A Tennessee federal court recently held that a “Print and Archive Vendor Liaison” responsible for coordinating with outside vendors to print and deliver customer invoices qualified for the administrative exemption notwithstanding the employee’s inability to deviate from employer policies or budgets.  See Boaz v. Fed. Express. Corp., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70342 (W.D. Tenn. May 22, 2015).

In Boaz, Plaintiff received a monthly salary of $4,180.00, and testified during trial that her primary duties included “overseeing and troubleshooting failures” in the delivery of invoices between Federal Express customers and the vendors responsible for printing those invoices, and correcting the failure by “get[ting] the right people on a conference call and act[ing] as a liaison between the print vendor and [her employer], until the issue was resolved.” Plaintiff performed these tasks free from constant supervision and without prior approval as to many of her decisions. Further, her supervisor asserted that she was a “subject-matter expert in the print and archive vendor liaison function [who] supported multiple projects, and acted as a minor lead in the part of the project she supported.” Plaintiff conceded that the projects she supported had “a high dollar value and require[ed] an equal level of skill, effort and responsibility [to a male colleague].”  Plaintiff, however, “did not have authority to hire or fire, could not establish or deviate from [her employer’s] polices, could not establish budgets, could not bind [her employer] contractually, and was not involved in long term business plaining on behalf of [her employer.]”

Plaintiff argued she did not exercise discretion and independent judgment in the performance of her duties. Plaintiff also argued that her employer’s policy of permitting her to “flex” her schedule to compensate for on-call and recall hours worked by taking time off was a tacit admission by her employer that she was not exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA.

Rejecting Plaintiff’s arguments, the Court issued a post-trial decision finding that Plaintiff “could exercise discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.” The Court determined that Plaintiff was in fact a “subject-matter expert in the print and archive vendor liaison function” whose “work affected business operations to a substantial degree even though her assignments were related to the operation of a particular segment of the business.”  This work, the Court concluded, impacted FedEx’s “revenue stream.”  Thus, the issues Plaintiff resolved were “matters of significance” which she administered free from “day-to-day” supervision.  Specifically, the Court found Plaintiff “used her experience, judgment and discretion to get the right people on a conference call and act[ ] as a liaison between the print vendor and Fed[eral] Ex[press] to resolve issues” and thereafter implement changes resulting from those issues. The Employer’s policy of permitting exempt employees to flex their schedules in response to additional workload did not alter Plaintiff’s exempt status.

Employers should carefully review the job duties of employees, in consultation with legal counsel, and review applicable federal and state case law, to ensure compliance with all federal and state wage and hour laws.