Cotten v. HFS-USA, Inc.
This case was before the Court on Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, alleging that Plaintiff, a “Field Supervisor,” for a construction “finishing” company, was exempt from the overtime provisions of FLSA under the “administrative exemption.” After reviewing the elements of the Administrative Exemption, the Court found that Plaintiff was not Administratively Exempt, because his primary duty was not directly related to the management of general business operations of Defendant, and because he did not exercise the requisite independent judgment or discretion with regard to matters of significance.
Addressing the “related to management of general business operations” prong first, the Court stated, “[b]ased on the undisputed evidence before the Court, it cannot be said that Cotten’s primary duties as a field supervisor were directly related to the management or general business operations of HFS. Although it can be said that Cotten “managed” certain assigned installation sites, his duties were concerned with ensuring that the installers received their work orders, retrieved the correct materials from the warehouse, and completed the installation job as specified in the contract and the work order and in compliance with specified standards. Cotten was not responsible for negotiating or executing contracts, creating work orders, or developing the applicable standards….
Cotten’s job duties are precisely the type that have been found to be consistent with production rather than administration. For example, in Sack v. Miami Helicopter Service, Inc., a court in the Southern District of Florida determined that an employee’s duties of opening work orders, planning repair work, ordering required materials, directing mechanics as to what work to perform, determining whether certain parts complied with F.A.A. standards, and directing repair or replacement of parts that failed inspection did not qualify as administrative tasks related to operation of the business. 986 F.Supp. 1456, 1470-71 (S.D.Fla.1997). The court found that these activities were an integral part of the production of the business and therefore did not directly relate to management policies or general business operations. Id.”
Next, the Court analyzed the “discretion or independent judgment” prong of the Administrative Exemption, stating, “Cotten spent much of his time performing inspections, which took place at all phases of the installation process. These inspections were conducted according to pre-established industry standards or the terms of the particular contract. (Id. at 5). Cotten had no specialized training and simply compared what he saw at the job site with the standards he had previously been directed to conform with. (Id.). He filled out forms documenting the inspection results, and spoke with builders or his supervisors when defects were noted.(Id.). These routine inspection duties did not require the exercise of significant discretion or independent judgment…
Of course, Cotten’s duties were not limited to inspections. If an installation was not completed properly or on time, Cotten was responsible for bringing the job into compliance, either by directing the original installer to make the necessary repairs or, on rare occasions, by retaining a second installer to do the necessary work. Although Crowder has attested that field supervisors were free to assign “the installers of their choice” to a particular job, this is not entirely true. HFS maintained a list of qualified installers that field supervisors were required to use. (Id.). Cotten has sworn that he never used an installer that was not on the approved list.”
Therefore, the Court concluded, “[u]pon due consideration of the record evidence regarding Cotten’s work activities, the Court concludes that Cotten’s primary duties at HFS did not involve the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance. As previously discussed, cases considering employees with very similar duties to Cotten have declined to apply the administrative exemption.”
The Plaintiff in this case is represented by Andrew Frisch. If you believe that you have been similarly misclassified as exempt under the FLSA, and wrongly denied overtime, call 1-888-OVERTIME or go to EMAIL CONSULTATION for a free consultation with Andrew Frisch today.