HULL, Circuit Judge:
The Court sua sponte issues this corrected opinion.
An opt-in class of 1,424 store managers, in a collective action certified by the district court, sued Family Dollar Stores, Inc. ("Family Dollar") for unpaid overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219. During an eight-day trial, the Plaintiffs used Family Dollar's payroll records to establish that 1,424 store managers routinely
The jury found that the Plaintiff store managers were not exempt executives and that Family Dollar had willfully denied them overtime pay. The jury awarded $19,092,003.39 in overtime wages. The court entered a final judgment of $35,576,059.48 against Family Dollar consisting of $17,788,029.74 in overtime wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages.
Because of the complex procedural history from 2001 to 2005 that led to the case being certified as a collective action, the subsequent eight-day trial in 2006, and Family Dollar's myriad challenges on appeal, we preface the opinion with a table of contents:
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY FROM 2001-2005 ..................................... 1241 A. Complaint ......................................................... 1241 B. April 2001 Motion to Facilitate Nationwide Notice ................. 1242 C. October 2001—Second Motion to Facilitate Nationwide Notice .. 1242 D. July 2002 Notice .................................................. 1242 E. October 2002—Third Motion to Facilitate Nationwide Notice ... 1242 F. November 2002 Order and Fact Findings ............................. 1243 G. December 2002 Notice to Potential Opt-Ins ......................... 1243 H. Discovery Disputes ................................................ 1243 I. May 2004 Motion to Decertify the Collective Action ................ 1245 J. January 2005 Order and Fact Findings .............................. 1246 K. First Jury Trial .................................................. 1247 II. SECOND JURY TRIAL IN 2006 ............................................. 1247 A. Corporate Structure ............................................... 1248 B. Store Managers .................................................... 1248 C. Family Dollar Executives .......................................... 1251 D. District Managers ................................................. 1254 E. Salary Compared to Hourly Wages ................................... 1257 F. Judgment/Verdict .................................................. 1258 III. DECERTIFICATION ....................................................... 1258 A. FLSA's Similarly Situated Requirement ............................. 1258 B. Two-Stage Procedure for Determining Certification ................. 1260 C. District Court's Denial of Decertification ........................ 1262 IV. EXECUTIVE EXEMPTION DEFENSE ........................................... 1265 A. FLSA's Executive Exemption ........................................ 1265 B. Primary Duty Is Management ........................................ 1266 C. Family Dollar's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law ............ 1269 D. Other Circuits' Cases ............................................. 1271 E. 163 Individual Plaintiffs Granted Judgment on Executive Exemption Defense ......................................................... 1273 V. REPRESENTATIVE TESTIMONY .............................................. 1276 VI. WILLFULNESS AND LIQUIDATED DAMAGES .................................... 1280 A. Willful Violation ................................................. 1280 B. Good Faith and Liquidated Damages ................................. 1282 VII. JURY INSTRUCTIONS ..................................................... 1283 VIII. CONCLUSION ............................................................ 1285
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY FROM 2001-2005
Family Dollar is a nationwide retailer that operates over 6,000 discount stores that sell a wide assortment of products, including groceries, clothing, household items, automotive supplies, general merchandise, and seasonal goods.
The first Complaint asserted that Family Dollar paid store managers a salary, required them to work 60 to 90 hours a week, and refused to compensate them for overtime. According to Plaintiffs, store managers are managers only in name and actually spend the vast majority of their time performing manual labor, such as stocking shelves, running the cash registers, unloading trucks, and cleaning the parking lots, floors, and bathrooms. Store managers spend only five to 10 hours of their time managing anything. Plaintiffs sought unpaid benefits, overtime compensation, and liquidated damages due to Family Dollar's willful FLSA violations.
The Complaint urged the district court to issue notice of the action to all similarly situated Family Dollar employees nationwide, and to inform them of their right to opt into the suit as a collective action. Plaintiffs relied on 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), which authorizes courts to maintain a case as one collective action so long as the employee-plaintiffs are similarly situated.
Family Dollar's Answer raised a number of affirmative defenses. It asserted that its store managers were exempt executives
In May 2001, Plaintiffs filed their Third Amended Complaint on behalf of Morgan and Richardson, and added Cora Cannon and Laurie Trout-Wilson as Plaintiffs. The Third Amended Complaint raised the same claims for overtime pay and, again, urged the district court to notify other similarly situated store managers of the action.
B. April 2001 Motion to Facilitate Nationwide Notice
In April 2001, Plaintiffs moved the district court to (1) certify the case as a collective action, (2) authorize notice "by first class mail to all similarly situated management employees employed by Family Dollar Stores, Inc. at any time during the three years prior to the filing of this action to inform them of the nature of the action and their right to opt-into this lawsuit," and (3) order Family Dollar to "produce a computer-readable data file containing the names, addresses, Social Security number and telephone numbers of such potential opt-ins so that notice may
In September 2001, the district court issued a scheduling order pursuant to Rule 16(b).
