One of the industry-specific overtime exemptions contained in 29 U.S.C. § 213(b) is the exemption from overtime applicable to sales employees engaged in selling “trailers, boats, or aircraft, if he is employed by a nonmanufacturing establishment primarily engaged in the business of selling trailers, boats, or aircraft to ultimate purchasers.”  Judge Carlton W. Reeves of the Southern District of Mississippi recently addressed the applicability of this exemption to the sale of mobile homes. Cliburn v. Manufactured Home Ctr., Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 182695 (S.D. Miss. Dec. 28, 2012).

In Cliburn, it was undisputed that the plaintiff was involved in sale of the mobile homes, and such sales constituted more than 50% of the employer’s business.  Thus, the sole legal question was whether these mobile homes were qualifying “trailers.” Analyzing the parties’ arguments and collecting the limited authority available on the subject, the Court ruled that factual issues prevented it from issuing a final decision on the merits. Specifically, the Court needed to know the nature of the foundations on which the mobile home sat, i.e., whether they were “permanent” (in which case they would not be qualifying mobile homes) or “typical foundations: dirt or concrete pads with sewer and water connections” (in which case they would be mobile homes qualifying for the exemption). 

Cliburn is another decision highlighting the technical nature of FLSA exemptions, including those codified in 29 U.S.C. § 213(b) for application to specific industries such as vehicle sales, motion picture houses or, oddly enough, “processing of maple sap into sugar (other than refined sugar) or syrup” (see 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(15)). As always, analysis of these exemptions, as well as their applicability under state law, must be undertaken with counsel as part of a business analysis, as liabilities for misclassification can cause significant damages to the business.