Court May Make Reasonable Inferences about Employee’s Exempt, Non-Exempt Activities : California Court of Appeal
A trier of fact can make reasonable inferences about employees’ duties to determine status for overtime pay under California labor law, the California Court of Appeal has ruled, affirming the trial court’s holding. Batze v. Safeway, Inc., No. B258732 (Cal. Ct. App. Apr. 4, 2017).
A group of assistant store managers claimed they should have been classified as non-exempt managers entitled to overtime pay. The assistant managers testified that they were required to engage in non-exempt duties such as stocking shelves and building product displays. At trial, the court found that because more than 50 percent of the assistant managers’ time was spent performing managerial tasks, they were exempt from overtime pay.
The assistant managers appealed the ruling, contending gaps in the evidence should have precluded the trial court from finding exempt status. They argued that they did different jobs at different times and there were differences at stores affecting the time spent on various job duties. They also argued that the trial court must determine exempt status on a workweek-by-workweek basis, without drawing inferences from the employees’ activities during other workweeks to fill in those gaps.
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling. It acknowledged that the relevant period for determining employees’ exempt status was indeed the workweek, but this does not mean the trier of fact cannot make reasonable inferences from the employees’ activities in earlier and later periods, as the trial court did in this case, especially when there is no evidence to suggest the employees’ duties varied significantly between store to store or week to week.