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4th Cir.: Racing Track Employees Not Subject To The Administrative Exemption; Work Not “Directly Related To The Management Of General Business Operations”
Desmond v. PNGI Charles Town Gaming, L.L.C.
The case was before the Court on appeal. Previously the lower Court had awarded the employer Summary Judgment finding that all of the Plaintiff’s were exempt under the FLSA’s Administrative Exemption. The 4th Circuit disagreed and reversed.
“Charles Town Gaming operates a casino and live horse racing facility in Charles Town, West Virginia. The Former Employees worked for Charles Town Gaming in a non-supervisory position denominated as “Miscellaneous Racing Official,” which we will refer to as “Racing Official.” In the performance of their work duties, each of the Former Employees assisted in various tasks associated with Charles Town Gaming’s staging of live horse races. In the morning and on non-race work days, Racing Officials assist with clerical duties in the secretaries’ office, including noting rider changes, putting together the next day’s racing program, and completing racing entries for the following day. Racing Officials, including the Former Employees, rotated work in four roles: Placing Judge, Paddock Judge, Horse Identifier, and Clerk of Scales during horse races. A Placing Judge “observ[es] races from start to finish and determine[s] the final outcome using a viper computer system and photo finish systems … The Paddock Judge observ[es] the horses in the paddock prior to the running of a race, [ ] ensure[s] the horses are wearing the proper equipment for racing [and that] a responsible trainer or groom is in the paddock to saddle the horse and prepare it for the race. The Paddock Judge is also involved in seeing that a published workout is in the program or announced if [it is] not available by press time. The Horse Identifier is “responsible for foal papers, Coggins test results, and tattoos insuring the correct horse is running in any given race. The [Horse] Identifier goes to the paddock at race time and checks each horse’s tattoo.” J.A. 69, 152, 215; see also
W. Va.Code R. § 178-1-20 (2009). The Clerk of Scales “works in the jockeys’ room prior to and after each horse race and verifies each jockey’s presence and licensure, [as well as the jockey’s weight] before and after each race….”
Finding that Plaintiff’s duties did not fulfill either the 2nd prong of the administrative exemption. “directly related to the management of general business operations,” the Court explained:
“In contrast to the duties of these exempt employees in Shockeley, West, and Darveau, the Former Employees’ work was not directly related to the general business operations of Charles Town Gaming. During the horse races, Racing Officials fulfilled one of several roles, which required them to observe and examine the horses, the jockeys, the trainers or grooms, the relevant paperwork for the horses, the order of finish for the race, or the paperwork associated with any subsequent claims. Racing Officials have no supervisory responsibility and do not develop, review, evaluate, or recommend Charles Town Gaming’s business policies or strategies with regard to the horse races. Simply put, the Former Employees’ work did not entail the administration of-the “running or servicing of”-Charles Town Gaming’s business of staging live horse races. The Former Employees were not part of “the management” of Charles Town Gaming and did not run or service the “general business operations.” While serving as a Placing Judge, Paddock Judge, or performing similar duties is important to the operation of the racing business of Charles Town Gaming, those positions are unrelated to management or the general business functions of the company.
Instead, a Racing Official’s work consisted of tasks somewhat similar to those performed “on a manufacturing production line or selling a product in a retail or service establishment.” Cf.
29 C.F.R. § 541.201(a). Although the administrative-production dichotomy is an imperfect analytical tool in a service-oriented employment context, it is still a useful construct. Other Circuit Courts of Appeal have adopted and modified its logic to less traditional “production” situations:
[A]pplying the administrative-production dichotomy is not as simple as drawing the line between white-collar and blue-collar workers. On the contrary, non-manufacturing employees can be considered “production” employees in those instances where their job is to generate (i.e., “produce”) the very product or service that the employer’s business offers to the public. See, e.g., Reich v. New York, 3 F.3d 581, 587-89 (2d Cir.1993) (police investigators conduct or “produce” criminal investigations); Dalheim v. KDFW-TV, 928 F.2d 1220, 1230-31 (5th Cir.1990) (television station’s producers, directors, and assignment editors “produced” newscast, and were thus non-exempt).
Reich v. John Alden Life Ins. Co., 126 F.3d 1, 9 (1st Cir.1997).
As relevant here, Charles Town Gaming “produces” live horse races. The position of Racing Official consists of “the day-to-day carrying out of [Charles Town Gaming’s] affairs” to the public, a production-side role. See Bratt v. County of Los Angeles, 912 F .2d 1066, 1070 (9th Cir.1990), cited with approval in Shockley, 997 F.2d at 29. Because a Racing Official’s duties are not directly related to the general business operations of Charles Town Gaming, the position does not satisfy the requirements for the administrative exemption under the FLSA.”
Note, the Court declined to determine whether the “independent judgment and discretion” requirement of the 3rd prong was met, after having decided that Plaintiff’s work was not “directly related to the management of general business operations” although it is likely that they would have found that prong to have been lacking as well.