Ramos v. Baldor Specialty Foods, Inc., No. 11-cv-216 (2d Cir. July 12, 2012): The plaintiffs, a group of warehouse “captains” employed during the night shift in the warehouse department of a wholesale food distributor, claimed that the company failed to pay them overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) because they had been misclassified as executives.The plaintiffs specifically alleged that their unit’s job duties were identical in nature to other groups within the company and thus prevented their unit from meeting the Department of Labor’s executive exception requirement. In rejecting the plaintiffs’ claims, the Second Circuit emphasized that the FLSA’s executive exemption does not impose “any such uniqueness requirement for customarily recognized departments or subdivisions” and that other courts “have acknowledged that work shifts can constitute customarily recognized departments or subdivisions.” The Second Circuit went on to list all of the executive-style job responsibilities of the plaintiffs, including but not limited to: overseeing the work of a team of three to six pickers (employees who retrieve food products from the warehouse); assigning different types of work to pickers; improving team performance and efficiency over time; and preparing individual picker production reports. In affirming summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the court held that even though the plaintiffs did not have offices or chairs, the totality of facts “clearly establish that each team is a customarily recognized subdivision with a continuing status and function,” and that “[w]hether all of the warehouse teams ‘perform the same responsibility and thus are interchangeable,’ as the plaintiffs assert, is ultimately immaterial.”
This article was published in the August 2012 issue of the New York eAuthority. .