Team Leaders at Processing Facility Properly Classified as Exempt
Division of supervisory duties among different classifications of exempt employees sometimes gives rise to claims that some or all of those managerial employees do not qualify for the executive exemption. Analyzing and rejecting one such challenge, an Arkansas federal court recently concluded that “Team Leaders” at one of the nation’s largest frozen food processing facilities qualify for exempt status. Garrison v. Conagra Foods Packaged Foods, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 891 (E.D. Ark. Jan. 6, 2015).
In Garrison, plaintiffs conceded that they met all the prongs of the executive exemption save the last: that an exempt executive hire and fire employees, or make recommendations given “particular weight” regarding such employment actions. The Court disagreed finding that the Team Leaders’ evaluations of hourly workers were among the primary, if not the primary, material on which upper management based decisions regarding: 1) discharge or retention and probationary employees; 2) promotions and demotions; 3) temporary reassignment and scheduling; and, 4) employee discipline. Accordingly, the employees were properly classified as exempt.
Documentation regarding employment decisions is not only critical for EEO and recordkeeping compliance purposes, but a primary source of favorable evidence in defending misclassification cases such as Garrison.