District Judge Stanley Chesler of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey denied the defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment in a case involving an Airport Manager for Avis Budget Car Rental. The case, Tahir v. Avis Budget Group, Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29729 (D.N.J. March 23, 2011) involved allegations by the plaintiff that he was misclassified as an exempt employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and therefore wrongfully denied overtime compensation for hours worked over forty (40) each week. Defendants moved for summary judgment on the premise that the plaintiff was properly classified as exempt as he fit either the executive exemption or the administrative exemption as set forth by the FLSA. The Court held that the defendants had not met their heavy burden in bearing their burden of proof that the plaintiff fell into either of these exemptions.
Regarding the executive exemption, the Court found that the defendants had failed to show that plaintiff gave suggestions or recommendations which were given particular weight concerning the “hiring, firing, advancement, promotion or any other change of status” as to other employees.” 29 C.F.R. § 541.100(a). The Court noted that even though the plaintiff screened applicants for positions at the airport, submitted the applications to his superior, made observations as to intake conversations with prospective applicants, and was authorized to discipline employees, this was simply not enough to conclusively determine at this stage that plaintiff met this factor of the executive exemption.
Likewise, the Court also found that the third element of the administrative exemption was not met by the defendants which require that an employee’s “primary duty includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.” 29 C.F.R. § 541.200(a)(3). Determining whether an employee meets this third criterion requires further analysis of ten factors set forth by DOL regulation 29 C.F.R. § 541.202(b). Specifically, the Court stated that there was evidence that the plaintiff “does not have authority to bind the employer in any matter of significance, financial or otherwise; does not provide any expert advice to management and does not become involved in any planning of business objectives.” Thus, New Jersey wage and hour attorneys should keep in mind the heavy burden that a defendant must overcome in demonstrating as a matter of law that employees, such as Store Managers or Assistant Store Managers, are properly classified as exempt and therefore not owed any overtime compensation under the FLSA.