C. October 2001—Second Motion to Facilitate Nationwide Notice
In October 2001, Plaintiffs renewed their motion to facilitate notice. Family Dollar twice opposed Plaintiffs' motion and urged the district court to delay ruling to allow more discovery. At oral argument in April 2002, the court withheld ruling pending additional discovery by Family Dollar, and ordered Plaintiffs' counsel to make all named Plaintiffs available for deposition. In April 2002, before the court ruled on the renewed motion, the parties jointly agreed to send limited notice of the suit to current and former store managers that worked in the regions where the named Plaintiffs worked from July 1, 1999 to the present. As a result, the court denied Plaintiffs' October 2001 motion as moot.
D. July 2002 Notice
In July 2002, the parties notified 784 potential class members in Region 4 (which contains 15 Family Dollar districts in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and Tennessee), district 39 (in Georgia), and district 118 (in New York). The jointly-sent notices required the recipients to mail their consent forms by October 22, 2002. In August 2002, the court extended the discovery deadline by 120 days.
By October 2002, 142 store managers from different states had filed consent forms. Plaintiffs' counsel subsequently sent each of those store managers an 11-page questionnaire with 17 questions and 75 total subparts. The questionnaire asked about employment dates, weekly work hours, day-to-day duties, amount of hours spent on manual labor, what independent authority store managers had, whether district managers made all important managerial decisions, whether hourly assistant managers performed the same duties, and a host of other questions relating to Family Dollar store operations.
E. October 2002—Third Motion to Facilitate Nationwide Notice
In October 2002, Plaintiffs renewed their motion to facilitate nationwide notice. Plaintiffs' motion estimated that approximately 11,164 current or former store managers had no notice of the action and that, based on the approximately 20% response rate, a sizeable number of potential class members would opt into the suit. Plaintiffs' motion and counsel's affidavit summarized the responses to the 11-page questionnaire. Plaintiffs argued that the opt-ins' responses showed that the store managers were similarly situated and that there were enough initial responses to warrant nationwide notice.
Plaintiffs also offered the Rule 30(b)(6) deposition testimony of Bruce Barkus, the Executive Vice President of Store Operations at Family Dollar. Barkus admitted that the store manager job description is the "current and only job description[ ] for Family Dollar Store Managers," and acknowledged that Family Dollar made no
F. November 2002 Order and Fact Findings
In November 2002, the district court, acting pursuant to § 216(b), granted Plaintiffs' motion to facilitate nationwide class notice to "all former and current Store Managers who work and/or worked for the Defendant over the last three years." The court found Family Dollar's store managers were similarly situated within the meaning of § 216(b) because they: (1) worked 60 to 80 hours a week; (2) received a fixed salary and no overtime pay; (3) spent 75 to 90% of their time on non-managerial tasks such as stocking shelves, running the cash registers, unloading trucks, and performing janitorial duties; (4) did not consistently supervise two or more employees; (5) lacked the authority to hire, discipline, or terminate employees without first obtaining permission from their district managers; (6) could not select outside vendors without their district managers' permission; (7) worked no less than 48 hours a week under the threat of pay cuts or loss of leave time; and (8) arrived at work before the store opened and stayed until after closing.
Although the district court acknowledged that there existed "some differences between the named-Plaintiffs and the opt-ins in terms of pay scale and job duties," it concluded that "these differences do not preclude the facilitation of nationwide service." The court stressed that Plaintiffs must only be "similarly situated"—not "identically situated." The court considered Family Dollar's contention that its stores have "different locations, are of various sizes, and sell different volumes of merchandise." But the court found that those differences did not undermine the factual basis for concluding that Family Dollar's store managers were similarly situated. The court emphasized that it had the benefit of making its decision after twenty months of litigation, considering Plaintiffs' motion to facilitate nationwide notice on two previous occasions, and giving Family Dollar an opportunity to depose the named Plaintiffs. The court found that a sufficient number of similarly situated employees likely were interested in joining the suit and that the case could be managed and resolved in a single litigation.
G. December 2002 Notice to Potential Opt-Ins
In December 2002, Plaintiffs' counsel mailed 12,145 notices nationwide to current and former Family Dollar store managers employed on or after July 1, 1999. Each had until February 25, 2003 to return the enclosed consent forms. Each mailing included the 11-page questionnaire. By March 2003, nearly 2,500 current and former Family Dollar store managers had joined the litigation.
H. Discovery Disputes
Throughout the litigation, the district court resolved scores of discovery-related motions. For example, Plaintiffs refused to turn over certain questionnaire responses based on attorney-client privilege. This triggered various motions to compel. In another instance, Family Dollar refused to provide Plaintiffs with information related to the identity of its district managers. Plaintiffs responded with their own motions to compel. Meanwhile, a fight over depositions was brewing. In March 2003, Family Dollar notified Plaintiffs of its intent
The court extended discovery until August 29, 2003. And in June 2003, in a comprehensive order, the court (1) required Plaintiffs' counsel to produce the questionnaire responses used to support Plaintiffs' motion to facilitate nationwide notice; (2) ordered Family Dollar to produce the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all former Family Dollar district managers since June 1999; (3) prohibited Plaintiffs' counsel from engaging in ex parte communication with former Family Dollar district managers; and (4) clarified that "this Court shall . . . treat each opt-in Plaintiff as a separate party for purposes of enforcement of the Scheduling Order."
