An employee's duties carry more weight than his or her job title when
determining whether the employee is exempt from the overtime provisions of the
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
What happened. Theadore Carl Walton, Jr., began work as a service advisor
for Cavalier Ford after job-related injuries forced him to stop working at Portsmouth
Naval Hospital. The federal Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP)
helped Walton obtain his new job at Cavalier, and OWCP and Cavalier signed an
April 18, 2000, agreement stating that the agency would reimburse Cavalier for
a percentage of Walton's wages over a 3-year period.
Walton signed a pay plan agreement with the auto dealership, stating that he
would be paid $231 per week plus a 5 percent commission on parts and labor for
repair orders that he completed. He was guaranteed the greater of $40,000 per
year or his salary plus commission. As a service advisor, Walton greeted customers,
listened to their concerns about their cars, wrote repair orders, followed up
on repairs, kept customers informed about maintenance, and suggested additional
services to be performed.
Sixteen months after he started working for Cavalier, Walton gave the dealership
a doctor's note stating that he could only work up to 8 hours per day.
The company informed him that it would move him to a greeter position since
he could no longer work the hours required of service advisors. The position
paid $8 per hour. Walton turned down the job and stopped working for Cavalier.
He sued his former employer, claiming that the company owed him pay for nearly
900 overtime hours, and that the company breached a 3-year employment contract.
What the court said. A U.S. district court granted summary judgment
for the company, saying that Walton's job duties classified him as an exempt
employee under FLSA and that no employment contract existed. The U.S. Court
of Appeals for the 4th Circuit (MD, NC, SC, VA, and WV) affirmed the decision.
The appeals court said that Walton was a salesman primarily engaged in servicing
automobiles, making him exempt from FLSA's overtime provisions. It listed
several tasks that Walton performed as part of his job (e.g., he promoted and
attempted to sell goods and services provided by Cavalier and openly solicited
business by telephone). "Despite these facts, Walton largely asks us to
find that he was a nonexempt employee by placing great weight on his job title,
rather than the duties he actually performed under that title.
based on the above-detailed facts in this case regarding Walton's duties,
we hold that Walton was indeed a salesman under the statute," the court
In addition, the appeals court dismissed Walton's argument that he had
an employment contract with Cavalier. Nothing in the letter promised him employment
for any definite amount of time, according to the court (Walton, Jr., v.
Greenbrier Ford, Incorporated, t/a Cavalier Ford, No. 02-2432, U.S. Court
of Appeals, 4th Cir. (5/28/2004)).