Seyfarth Synopsis: New York district court judge in Krupinski v. Laborers Eastern Region Org. Fund, No. 15-cv-00982 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2016), grants union’s summary judgment dismissing former union organizer’s FLSA.

Former union organizer of LEROF, a non-profit organization associated with the Laborers International Union of North America (“LIUNA”) sued the Union for unpaid wages under the FLSA.

Did the Union properly classify the union organizer as exempt? This was the question at issue before the court. Both the Union’s summary judgment motion and Plaintiff’s partial summary judgment motion focused on the answer to this question. The court agreed with the Union that the Union organizer’s job duties were duties of an exempt employee.

The court first reviewed Plaintiff’s primary duties. As an organizer, Plaintiff’s primary objective was to motivate, educate, and train construction workers and to convince non-union workers to join LIUNA. Plaintiff frequently worked off-site to participate in “rat and casket” actions. According to the organizer, these actions, or demonstrations, were organized to protest poor working conditions at non-unionized worksites and used inflatable rats and coffins as props.

Plaintiff argued that the physical labor in setting up the inflatable rats, constantly adjusting and maintaining the rats, and carrying and unloading the caskets rendered his duties mostly manual in nature. The court rejected his argument noting that the physical tasks were merely incidental to the primary, non-manual duty of organizing workers.

The court also found that the undisputed facts showed that plaintiff’s primary duties were to increase LIUNA’s membership and market share. Organizers were essentially the face of LIUNA to the public and non-unionized workers. The court noted that his duties, thus, mirrored several duties listed in the Secretary of Labor’s regulation as examples of exempt type of work.

The court also analyzed Plaintiff’s discretion and independent judgment on matters of significance. Plaintiff identified target workers and potential candidates for house calls during union campaigns, searched for and reported potential health code violations at non-union job sites, and varied his approach during organizing campaigns depending on the situation. The court found that Plaintiff undoubtedly exercised discretion and independent judgment when engaging in this work. Moreover, because labor union organizing campaigns are of significance to the Union, the court noted, Plaintiff’s role in these campaigns was important for determining his status as an exempt employee.

The court concluded that the Union successfully showed that its former organizer was an exempt administrative employee. As a result, the court granted the Union’s summary judgment motion burying the union organizer’s FLSA claims six feet under.