Discovery issues continued to surface. The court again extended deadlines for discovery to December 12, 2003, and for dispositive motions to January 12, 2004.
In October 2003, Family Dollar informed Plaintiffs that it intended to depose all remaining opt-in Plaintiffs, using written questions, pursuant to Rule 31. In November 2003, Family Dollar's counsel sent a letter stating it planned to take 2,100 depositions in seven days, using 338 written questions per deponent, from December 6 to 12, 2003, in Birmingham.
Plaintiffs moved for protective orders to limit the number of depositions to two a day until the end of discovery and to prevent Family Dollar from deposing the nearly 2,100 opt-in Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs' motion noted that discovery had been ongoing for two and a half years, and that prior to October 2003, Family Dollar failed to depose any of the opt-in Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs objected to Family Dollar's attempt to depose 2,100 opt-in Plaintiffs during the last 29 days of discovery as burdensome, unreasonable, and expensive. In November 2003, Family Dollar moved for a protective order, prohibiting disclosure of the written deposition questions to the opt-in Plaintiffs.
In January 2004, the district court issued a discovery management order resolving many issues. The court limited Family Dollar to "not more than" 250 depositions of the opt-in Plaintiffs, "including those who [had] already been deposed." The court did not restrict Family Dollar to written questions, but limited depositions to five per day (each three hours long). The order authorized Plaintiffs to select 250 opt-ins for Family Dollar to depose in-person. The court pushed the discovery deadline back to April 12, 2004, with dispositive motions due May 12, 2004. It denied both parties' motions for protective orders as moot.
In late January 2004, Family Dollar moved to clarify or alter the discovery management order. In early February 2004, the district court denied Family Dollar's request to depose the rest of the opt-in Plaintiffs under Rule 31 (written deposition questions), but granted Family Dollar leave to use Rule 33 (interrogatories) to obtain discovery from the remaining opt-in Plaintiffs. In March 2004, the court issued an order clarifying that Family Dollar was entitled to serve 25 interrogatories on every opt-in Plaintiff.
By mid-February 2004, 152 opt-in Plaintiffs (of the 250) had not been deposed in-person. The court gave Plaintiffs' counsel seven days to provide Family Dollar with a list of the remaining 152 opt-in Plaintiffs and the dates that each would be available for deposition in Birmingham. To ensure Family Dollar had an opportunity to depose the remaining 152 opt-in Plaintiffs in Birmingham, the district court, in late February 2004, also ordered Plaintiffs' counsel to provide Family Dollar with three days notice of any change in scheduled depositions, and threatened to dismiss opt-in Plaintiffs who failed to attend. For the next several months, the court
In addition to the 250 depositions of the opt-in Plaintiffs, the parties deposed Family Dollar's executives, district managers, various experts, and other witnesses. Family Dollar produced voluminous payroll records, store manuals, emails, and other communications. Plaintiffs produced the individual responses to the questionnaire. The record was fully developed before the next critical step in this case.
I. May 2004 Motion to Decertify the Collective Action
In May 2004, Family Dollar moved to decertify the collective action under § 216(b). Relying on affidavits and a wealth of information revealed during discovery, the parties briefed whether the case should proceed as 1,424 individual actions
In response, Plaintiffs pointed out that discovery established that all store managers were similarly situated because they (1) have the same job description, (2) spend 75 to 90% of their time on the same non-management duties, and (3) spend little time on the management duties in their job description. In addition to Barkus's testimony, Plaintiffs emphasized the deposition testimony of two other Family Dollar executives, Bill Broome and Dennis Heskett, indicating that Family Dollar applied the overtime exemption across the board without any consideration of store-by-store variables, and that store size and location did not affect Family Dollar's decision to exempt all store managers from overtime pay requirements.
J. January 2005 Order and Fact Findings
In a January 2005 order, the district court denied Family Dollar's motion to decertify, determined that none of the factual findings in its November 2002 order had been called into question, and made additional fact-findings. The court's order also expressly incorporated those 2002 findings by reference.
In addition, the court found that the "evidence confirm[ed] that substantial similarities exist in the job duties of the named and opt-in Plaintiffs." The court found that 90% of the named and opt-in Plaintiffs (1) interview and train employees, (2) direct work of employees, and (3) maintain production and sales records.
