Thompson v. Scott Petroleum Company
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER re: 18 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Charles H. Thompson and 10 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Scott Petroleum Company. Signed by Honorable Robert T. Dawson on March 9, 2012. (cnn)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
EL DORADO DIVISION
CHARLES H. THOMPSON,
Case No. 11-1012
SCOTT PETROLEUM CORPORATION
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Defendant Scott Petroleum Corp. is a petroleum and propane
commercial fuel industry in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.
(Doc. 12, ¶ 3).
Plaintiff Thompson alleges that Scott, his
former employer, violated the overtime requirements of the Fair
Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
He also alleges Scott
terminated him after he informed it that the refusal to pay an
overtime premium violated the law.
He seeks recovery of back-
pay, liquidated damages, interest, costs and attorney’s fees.
Before the Court are Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. 10), Brief in Support (Doc. 11), Statement of Facts (Doc.
12), Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 18), Brief in
Support (Doc. 21) and Statement of Facts (Doc. 20).
II. Standard of Review
Summary judgment is appropriate when, viewing the facts and
inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party,
“the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file,
and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The plain language of Rule
56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate
time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to
element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
“A party seeking summary
judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing
the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying
affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of
a genuine issue of material fact.”
Id. at 323.
If the moving
party meets the initial burden, the burden then shifts to the
opposing party to produce evidence of the existence of a genuine
issue for trial.
Id. at 324.
The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party, giving the nonmoving party the benefit of
all reasonable inferences.
Kenney v. Swift Transport, Inc., 347
F.3d 1041, 1044 (8th Cir. 2003).
“In ruling on a motion for
“Where the unresolved issues
are primarily legal rather than factual, summary judgment is
Koehn v. Indian Hills Cmty. Coll.,
371 F.3d 394, 396 (8th Cir. 2004).
Thompson has moved for Summary Judgment contending he is
not exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA and that he
is entitled to liquidated damages, attorney’s fees and costs.
administrative exemption to the FLSA.
In the alternative, Scott
asks the court to grant Summary Judgment limiting recovery under
the FLSA in accordance with the fluctuating work week standard.
requirements under the administrative exemption. See 29 U.S.C.
§ 213(a)(1). Generally, the administrative exemption applies to
(1) Compensated on a
not less than $455
employed in American
salary or fee basis at a rate of
per week (or $380 per week, if
Samoa by employers other than the
exclusive of board, lodging or
(2) Whose 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) Whose primary duty includes the exercise of
discretion and independent judgment with respect to
matters of significance.
29 C.F.R. § 541.200(a).
The Code of Federal Regulations sets out examples and some
guidance for analyzing the second element of this exemption:
(a) To qualify for the administrative exemption, an
employee's primary duty must be the performance of
work directly related to the management or general
business operations of the employer or the employer's
customers. The phrase “directly related to the
management or general business operations” refers to
the type of work performed by the employee. To meet
this requirement, an employee must perform work
directly related to assisting with the running or
servicing of the business, as distinguished, for
example, from working on a manufacturing production
line or selling a product in a retail or service
(b) Work directly related to management or general
business operations includes, but is not limited to,
work in functional areas such as tax; finance;
accounting; budgeting; auditing; insurance; quality
marketing; research; safety and health; personnel
management; human resources; employee benefits; labor
relations; public relations, government relations;
administration; legal and regulatory compliance; and
similar activities. Some of these activities may be
performed by employees who also would qualify for
(c) An employee may qualify for the administrative
exemption if the employee's primary duty is the
performance of work directly related to the management
or general business operations of the employer's
customers. Thus, for example, employees acting as
advisers or consultants to their employer's clients or
customers (as tax experts or financial consultants,
for example) may be exempt.
29 C.F.R. § 541.201.
“Disputes regarding the nature of an employee’s duties are
questions of fact, but the ultimate question whether an employee
is exempt under the FLSA is an issue of law.”
Jarrett v. ERC
Properties, Inc., 211 F.3d 1078, 1081 (8th Cir. 2000).
