Court dismisses claim by Ochsner employee that he is entitled to overtime pay

By Charmaine Little | Nov 21, 2018

NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana recently granted a motion by Ochsner Health System to dismiss an employee's claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) that he was not paid for his overtime work as an organ procurement coordinator.

In a Nov. 13 decision, U.S. District Judge Barry W. Ashe granted Ochsner's request for summary judgment in the complaint filed by Daniel G. Smith, agreeing with arguments that Smith was excused from the FLSA overtime regulations. 

Court filings said Smith, employed as a non-exempt transplant coordinator for Ochsner, filed his suit claiming he didn’t receive the overtime compensation he was owed. Ochsner responded by filing a motion for summary judgment, hoping the court would dismiss the case. Ochsner backed its motion with arguments that said Smith wasn’t owed overtime under the FLSA because he was excused from the act's overtime regulations “pursuant to the administrative and highly compensated employee exemptions,” according to the opinion. 

Ochsner also said even if he wasn’t exempt and subsequently was misclassified, he can’t prove he was intentionally misclassified, so the court should adhere to the FLSA’s two-year statute of limitations.

The court pointed out that the FLSA obliges companies to pay non-exempt employees overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week, and it is the employer’s responsibility to prove the exemption status. 

A worker is considered exempt when they have a salary or fee of at least $455 a week, the employee’s “primary duty is the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer’s customers” according to the lawsuit, and that the employee’s primary duties also include using discretion and their own judgment. Smith said while the first condition is valid for his case, the last two are not, making him non-exempt.

As for the second element, the court added both sides can agree that Smith was a donor coordinator who conducted other administrative responsibilities. Considering this, it determined the second issue is fulfilled, meaning Smith is exempt. For the third, Ochsner pointed out a number of Smith’s responsibilities that fit this criterion from organizing transportation for needed supplies to maintain the organs to verifying and communicating the organ’s status during the transport phase. 

The court determined there wasn’t enough information to establish that Smith was exempt in this section.

Still, concerning the “highly compensated employee” exemption, there was no challenge that Smith’s duties met this requirement as he made at least $100,000 for the years before he filed the lawsuit. 

The court ultimately decided Smith regularly performed at least one of the exempt responsibilities for an administrative employee, ruling one or more of Smith’s responsibilities met this requirement.

The court granted Ochsner’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case, determining Smith is an exempt employee.

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