Determining whether an employee's duties fall within the administrative exception of the Fair Labor Standards Act can be more of an art than a science. A new Arkansas case gives employers a motive to be more conservative in their decision-making, perhaps suggesting that employers be more DaVinci than Dali.
In Wolfe v. Clear Title, LLC, Wolfe, a salaried employee sued her employer, Clear Title, LLC, for violation of the FLSA and sought punitive damages for retaliation that followed her request for overtime pay. Her job duties as Escrow Manager included preparing documents, ordering items needed for closing, working with lenders for payoffs, working with title insurance companies, and dealing with clients. Although her job title included the word "manager," Wolfe did not supervise other employees. Clear Title sought to paint her job description as falling under the administrative exception of FLSA. Wolfe argued that she did not meet this exception because her position did not require her to use discretion and independent judgment. Instead, Wolfe's duties required her to follow pre-set procedures. Because there were issues of fact, mainly conflicting affidavits, the district court denied Clear Title's motion for summary judgment.
Shifting its focus to the issue of whether punitive damages are available under the FLSA, the court noted that the circuit courts are split. To make matters more difficult, the district courts within the Eighth Circuit are split as well. Some courts find that punitive damages are available for employees who claim retaliation, while the other courts do not. Now, the Eastern District of Arkansas finds that punitive damages are available for an FLSA retaliation claim. So, in case you needed another reason to make a more conservative choice regarding FLSA in Arkansas, the Eastern District has just painted a clear picture for you.