MATTHEW DEWAN, Individually and On Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated; WILLIAM J. CASEY, Plaintiffs - Appellants
M-I, L.L.C., doing business as M-I SWACO, Defendant-Appellee
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Texas
DAVIS, DENNIS, and SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judges.
H. SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judge
oilfield workers sued their employer for unpaid overtime
wages. The district court granted summary judgment on the
defendant's affirmative defense that the plaintiffs fell
under the administrative exemption of the Fair Labor
Standards Act. Finding there to be genuine disputes of
material fact that affect whether the exemption applies, we
REVERSE and REMAND.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
M-I SWACO is an oilfield service company that specializes in
engineering drilling-fluid systems and additives designed to
improve performance for oil and gas well drilling operations.
As part of its business, M-I employs Drilling Fluid
Specialists, or "mud engineers, " who work at M-I
customer locations to manage the drilling-fluid system and
interact directly with the customers by providing advice and
minimum educational requirement for a mud engineer is a
high-school diploma. Once hired, mud engineers undergo an
eight-week training program at M-I's office in Houston,
Texas. During the program, trainees receive basic instruction
on the functions of drilling fluids, their physical and
chemical properties, mathematics, and training on the proper
use of testing equipment and computer software.
engineer works to ensure the properties of the drilling
fluid, also known as drilling mud,  are within designed specifications as set
forth in the mud plan, which is created by a project engineer
at M-I's headquarters and is based on historical drilling
in the area. Both plaintiffs claimed that they did not have
authority to deviate from the mud plan. Mud engineers perform
their duties either by "sitting" on the
customer's well (an extended, round-the-clock monitoring
of one drill site) or doing a "drive-by" (quick
visits to multiple drill sites).
ensure the drilling mud is performing adequately and within its designated parameters, mud
engineers test the mud's pH, rheology, weight, and
viscosity. The tests are generally conducted either in a lab
trailer at the customer's site or on the tailgate of the
mud engineer's assigned company vehicle. Plaintiff Dewan
testified at his deposition that, after testing was complete,
he would provide recommendations to the "company
man." These recommendations were largely accepted
without further inquiry. The plaintiffs were typically the
only M-I employees or mud engineers on site.
employed Plaintiffs Matthew Dewan and William Casey as mud
engineers until December 2012. On December 14, 2012, Dewan
filed a putative class-action suit against M-I, alleging
violations of the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor
Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§
201-19. That same day, Casey consented to join the suit
pending collective or class-action certification. After
discovery closed, M-I moved for summary judgment on various
grounds, including that the plaintiffs were exempt from the
FLSA's overtime requirements under 29 U.S.C. §
213(a)(1). The plaintiffs separately moved for judgment on
the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).
district court (1) denied the plaintiffs' motion for
judgment on the pleadings; (2) denied M-I's motion for
summary judgment as to the claim that Casey was not a party
to the lawsuit; (3) denied M-I's motion as to the
FLSA's outside sales and combination exemptions; and (4)
granted M-I's motion on the grounds that the plaintiffs
fell under the FLSA's administrative exemption. The
plaintiffs timely appealed.
1938, Congress enacted the FLSA in an effort to ensure each
employee covered by the Act would receive "[a] fair
day's pay for a fair day's work and would be
protected from the evil of overwork as well as
underpay." Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight Sys.,
Inc., 450 U.S. 728, 739 (1981). One way the FLSA
effectuates these goals is through its overtime provision,
which requires an employer to compensate any covered employee
who works in excess of 40 hours in a workweek "at a rate
not less than one and one-half times the [employee's]
regular rate . . . ." 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1).
Relevant here, the FLSA excludes from its overtime
requirement those employees working "in a bona fide
executive, administrative, or professional capacity . . .
." Id. § 213(a)(1).
district court granted summary judgment for M-I, holding that
these employees were exempt from the overtime rules. In our
de novo review, we use the same standards as did the
district court in considering facts and analyzing law.
Owsley v. San Antonio Indep. Sch. Dist., 187 F.3d
521, 523 (5th Cir. 1999). Summary judgment is proper when the
movant shows there are no genuine issues of material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
summary judgment is sought on an affirmative defense, as
here, the movant "must establish beyond peradventure
all of the essential elements of the claim or
defense to warrant judgment in his favor." Fontenot
v. Upjohn Co., 780 F.2d 1190, 1194 (5th Cir. 1986).
"Once the movant does so, the burden shifts to the
nonmovant to establish an issue of fact that warrants
trial." Smith v. Reg'l Transit Auth., 827
F.3d 412, 420 n.4 (5th Cir. 2016). The burden of proof on
exempt status is on the employer. Owsley, 187 F.3d
at 523. Because of the Act's remedial nature, we narrowly
construe its exemptions in favor of the employee.
these statements we add something further. There is no
dispute about what these two engineers did from day to day.
Even so, more is involved of relevance here than just a
record of the plaintiffs' daily activities. Those facts
must be interpreted based on the regulations. For the
administrative exemption to apply, the employee must be one
(1) who is "[c]ompensated on a salary or fee basis at a
rate of not less than $455 per week;" (2) "[w]hose
primary duty is the performance of office or non-manual work
directly related to the management or general business
operations of the employer or the employer's
customers;" and (3) "[w]hose primary duty includes
the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with
respect to matters of significance." 29 C.F.R. §
541.200. The compensation of the plaintiffs is clearly
sufficient. The second and third criteria, though, require a