 29 U.S.C. 216(b); the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act of 1968 (“PMWA”) 43 P.S. §§ 333.101-333.115; and the Pennsylvania Wage Collection Act of 1961, 43 Pa. Cons.Stat. Ann. §§ 260.1-260.45. Before the Court is Defendant’s motion for Partial Summary Judgment seeking dismissal of Mr. Truman’s claim that he is due overtime pay under the FLSA for the period of time he worked outside of the United States. Defnedant filed a Reply to Mr. Truman’s Response arguing for the first time that Mr. Truman was also not entitled to overtime payments under the PMWA for the period of time he worked in foreign countries. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a Sur-Reply opposing the imposition of Partial Summary Judgment to his PMWA claim. The Court denied the motion for Partial Summary Judgment with regards to the PMWA claim.

After discussing the statutory basis for granting Defendant’s Motion regarding the FLSA and the foreign work, the Court turned to Plaintiff’s claims for the same work under the PMWA, stating, “[t]he Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act guarantees that employees will be paid one and one-half times their regular rate for any overtime worked. 43 P.S. § 333.104(c). Exemptions to this statutory provision are recorded in 43 P.S. § 333.105. Unlike the FLSA, the PMWA does not contain an explicit exemption for work performed outside of the United States. However, the PMWA has been construed to extend its protections to employees who work outside of Pennsylvania. Friedrich v. U.S. Computer Systems, Inc., 1996 WL 32888 (E.D.Pa. Jan.22, 1996). In Friedrich the Court permitted the PMWA to apply to Pennsylvania-based employees who perform work in states outside of Pennsylvania. 1996 WL 32888, at *8-9. Allowing employees who perform work outside of Pennsylvania to benefit from the PMWA is in accord with the PMWA’s Declaration of Policy. 43 P.S. § 333.101 (“Employes employed in such occupations are not as a class on a level of equality in bargaining with their employers in regard to minimum fair wage standards … wages in such occupations are often found to bear no relation to the fair value of the services rendered”). Thus, there is nothing within the PMWA that restricts the benefits of the PMWA to work performed within the United States.

The FLSA does not preempt state minimum wage acts from offering greater protection to state employees than does the FLSA. For example, the FLSA states that, “[n]o provision of this Act … or of any order thereunder shall excuse noncompliance with any Federal or State law or municipal ordinance establishing a minimum wage higher than the minimum wage established under this Act.”29 U.S.C. § 218(a). Additionally, several courts have found that explicit FLSA exemptions do not preempt state laws from offering state employees greater protections than FLSA. See e.g., Pacific Merchant Shipping Ass’n v. Aubry, 918 F.2d 1409, 1417 (9th Cir.1990) (“We hold that [29 U.S.C.] section 213(b)(6) does not preempt California from applying the state’s overtime pay laws to FLSA-exempt seamen working off the California coast.”); Pennsylvania Dept. of Labor and Industry v. Whipple, 1989 WL 407328, at *3 (Pa.Com.Pl., 1989) (Overtime exemptions under FLSA “do not affect coverage under Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act”); Ploufe v. Farm & Ranch Equip. Co., 174 Mont. 313, 320, 570 P.2d 1106 (Mont.1977) (holding that FLSA did not preempt Montana from regulating overtime and wages under the Montana Minimum Wages and Hours Act). In light of the FLSA’s explicit recognition that states may offer greater protections to its employees than the FLSA, we are reluctant to find an unstated foreign-work exemption in the PMWA based solely on the fact that the FLSA contains such an exemption. Baum v. Astrazeneca LP, 605 F.Supp.2d 669, 674 (W.D.Pa.2009) (finding that “[b]ecause the FLSA is a remedial act, the exemptions are typically narrowly construed”).

In Williams v. W.V.A. Transit Co., 472 F.2d 1258 (D.C.Cir.1972), the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that the District of Columbia Minimum Wage Act was not limited by an explicit FLSA exemption:

[A]n employee does not lose his status of being employed in the District merely because he receives an assignment, for a relatively short period, that calls on him to spend all his time for that period at some location outside the District. Otherwise, that status would be lost or suspended through relatively isolated or occasional employment outside the District, and from the common sense of the matter we conclude that this is not the legislative intent. 472 F.2d at 1265-1266. As in Williams, we find that, although there is an applicable FLSA exemption, we cannot find an implied foreign work exemption in the PMWA to remove coverage from Pennsylvania residents who have been given assignments outside of Pennsylvania. If the Pennsylvania legislature had wanted to exempt foreign work from the PMWA it could have expressly included that exemption within the PMWA. See Friedrich, 1996 WL 32888, at *5 (“The Pennsylvania legislature enacted the PMWA to protect those employees who do not benefit from federal protection [under the FLSA].”) Our conclusion is in accord with the FLSA and its regulations that permit state laws to offer greater protections than the FLSA. See29 U.S.C. 218(a) (Section 218“expressly contemplates that workers covered by state law as well as FLSA shall have any additional benefits provided by the state law higher minimum wages; or lower maximum work week.” Williams, 472 F.2d at 1261);29 C.F.R. § 778.5 (“[n]othing in the act, the regulations or the interpretations announced by the Administrator should be taken to override or nullify the provisions” of state and local laws.)

In support of its argument that the FLSA and PMWA should have an identical analysis, DBA relies on Paul v. UPMC Health Sys., C.A. No. 06-1565, 2009 WL 699943 (W.D.Pa. Mar.10, 2009). In Paul, the defendant argued that the plaintiff was properly classified as an administrative employee and was therefore exempt from the overtime requirements under both the FLSA or the PMWA. The Paul Court noted that the “administrative exemptions” set forth in both the FLSA and PMWA are identical, and therefore only analyzed “the applicability of the administrative exemption to plaintiff’s FLSA claim,” noting that “the same analysis, however, also applies to plaintiff’s PMWA claim.” 2009 WL 699943, at *8, n. 1. The Paul Court applied an identical analysis only because both Acts contain express administrative exemptions. The Paul case does not address the circumstance when the FLSA contains an explicit exemption and the PMWA contains no corresponding exemption.

DBA’s reliance on Mitchell v. Abercrombie & Fitch, No. C2-04-306, 2005 WL 1159412 (S.D.Ohio May 17, 2005) is also misplaced. The Mitchell case concerned application of the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act to a plaintiff who not only did all of his work outside of Ohio, but also did not reside in Ohio. The Mitchell Court found that the Ohio legislature did not intend the Act to apply to workers, “who perform no work within the territorial limits of the State of Ohio [and that] the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution prohibits Ohio from regulating the working conditions of a non-resident who performs work and earns wages outside of the state.” 2005 WL 1159412, at *3 (emphasis added). The Mitchell Court also noted that there was “no claim that [plaintiff] ever worked for even a brief period of time in Ohio, which would change the analysis as to the applicability of Ohio law to his employment relationship.” 2005 WL 1159412, at *4. Here, there is no dispute that Mr. Truman is a Pennsylvania-based employee.

The employer has the burden of proof of to show that an employee fits into an exemption. Baum, 605 F.Supp.2d at 674. Mr. Truman has conceded that work he performed outside of the United States is not protected by the FLSA, and thus we will grant DBA’s motion in this respect. However, DBA has failed to show that Mr. Truman is an exempt employee under the PMWA for the work performed in England and Canada. Nothing within the language of the statute implies that work performed in a foreign country by a Pennsylvania resident does not deserve the same protections as work performed within Pennsylvania by the same resident and for the same company. Accordingly, we will deny the motion for partial summary judgment with regards to the PMWA claim.”

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Filed under State Law Claims, Work Time