The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that requires most employers to pay overtime to employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek, even in the event that such workers are paid on a salary basis. Very often, employers do not pay workers overtime even if they are entitled to it. This is illegal, and employers who act with such disregard for the FLSA hurt their workers by withholding money that they have earned.
If your employer (or former employer) has not paid you an overtime rate of at least time and a half for each hour worked in a week over 40, you may be able to hold it responsible for paying you the money you are owed. The attorneys at DuBose Law Firm, PLLC can help you determine whether you have a valid case. If you have worked overtime and have not received the appropriate pay, you may contact DuBose Law Firm for a free case evaluation by chatting, calling (888)295-3943 filling out our contact form.
Dispatchers Entitled to Overtime
The issue of whether dispatchers are due overtime pay has been heavily contested. A federal court in Texas, however, recently ruled that dispatchers employed by a petrochemical inspection company were owed back wages for working overtime. In that case, several dispatchers filed claims against Camin Cargo Control, Inc., asserting that they were owed unpaid overtime. In response, Camin Cargo argued that it should not be held liable for the dispatchers’ unpaid overtime based on the “executive exemption” and the “administrative exemption.”
Camin argued that its dispatchers were covered by the executive and administrative exemptions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, the federal law that governs overtime pay. To escape liability under the “executive exemption,” Camin had to show that:
1. the dispatchers compensated on a salary basis at a rate of not less than $455 per week;
2. the dispatchers’ primary duty was management of the enterprise in which the employee is employed (or of a customarily recognized department or subdivision thereof);
3. the dispatchers customarily and regularly directed the work of two or more other employees; and
4. the dispatchers had the authority to hire or fire other employees or whose suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring, firing, advancement, promotion, or any other change of status of other employees are given particular weight.
The dispatchers contested the second, third and fourth elements. Basing its ruling on the fourth element, the Court held that “[n]one of the evidence cited by Camin suggests that a dispatcher’s recommendation as to the ‘hiring, firing, advancement, promotion, or any other change of status of other employees’ was given ‘particular weight.’ In fact, although there is some evidence that a dispatcher reviewed inspectors’ paperwork and occasionally “wrote up” an inspector, there is no evidence of any instance in which a dispatcher had a role in a hiring, firing, promotion or disciplinary decision. Based on the record, no reasonable trier of fact could conclude that dispatchers meet the executive exemption of the FLSA and plaintiffs’ are entitled to summary judgment on this issue.”
To prevail on its argument that the administrative exemption precluded the dispatchers from recovering overtime pay, Camin had to show that the dispatchers:
1. were compensated at a salary of at least $455 per week,
2. had a primary duty of performing office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer’s customers, and
3. had a primary duty that includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.”
Basing its ruling on the second element, the Court reasoned as follows:
Factors to consider when determining the primary duty of an employee include, but are not limited to, the relative importance of the exempt duties as compared with other types of duties; the amount of time spent performing exempt work; the employee’s relative freedom from direct supervision; and the relationship between the employee’s salary and the wages paid to other employees for the kind of nonexempt work performed by the employee. The court looks to the aspect of the employee’s job that is “of principal value to the employer, not the collateral tasks that she may also perform even if they consume more than half her time.” Duties that relate to “general business operations” are those that every business must undertake, not those specifically related to what service or product the business provides. The regulations explain that work directly related to management or general business operations includes work in the following “functional areas”: tax; finance; accounting; budgeting; auditing; insurance; quality control; purchasing; procurement; advertising; marketing; research; safety and health; personnel management; human resources; employee benefits; labor relations; public relations, government relations; computer network, internet and database administration; legal and regulatory compliance; and similar activities. The evidence supports a finding that the primary duty of dispatchers was to dispatch inspectors to customer locations. While there is some evidence that dispatchers performed various other tasks, this evidence does not support a finding that any of those ancillary tasks were a dispatcher’s primary duty. Moreover, the ancillary tasks identified (such as checking paperwork to make sure inspectors were not making mistakes) relate to producing the services that Camin exists to provide, not the business affairs of the enterprise.
The Court concluded that Camin could not escape liability based on the executive or administrative exemptions, and the dispatchers were able to pursue their claims for unpaid overtime.
Some employers make the mistake of assuming that simply because a dispatcher is paid a salary, or is called “salaried” or “exempt”, or has a managerial job title, the employee will be considered exempt from overtime pay. Few things could be further from the truth. Many non-exempt employees are paid a salary, such as nurses, dispatchers, loan officers, receptionists, secretaries, file clerks, and technicians. In a similar vein, giving an employee a high-sounding job title such as “director of production” or “sales manager” will make no difference, if the employee’s job duties do not satisfy the criteria found in the Department of Labor’s “duties” test for an exemption category. In short, the DOL looks right past what a person is paid or called, instead focusing on the nature of the job and how the employee does the job.
Contact Us for More Information
If your employer (or former employer) has not paid you an overtime rate of at least time and a half for each hour worked in a week over 40, you may be able to hold it responsible for paying you the money you are owed. The attorneys at DuBose Law Firm have handled unpaid overtime cases for a wide variety of occupations such as dispatchers, registered nurses, home healthcare workers, oil field workers, food service workers, notary service workers and office managers. At DuBose Law Firm your initial consultation is always free and confidential. We will review your information, answer your questions, and determine if you have a valid case at no cost to you. If you have worked overtime and have not received the appropriate pay, contact the DuBose Law Firm for a free case evaluation by chatting, calling (888)295-3943 filling out our contact form.