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New York Court Discusses FLSA Overtime Exemptions

May 12, 2020

State and federal wage laws protect many employees from unjust wage practices. For example, employers must pay certain employees overtime for any hours worked in excess of forty hours per week, unless the employees fall under an exemption. While in some cases, it is clear that a plaintiff seeking overtime wages falls under an exemption, in other instances, it is disputed. This was evidenced in a recent case in which a New York appellate court was called upon to rule on whether an assistant basketball coach fell under the federal wage law exemptions. If you believe your employer unjustly denied you overtime, it is in your best interest to consult a New York wage and hour attorney to discuss your rights.

Factual Background of the Case

Allegedly, the plaintiff worked as the coach of the women’s basketball team for the defendant community college, and as the assistant to the associate dean of physical education and athletics. The plaintiff typically worked thirty-five hours per week as the assistant to the associate dean, and during the basketball season spent thirty-five hours per week coaching as well. As the coach, he was also tasked with recruiting players and overseeing all practices and games. The plaintiff began working in both positions in 2010 but did not receive any overtime pay until 2018, during which he received overtime wages meant to compensate for overtime worked in 2017.

Reportedly, in February 2018, it was alleged that the plaintiff made a loan to a student that violated NCAA rules. The plaintiff was ultimately terminated, after which he filed a lawsuit against the defendant setting forth various claims, including claims that the defendant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment arguing, in part, that the plaintiff fell under the FLSA overtime exemptions.

Exemptions From Fair Labor Standards Act Overtime Requirements

The FLSA imposes an obligation on employers to pay eligible employees overtime. Employees employed in an administrative or professional capacity, however, are exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA. An employer arguing that an employee falls under an exemption bears the burden of proving the exemption applies.

In the subject case, the defendants first argued that the professional exemption applied to the plaintiff’s FLSA claims with regard to his coaching position. The court noted that the professional exemption applies to employees who meet the salary requirements and whose primary job duties involve the performance of work that necessitates knowledge in an advanced field that typically requires specialized instruction or that requires talent, invention, or originality in a recognized field. The court rejected the defendant’s argument, finding that although the plaintiff held a master’s degree in sports science, his coaching job did not require knowledge typically obtained via an advanced degree. As such, the court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment as to the FLSA claims arising out of the coaching position.

Meet With an Experienced Employment Attorney

If your employer failed to pay you wages you are rightfully owed, you should meet with an experienced New York wage and hour attorney regarding what damages you may be able to recover. The seasoned attorneys of Gerstman Schwartz LLP have the skills and experience needed to help you seek a successful outcome, and we will work tirelessly on your behalf. We can be reached at our Manhattan office at (212) 227-7070 or at our Garden City office at (516) 880-8170 or through our form online to schedule a meeting.

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