In a decision that may surprise readers of this Update (many of whom are human resources professionals), a court this month granted conditional certification of a collective action seeking overtime pay for human resources managers of Lowe’s Home Centers, Inc.
In Lytle v. Lowe’s Home Centers, Inc. , a federal judge in Tampa ruled in favor of human resources manager Lizeth Lytle, basically telling her, “you can do it, we can help,” with regard to her collective action claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Lytle asserts that she and nearly 1,750 salaried human resources managers nationwide should be paid overtime, as they are required to work more than 40 hours every week. Lytle claims that unlike most human resources professionals, the human resources managers at Lowe’s do not exercise discretion or independent judgment with respect to significant matters, and do not have the authority to make any decisions (such as hiring or firing). To support her claims, Lytle submitted declarations by nearly 60 current and former HR managers at Lowe’s.
In granting conditional collective action certification, the court noted that a “fairly lenient standard” applies at this first step. With conditional certification granted, all potential members of the class will get written notice to “opt in,” and discovery will ensue. Lowe’s can then file a motion for decertification, which applies a much stricter standard. That being said, a major battle is now lost for Lowe’s, it will be required to expend thousands of hours and dollars in discovery, defending these claims.
The lesson for other employers is basic: do not presume that just because an employee has a “manager” title or is paid a salary, that he or she is exempt from overtime. Analyze the position under the FLSA requirements, including those as to independent judgment, discretion and primary duties, and seek legal advice if the case is close.
Michael Homans is a Labor & Employment attorney and founding partner of HomansPeck LLC. For more employment law updates, including news and links to important information pertaining to legal developments that may affect your business, subscribe to Michael’s blog, or follow him on Twitter @EmployLawUpdate.