The court also found that the named and opt-in Plaintiffs had similar restrictions on the scope of their responsibilities. Although classified as store managers, they lacked independent authority to hire, promote, discipline, or terminate assistant managers; award employees pay raises; or change weekly schedules of hourly employees. And 90% lacked the power to close the store in an emergency without the district manager's permission. The court concluded that none of the named and opt-in Plaintiffs were responsible for the "total operation of their stores," and that, in reality, district managers performed the relevant managerial duties. The court found:
The court also determined that Plaintiffs similarly spent their time between managerial and non-managerial duties. It found that most (90%) of the named and opt-in Plaintiffs (1) "spend only a small fraction of their time performing managerial duties"; (2) "spend the vast majority of their time on essentially non-managerial duties such as unloading trucks, stocking shelves, working as cashiers, and performing janitorial duties"; and (3) shared some of their managerial duties with nonexempt, hourly employees (ordering merchandise, controlling store keys, opening and closing the store, depositing money in banks, and approving checks, refunds, and returns).
Viewing the evidence "as a whole," the court found that (1) the primary duties of Plaintiffs were not managerial; (2) the time spent performing non-managerial duties did not significantly differ from store to store, district to district, or region to region; and (3) the relative importance of the non-managerial duties (as compared to the limited number of managerial duties) did not vary significantly depending on the store or district. Further, "the basic pay rates of the named and opt-in Plaintiffs are also similar," in that Family Dollar paid "all of its store managers a base salary regardless of the weekly hours they work." The court determined that
K. First Jury Trial
In February 2005, the court entered a pretrial order summarizing each party's trial position. Family Dollar did not contest that it engaged in interstate commerce or that it failed to pay its store managers time and a half for any work over 40 hours a week. Its success at trial would turn on whether Family Dollar proved its store managers were exempt executives.
Before the first jury trial, the court allowed the Plaintiffs to represent the opt-in members as a whole. Family Dollar argued that Plaintiffs were not similarly situated, repeatedly sought decertification, and alternatively argued the Plaintiffs should be divided into nine subgroups. The court denied Family Dollar's requests and allowed the case to be tried as a collective action with the Plaintiffs representing (and thus binding for good or bad) the opt-in members as a whole. In the first trial, the jury deadlocked. Therefore, the issues on appeal arise out of the second trial.
II. SECOND JURY TRIAL IN 2006
The second jury trial lasted eight days. This time the jury reached a verdict, expressly finding the store managers were not exempt. The parties called 39 witnesses-store managers, district managers, corporate executives, payroll officials, and expert witnesses. In total, the testifying store managers worked at 50 different Family Dollar stores. The testifying district managers ran the operations of 134 different stores. Two testifying Family Dollar executives oversaw 1,400 stores, while a third testifying executive was in charge of all stores.
The parties presented hundreds of Family Dollar's records detailing its policies and procedures. These records included Family Dollar's Store Policy Manual, subsequent manual revisions, four volumes of the Professional Development Training Reference Book, the Personnel Training Manual, various Frequently Asked Question documents, "Weekly Work Schedules," and emails by district managers to store managers. The parties also introduced a large volume of payroll records showing (1) the number of hours worked by each Plaintiff store manager each week, (2) each store manager's salary and rate of pay, and (3) the number of hours every employee worked each week. Both parties submitted multiple exhibits summarizing payroll data in easy-to-digest charts.
Given the jury's verdict and our standard of review, we outline the trial evidence in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs.
A. Corporate Structure
Family Dollar is a publicly held, nationwide retailer that operates over 6,000 discount stores in 40 states and the District of Columbia. It has annual sales of around $5 billion and annual net profits ranging from $200 to 263 million from 1999 to 2005. Its individual stores have average annual sales of $1 million, and average net profits of 5 to 7%, or $50,000 to $70,000.
Family Dollar structures store operations into five divisions (each headed by a vice-president), 22 regions (each headed by a regional vice-president), and 380 districts (each overseen by a district manager). Each district contains multiple stores. Each district manager supervises the operations of 10 to 30 stores. Some districts are small with multiple stores in an urban area. Other districts are larger with small stores in small towns. The district manager's office is housed within one store in the district.
Family Dollar's corporate office issues instruction manuals with operating policies that apply uniformly to all stores nationwide. No matter the size of the store or the district, every detail of how the store is run is fixed and mandated through Family Dollar's comprehensive manuals.
B. Store Managers
Family Dollar has the same job description for all store managers and lists their "Essential Job Functions" as:
The overwhelming evidence showed that Plaintiff store managers exercise little discretion and spend 80 to 90% of their time performing manual labor tasks, such as stocking shelves, running the cash registers, unloading trucks, and cleaning the parking lots, floors, and bathrooms. Even as to the assigned management tasks, such as paperwork, bank deposits, and petty cash, the store manual strictly prescribes them. And district managers closely scrutinize store managers to ensure compliance with the manual and corporate directives.