It is undisputed that during the three years prior to his
(Doc. 12, 16 ¶ 6).
is disagreement about the other requirements for exemption.
Determination of an employee’s primary duty must be based
on all the facts in a particular case, with the major emphasis
on the character of the employee’s job as a whole.
29 C.F.R. §
“Under these regulations, therefore, an employee's
primary duty is that which is of principal importance to the
employer, rather than collateral tasks which may take up more
than fifty percent of his or her time.”
Spinden v. GS Roofing
Products Co., Inc., 94 F.3d 421 (8th Cir. 1996).
performance of office or non-manual work directly related to
Scott’s general business operations.
Scott refers to Thompson’s duties of dispatching fuel delivery
complaints and remaining in contact with his division manager,
all of which can be categorized as “generally assist[ing] with
the running of Scott’s business.”
argues that Thompson’s duties involved the use of discretion and
independent judgment in that he was authorized to adjust fuel
prices to some customers within a preset range of two cents per
gallon and could recommend additional price adjustments to his
Thompson claims that he spent 20% of his days inputting
station and division; 65% waiting on customers who came to the
station to buy fuel and fuel-related products and 5% opening and
closing the store, answering customer questions and performing
general customer service related issues.
(Doc. 20, ¶ 10).
was the only employee at the store and did not supervise anyone.
substantially limited by company policies and that the exercise
of such discretion (two cent discount on fuel) had little impact
on Scott’s business and profit margins.
Because a majority of
establishment and his ability to perform duties directly related
oversight of his supervisors, Thompson argues that he cannot fit
within the administrative exemption.
Scott continues to argue Thompson is exempt.
Scott produced an
affidavit from its General Manager stating that Thompson was not
always in the office from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and that he was
paid significantly more than employees it employed to handle
payment for sales at the pump.
(Doc. 27, Ex. 1).
produced an application for employment filled out by Thompson
after his termination from Scott, wherein Thompson described his
testified that he was called a manager, that he had been asked
“mainly did paperwork and talking on the phone.”
(Doc. 27, Ex.
Scott provided the General Manager’s deposition testimony
(Doc. 27, Ex. 5).
In Thompson’s Response to Scott’s Motion to Dismiss, he
contends that he did not perform the majority of the activities
set out in 29 C.F.R. § 541.201 and that the ones he did perform
were restricted by the oversight of his supervisors and the
amount of time he spent on them (purchasing) was insignificant.
Scott is correct that the percentage of time an employee
spends on administrative tasks is but one factor in determining
if administration was the employee’s primary duty.
v. GS Roofing Products Co., Inc., 94 F.3d 421, 427 (8th Cir.
The Eighth Circuit also said in Spinden that “the amount
of time devoted to administrative duties, and the significance
(internal citations omitted.)
Furthermore, the employer bears
unmistakably within the exemption’s terms and spirit.”
426 (internal citations omitted).
In cases such as this, the demanding fact-based inquiry is
not appropriate for summary judgment. While it is the Court's
role to determine Thompson’s status, the record does not serve
Thompson fits “plainly and unmistakably” within the exemption
which is to be “narrowly construed in order to further Congress’
goal of providing broad federal employment protection.”
at 426 (internal citations omitted).
There are facts which could lead to the conclusion that
Thompson’s primary duty was administrative and facts that could
lead to the opposite conclusion.
The parties do not agree on
what Thompson did during his workday or how much discretion and
responsibility he had.
In addition, there may be issues of
material fact relating to whether Plaintiff’s primary duties at
Scott’s Petroleum fell within FLSA's administrative exemption
for overtime pay preclude the grant of the parties’ Motions for
The Court declines to address the ancillary issue of the
This issue is best addressed if and when
it becomes appropriate at trial.
Accordingly, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc.
10) is DENIED and Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc.
18) is DENIED and this matter remains set for a jury trial on
Monday, March 26, 2012 beginning at 9:00 a.m.
Attorneys will be
present at 8:00 a.m. to discuss trial-related matters.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 9th day of March, 2012.
/s/ Robert T. Dawson
Robert T. Dawson
United States District Judge
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