Administrative employees classified as exempt under the administrative exemption who function as a “one man department” at times challenge whether their work genuinely constitutes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.  They argue that without subordinates, the work must entail significant ministerial tasks.  Rejecting just such a challenge, a Georgia federal judge recently determined that the rental manager for a historic mansion operating as a non-profit fine arts center, responsible for ensuring continued rental of its facilities, qualified for the exemption.  Cue-Lipin v. Callanwolde Found., Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20057 (N.D. Ga. Feb. 14, 2014).

Plaintiff Cue-Lipin served as the rental manager for Callanwolde, a historic Tudor mansion in Atlanta listed in the national register of historic places.  Callanwolde generated approximately half its revenue through fee-based services which included “renting its property for private events.”  The facility prevailed on its assertion that plaintiff exercised discretion and independent judgment vis à vis her authority to negotiate and select customers as well as through her development of marketing strategy.  The court rejected plaintiff’s contention that all of these functions were performed within guideline constraints.

The Cue-Lipin decision highlights the essential duties a classic FLSA administratively exempt employee should perform to demonstrate significant discretion and independent judgment:  negotiation; recommendations regarding policy; and/or serving as the “face” of the organization.  State law requirements must be analyzed separately where applicable.