Family Dollar forbids outside janitorial help, and store managers lack authority to hire outside vendors. Store managers, just as hourly employees, are expected to clean the store. For the purposes of "End of Day Recovery," the manual requires that "[t]wo hours before closing, all employees are to stop their current projects and begin a systematic cleaning and straightening up of the store. (The only exception would be the Cashier who is ringing up sales.) If the store has been shopped heavily, more time may be required to satisfactorily recover." The manual specifies the trash must be emptied (after checking for hot cigarette butts), the floors must be swept every day, and the floors must be mopped with clear water at least once a week. Rest rooms must be cleaned and mopped daily, stocked with toilet tissue, paper towels, and a trash container that is to be emptied daily. "Under no circumstances should
Store managers routinely perform janitorial duties. The manual even prescribes how janitorial tasks are to be performed:
Store managers lack discretion over the store's merchandise selection, prices, sales promotions, and layouts—all are set by the home office and district managers. For example, each store is provided a schematic layout and diagram of the store which shows (1) where each shelf must be, (2) what product goes on each shelf, (3) how all merchandise is to be displayed, (4) how all signs, merchandising, and display information is to be used, (5) how each "end cap" (the end of an aisle or gondola) should be displayed, and (6) what promotional product goes on the end cap. Every month, corporate headquarters mails each store a promotional programs booklet that contains the monthly planning calendar and a number of merchandise programs. The manual admonishes that "any deviation from the company program must have the District Manager's approval."
The tiniest of details are governed by the manuals. For example, the manual's "Clip Boards in the Office" page details how a store must structure its clip boards.
Store managers must follow strict rules regarding store keys, bank deposits, petty cash, and store operating hours. For example, the manual requires there be $300 in petty cash, divided into $200 in the petty cash-box for making register change, and $50 in beginning funds for each of the two registers. In some cases, the petty cash amount may be increased due to the volume of business with the district manager's and regional vice-president's approval and notification to the Cash and Sales Department. The manual indicates that "[t]he amount of the store's Cash Accumulation is to be set by the District Manager. . . . [and] should be posted in the petty cash box using the `Cash Accumulation Card.'" Store managers have the same paperwork to do and time frame in which to do it.
Further, each store has a preassigned "truck day" when the company truck delivers merchandise to the store. Because of the volume of unloading and stocking, the store manager always works "truck day." The store manager helps unload 800 to 1,500 cartons from the truck to the storeroom and stock the shelves.
The evidence also showed that store managers are assigned a fixed payroll budget, with total labor hours to come from that budget each week, and are required to use only hourly employees. As detailed later, store managers have scant discretion to act independently of their district managers.
C. Family Dollar Executives
Plaintiffs called two Family Dollar executives who testified about store managers' roles in the Family Dollar corporate hierarchy. Bruce Barkus started with Family Dollar in 1999, oversaw all stores, and reported to the President. He testified that Family Dollar classified store managers as executives, across the board, without ever determining how store managers spent their time:
Barkus testified that in a study of how much time it took to unload trucks and get merchandise to the floor, that the "biggest chunk of the store manager's time was being spent on manual labor, unloading the trucks, getting it to the floor, and onto the shelves."
Barkus also testified that district managers ensure that store managers do not exceed the fixed payroll budgets assigned by corporate management. A store manager that goes over budget, by even a penny, could be fired.
Almost all of the store manager's job is standardized and controlled by superiors. Barkus confirmed that Family Dollar makes virtually no distinction between a store manager's job duties and an assistant store manager's job duties.
Plaintiffs also offered the testimony of Charles William Broome, a Senior Vice-President
Despite his 29-year tenure with Family Dollar, Broome had no idea where the exemption decision originated:
Broome acknowledged that hourly assistant managers fill in for store managers, open and close the store, can perform all managerial tasks of the store manager, and are eligible for overtime pay.
Broome confirmed that a store's payroll budget, the budgetary outlay that dictates how many employees can work in the store, is determined by corporate headquarters in conjunction with the district manager. Store managers are prohibited from exceeding the payroll budget and can be fired if they do.
Broome's testimony was consistent with Family Dollar's "Staff Schedule Frequently Asked Questions" ("FAQ"). As to whether store managers can increase or reduce associate hours, the FAQ says they may "as long as total hours & coverage for each day & week are not increased or decreased." Similarly, as to whether the store manager can change the schedule to work "a 5½-day workweek instead of a 5-day workweek," the FAQ says that "[t]his change can only be made by the District Manager and should only be made as long as total hours & coverage for each day are not increased or decreased." In other words, any flexibility store managers have in scheduling is substantially constrained by the fixed payroll budget which dictates the total labor hours.
Although store managers can schedule what employees work what hours on the "weekly staff schedule" so long as the store does not exceed the payroll budget,
Finally, the FAQ evinces Family Dollar's strict rules against scheduling employee overtime. The FAQ indicates that store managers cannot change the schedule of assistant managers to reflect a 48 to 52 hour workweek while they are training, and that "[i]f the change is made [by the district manager] the total hours & coverage for each day should not be increased or decreased and the store payroll budget must be met. It is very important to control the use of overtime dollars."
D. District Managers
Family Dollar's 380 district managers implement and enforce these policies and
District managers uniformly run their stores through strict payroll budgets, to-do lists, daily emails with instructions to store managers, telephone calls, store visits, electronic execution reports, and electronic data flowing from the store's cash register on a real-time basis.
