Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Saturday, February 14, 2004

6th Cir. Struggles With the Administrative Exemption

When each member of a three judge panel has a different view of the application of the administrative exemption to a set of facts, if nothing else it supports the need to clarify the clearly outdated regulations. The position in question, a qualified shipping specialist for an electric company, was primarily involved in shipping radioactive materials and waste. In Schaefer v. Indiana Michigan Power Company (6th Cir. 2/13/04), one judge would uphold the grant of summary judgment for the employer that the position was exempt under the administrative exemption and one would reverse and instruct the district court to enter summary judgment for the employee that the position was not exempt. The middle road, and ultimately the action of the court is to reverse the summary judgment and send it back for trial. The opinion of the Court, written by Judge Guy Cole, Jr. found the employer failed to establish two aspects of the exemption: that the work was administrative in nature and that it required the use of discretion. Although by no means clear, my guess is that this is one case where the new regulations might well make the difference.

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