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Chaves v. Winn-Dixie Montgomery, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 24, 2017

KATHY CHAVES
v.
WINN-DIXIE MONTGOMERY, LLC

         SECTION: A (3)

          ORDER

          JAY C. ZAINEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion to Certify Class and Proceed as a Collective Action (Rec. Doc. 20) filed by Plaintiff Kathy Chaves. Defendant Winn-Dixie Montgomery, LLC opposes the Motion. (Rec. Doc. 23). The Motion, set for submission on May 17, 2017, is before the Court on the briefs without oral argument.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff seeks a conditional collective action certification from the Court on her claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). (Rec. Doc. 20-1). Defendant opposes Plaintiff's Motion arguing that 1) her position falls under the executive exemption under FLSA, and that 2) she has not demonstrated sufficient circumstances warranting conditional certification. (Rec. Doc. 23). Plaintiff was an employee of Defendant whose position was a service area manager. (Rec. Doc. 23-1). She served as a service area manager along with two other service area managers, under the assistant manager and the store manager. (Rec. Doc. 23-1).

         II. Analysis

         Plaintiff seeks a conditional certification of a collective action on her FLSA claims. Defendant seeks denial of Plaintiff's Motion arguing that 1) her position falls under the executive exemption under the FLSA, and 2) she has not demonstrated sufficient circumstances warranting conditional certification.

         a. Executive Exemption

         Defendant's first argument for denial of Plaintiff's Motion for Conditional Certification is that Plaintiff's position was as a salaried employee exempt under the executive exception of FLSA. (Rec. Doc. 23). In Plaintiff's Motion, she states that Defendant misclassified her and similarly situated employees, “when in fact they did not meet the appropriate ‘duties test.'” (Rec. Doc. 20-1).

         The executive exemption provides that executive employees are exempt from the general overtime requirements under the FLSA. 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1). A defendant must show all of the following: 1) the employee was compensated on a salary basis at a rate of at least $455/week, 2) the employee's primary duty was management of the enterprise or customarily recognized department or subdivision, 3) the employee customarily and regularly directed the work of two or more employees, and 4) the employee had the authority to hire or fire other employees, or the employee's suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring, firing, advancement, promotion or any other change of status of other employees were given particular weight. 29 C.F.R. § 541.100.

         As for the first requirement, an employee receives compensation on a “salary basis” as long as he or she receives “a predetermined amount constituting all or part of the employee's compensation, which amount is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of the work performed.” 29 C.F.R. § 541.602(a). As for the second requirement, “management” duties include “directing the work of employees; maintaining production or sales records for use in supervision or control; ... planning the work; determining the techniques to be used; apportioning the work among the employees; determining the type of materials, supplies, machinery, equipment or tools to be used or merchandise to be bought, stocked and sold; ... [and] providing for the safety and security of the employees or the property.” 29 C.F.R. § 541.102.

         Defendant took Plaintiff's deposition in which she states that she was paid a salary of $48, 000.00 a year (roughly $923 per week). (Rec. Doc. 23-1). Therefore, the Defendant has shown that Plaintiff's employment meets the first requirement of the executive exemption. Plaintiff also states in her deposition that she supervised roughly sixty individuals, satisfying the third requirement that she direct the work of two or more employees. (Rec. Doc. 23-1). Additionally, Plaintiff states in her deposition that she did oversee the hiring of front-end store employees, particularly the hiring of cashiers. Plaintiff also states in her deposition that she made recommendations to terminate certain employees. (Rec. Doc. 23-1). Thus, Plaintiff's employment satisfies the fourth requirement of the executive exemption because her recommendations as to the hiring of front-end employees was given particular weight. Accordingly, as Defendant states, whether Plaintiff's position qualifies for an executive exemption under the FLSA turns on whether her position meets the second requirement that her primary duty was management of the enterprise, customarily recognized department, or subdivision.

         In Plaintiff's reply, she argues that her new position as service area manager was substantially similar to her previous position as front-end manager, which was always classified as a non-exempt position by Defendant, as Defendant's representative acknowledged in his deposition. (Rec. Doc. 33). In its sur-reply, Defendant states that to answer whether a position was primarily management of the enterprise is a case-specific, fact-intensive inquiry into Plaintiff's job duties. Defendant argues that because Plaintiff was given a key to the store, was the assigned manager on duty about 15 - 20% of the time, and given the fact that only salaried managers were responsible for opening and closing the store or acting as manager on duty, Plaintiff's primary duty was the management of the enterprise or customarily recognized department or subdivision. (Rec. Doc. 34-1).

         The Court finds that Defendant has not met its burden of proving the second requirement, that Plaintiff's primary duty was management of the enterprise, customarily recognized ...


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