Plaintiffs' witnesses explained how Family Dollar's corporate office sets a fixed payroll budget for each store and how that budget results in salaried store managers working long hours each week. The district manager transmits a set payroll budget for the upcoming 13-week period to the store managers. The budget shows the store manager's salary and a preset number of labor hours a week (to be worked by hourly employees) that must be paid for from that budget. Other than the salaried store manager, Family Dollar staffs every store with only hourly employees (either the assistant manager or sales associates).
For example, at a low volume, small store, the district manager sets the store's payroll budget at around $1,400 per week. The average store manager's salary of $600 per week comes out of this budget. The remaining $800 pays the hourly employees. The payroll budget is often only enough to pay one full-time hourly assistant manager and two or three hourly sales associates. Because the store is open seven days a week and store managers are not permitted to unilaterally schedule hourly staff for overtime, store managers routinely worked 60 to 70 hours a week to have enough floor coverage during the set store hours
For higher volume, larger size stores, the corporate office sets a larger payroll budget, which usually covers more hourly employees (seven to ten). But larger stores have more merchandise to stock, more cartons to unload on truck day, a need for more cashiers, and more demand for cleaning. Because the payroll budget is fixed and strictly monitored, store managers at larger stores, just like those at smaller stores, routinely work 60 to 70 hours per week and spend 80 to 90% of their time on manual labor.
District managers closely supervise the hiring and firing process. They interview and hire store managers and interview and approve the hiring of assistant managers.
Although store managers interview and recommend hourly associate candidates, they need district manager approval to hire them. The district manager—not the store manager—also has the authority to terminate employees.
Most store managers follow corporate policy and obtain the district manager's approval before hiring or firing hourly employees.
District managers set the rate of pay for all hourly employees (assistant managers and sales associates) and must approve all pay increases.
Only district managers have the power to close a store for bad weather. In the "Hurricane Warning Procedures" section, the manual instructs store managers that "[i]f the District manager cannot be located, contact the Regional Vice-President for recommendations regarding the course of action that should be taken."
E. Salary Compared to Hourly Wages
Both parties submitted evidence documenting the average weekly salaries of all Plaintiffs and the average hourly wages of assistant managers. Plaintiffs' evidence showed that, from 1999 to 2005, Plaintiff store managers averaged $599.71 a week in salary.
At the close of the evidence, the district court granted judgment as a matter of law to 163 of the 1,424 Plaintiff store managers, because, according to Family Dollar's charts, these 163 did not satisfy the third requirement in the executive exemption test, i.e., that they customarily and regularly directed the work of two or more other employees, as required by 29 C.F.R. § 541.1(f) (2003), 29 C.F.R. § 541.100(a) (2006). As to the remaining Plaintiffs, the jury determined Family Dollar failed to prove they were exempt executive employees.
The jury also found that Family Dollar acted willfully in denying overtime pay to all Plaintiffs. The jury awarded $1,575,932.12 in overtime pay to the 163 Plaintiffs and $17,516,071.27 in overtime pay to the remaining Plaintiffs. In calculating this overtime pay, the jury used Family Dollar's charts that documented (1) the number of hours that each of the Plaintiffs worked per week, and (2) the amount of back pay owed per Plaintiff for the applicable period.
A. FLSA's Similarly Situated Requirement
The FLSA authorizes collective actions against employers accused of violating the FLSA. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Section 216(b) provides that "[a]n action . . . may be maintained against any employer. . . by any one or more employees for and in behalf of himself or themselves and other employees similarly situated." 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Thus, to maintain a collective action under the FLSA, plaintiffs must demonstrate that they are similarly situated. See Anderson v. Cagle's, 488 F.3d 945, 952 (11th Cir.2007).
Participants in a § 216(b) collective action must affirmatively opt into the suit. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) ("No employee shall be a party plaintiff to any such action unless
Because similarly situated employees must affirmatively opt into the litigation, the decision to certify the action, on its own, does not create a class of plaintiffs. Rather, the "existence of a collection action under § 216(b) . . . depend[s] on the active participation of other plaintiffs." Cameron-Grant v. Maxim Healthcare Servs. Inc., 347 F.3d 1240, 1249 (11th Cir. 2003) ("Under § 216(b), the action does not become a `collective' action unless other plaintiffs affirmatively opt into the class by giving written and filed consent.").
The key to starting the motors of a collective action is a showing that there is a similarly situated group of employees. See Anderson, 488 F.3d at 953; Hipp, 252 F.3d at 1217. The FLSA itself does not define how similar the employees must be before the case may proceed as a collective action. And we have not adopted a precise definition of the term.
