Whether front line supervisors and working foremen are exempt from bargaining units is always a contentious issue during union election campaigns. They perform much the same work as rank-and-file employees, but have some managerial functions. Whether they meet the National Labor Relations Act’s Section 2(11) definition of a supervisor is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

A similar issue is whether these workers are exempt from overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Sixth Circuit recently ruled that front line supervisors of a Michigan manufacturer could proceed with their claims for unpaid overtime despite supervising crews of 20 hourly employees because there was a genuine issue of fact whether the supervisors had sufficient influence over personnel decisions to qualify as exempt from overtime.

Although the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act use different tests to determine whether an employee is a manager, companies must closely evaluate both of these statutes individually to ensure they are in compliance with both laws.