Without defining "similarly," we provided some guidance in Dybach v. State of Florida Department of Corrections, 942 F.2d 1562, 1567 (11th Cir.1991). There, we emphasized that before facilitating notice, a "district court should satisfy itself that there are other employees . . . who desire to `opt-in' and who are `similarly situated' with respect to their job requirements and with regard to their pay provisions." Id. at 1567-68. Later, in Grayson
Further, we review a district court's § 216(b) certification for abuse of discretion. Hipp, 252 F.3d at 1217; Grayson, 79 F.3d at 1097. Judicial discretion in making a § 216(b) certification decision is, of course, not unbridled. Indeed, "`[a] district court abuses its discretion if it applies an incorrect legal standard, follows improper procedures in making the determination, or makes findings of fact that are clearly erroneous.'" Anderson, 488 F.3d at 953-54 (quoting Chicago Tribune Co. v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., 263 F.3d 1304, 1309 (11th Cir.2001)). The district court first must apply the proper legal standards for authorizing a § 216(b) collective action and for determining what similarly situated means. A court's determination that the evidence shows a particular group of opt-in plaintiffs are similarly situated is a finding of fact. Anderson, 488 F.3d at 954 (affirming decision to decertify based on conclusion "that the district court's view of the evidence is reasonable, and its findings, therefore, are not clearly erroneous"); Hipp, 252 F.3d at 1208 (noting that decertification decision is one where the court "makes a factual determination on the similarly situated question"). We will reverse the district court's fact-finding that Plaintiffs are similarly situated only if it is clearly erroneous—not simply because we might have made a different call. Anderson, 488 F.3d at 953-54 (citing McMahan v. Toto, 256 F.3d 1120, 1128 (11th Cir.2001)).
B. Two-Stage Procedure for Determining Certification
While not requiring a rigid process for determining similarity, we have sanctioned a two-stage procedure for district courts to effectively manage FLSA collective actions in the pretrial phase. The first step of whether a collective action should be certified is the notice stage. Anderson, 488 F.3d at 952-53; Hipp, 252 F.3d at 1218. Here, a district court determines whether other similarly situated employees should be notified.
A plaintiff has the burden of showing a "reasonable basis" for his claim that there are other similarly situated employees. See Anderson, 488 F.3d at 952; Grayson, 79 F.3d at 1097; Haynes v. Singer Co., 696 F.2d 884, 887 (11th Cir. 1983).
This first step is also referred to as conditional certification since the decision may be reexamined once the case is ready for trial. Albritton, 508 F.3d at 1014 (discussing Hipp's first stage as "conditionally certifying the collective action"); Anderson, 488 F.3d at 952 (stating district court certified collective action, "but only conditionally," noting the possibility of later decertifying once discovery is substantially over).
The second stage is triggered by an employer's motion for decertification. Anderson, 488 F.3d at 953. At this point, the district court has a much thicker record than it had at the notice stage, and can therefore make a more informed factual determination of similarity. Id. This second stage is less lenient, and the plaintiff bears a heavier burden. Id. (citing Thiessen v. Gen. Elec. Capital Corp., 267 F.3d 1095, 1103 (10th Cir.2001)).
In Anderson, we again refused to draw bright lines in defining similarly, but explained that as more legally significant differences appear amongst the opt-ins, the less likely it is that the group of employees is similarly situated. Id. ("Exactly how much less lenient we need not specify, though logically the more material distinctions revealed by the evidence, the more likely the district court is to decertify the collective action."). We also refused to "specify how plaintiffs' burden of demonstrating that a collective action is warranted differs at the second stage." Id. Rather, we emphasized the fact that the "ultimate decision rests largely within the district court's discretion," and clarified that in order to overcome the defendant's evidence, a plaintiff must rely on more than just "allegations and affidavits." Id. Because the second stage usually occurs just before the end of discovery, or at its close, the district court likely has a more extensive and detailed factual record.
In Anderson, we also quoted approvingly of Thiessen, where the Tenth Circuit identified a number of factors that courts should consider at the second stage, such as: "(1) disparate factual and employment settings of the individual plaintiffs; (2) the various defenses available to defendant[s] [that] appear to be individual to each plaintiff; [and] (3) fairness and procedural considerations[.]" Anderson, 488 F.3d at 953 (quoting with approval Thiessen, 267 F.3d at 1103); see also Mooney, 54 F.3d at 1213 n. 7, 1215-16. Thus, at the second stage, "although the FLSA does not require potential class members to
C. District Court's Denial of Decertification
Turning to this case and applying our circuit precedent, we conclude that Family Dollar has not shown that the district court abused its discretion in denying Family Dollar's motion for decertification.
First, the district court not only properly followed the two-stage procedure for certifying a § 216(b) collective action but also demanded even more evidence than required before certifying the case at the first notice stage. We recounted the procedural background at great length because it readily reveals that the district court proceeded very cautiously and required much more than mere allegations of similarity. The district court denied stage one certification two times, without prejudice, and continued to reexamine its decision as the parties gathered and presented additional evidence. The district court conditionally certified the collective action only after the parties filed the depositions of the named Plaintiffs and multiple affidavits and after making detailed fact-findings that Plaintiffs' jobs were similar.
Subsequently, after three more years of discovery, the district court relied on a fully developed record when it denied Family Dollar's motion for decertification, and again based its decision on detailed fact-findings. The procedural background shows that the issue of whether these 1,424 Plaintiffs were similarly situated was exhaustively litigated in the district court for over four years. At each step of the process, the district court also applied the correct legal standards under the FLSA for collection actions.
Second, and more importantly, ample evidence supports the district court's fact-findings that the Plaintiff store managers were similarly situated under § 216(b). The district court, at the second stage, had a complete and comprehensive record and found that the opt-in store managers were factually similar in a number of respects including: (1) their universal classification as store managers with the same job duties; (2) the small fraction of time they spent on managerial duties; (3) the large amount of time they spent on non-managerial duties such as stocking shelves, running the cash registers, unloading trucks, and performing janitorial work; (4) the restrictions on their power to manage stores as compared to the district manager's sweeping managerial discretion; (5) the amount of close district manager supervision of store managers; (6) the lack
We recognize Family Dollar's assertion that the duties of store managers varied significantly depending on the store's size, sales volume, region, and district. But there was scant evidence to support this argument. Rather, the bulk of evidence demonstrated that the store managers were similarly situated and even Family Dollar perceived no such distinction. Indeed, it exempted all store managers from overtime pay requirements without regard to store size, sales volume, region, district, or hiring and firing authority.
As to the second factor, whether there were defenses individual to each Plaintiff, Family Dollar argues the executive exemption defense is always individualized and fact specific, thereby precluding this collective action. As discussed later, applying the executive exemption is "an inherently fact-based inquiry" that depends on the many details of the particular job duties and actual work performed by the employee seeking overtime pay. See Rodriguez v. Farm Stores Grocery, Inc., 518 F.3d 1259, 1263 (11th Cir.2008). But Family Dollar ignores the overwhelming evidence showing that the Plaintiffs, as a group, shared a number of factual details with respect to their job duties and day-to-day work. Just because the inquiry is fact-intensive does not preclude a collective action where plaintiffs share common job traits. Given the volume of evidence showing the store managers were similarly situated, and the fact that Family Dollar applied the executive exemption across-the-board to every store manager—no matter the size, region, or sales volume of the store—Family Dollar has not shown clear error in the district court's finding that its defenses were not so individually tailored to each Plaintiff as to make this collective action unwarranted or unmanageable.
In addition, Plaintiffs' evidence established that Family Dollar uniformly exempted all store managers from overtime pay requirements, and its exemption decision did not turn on any individualized factors. Not one. There is nothing unfair about litigating a single corporate decision in a single collective action, especially where there is robust evidence that store managers perform uniform, cookie-cutter tasks mandated by a one-size-fits-all corporate manual.
Addressing whether Plaintiffs' claims could be tried fairly as a collective action also requires looking to the purposes of § 216(b) actions under the FLSA: (1) reducing the burden on plaintiffs through the pooling of resources, and (2) efficiently resolving common issues of law and fact that arise from the same illegal conduct. See Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc. v. Sperling, 493 U.S. 165, 170, 110 S.Ct. 482, 107 L.Ed.2d 480 (1989) (noting a collective
Furthermore, Family Dollar's decertification argument is, at root, a claim that the district court's subsequent use of representative testimony during the actual trial was inherently unfair. As discussed later, Family Dollar's representative — testimony assertion—that the district court allowed the jury to decide 1,424 claims based on the testimony of only seven named Plaintiffs—is not supported by the record. In any event, we examine the evidence before the court when it heard Family Dollar's motion to decertify. See Haynes, 696 F.2d at 887 ("Our review of that decision must be premised upon the evidence that was before the district court at that time."). We are persuaded that, before trial, fairness considerations militated in favor of allowing this overtime-pay action to proceed in a collective forum. Given the substantial similarity of the class members' jobs and uniform corporate treatment of the store managers, it would not serve the interest of judicial economy to require these overtime-pay claims to be adjudicated in 1,424 individual trials. Based on the record in this case, we cannot say the district court abused its discretion in denying Family Dollar's motion for decertification.
IV. EXECUTIVE EXEMPTION DEFENSE
A. FLSA's Executive Exemption
The FLSA requires that employers pay their employees time and a half for hours an employee works in excess of a 40-hour workweek. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1); Alvarez Perez v. Sanford-Orlando Kennel Club, Inc., 515 F.3d 1150, 1156 (11th Cir.2008); Allen v. Bd. of Pub. Educ., 495 F.3d 1306, 1314 (11th Cir.2007). But there are exemptions to this requirement. Alvarez Perez, 515 F.3d at 1156. The exemption at issue here, the executive exemption, provides that the FLSA's requirements "shall not apply with respect to . . . any employee employed in a bona fide executive . . . capacity." 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1).
The Department of Labor's ("DOL") regulations interpret this defense. Because Plaintiffs' claims span from 1999 until 2005, two sets of DOL regulations apply.
After August 23, 2004, the new regulations apply and add a fourth requirement. To establish an employee is a bona fide executive, an employer must show: (1) the employee is "[c]ompensated on a salary basis at a rate of not less than $455 per week"; (2) the employee's "primary duty is management of the enterprise in which the employee is employed or of a customarily recognized department or subdivision thereof"; (3) the employee "customarily and regularly directs the work of two or more other employees"; and (4) the employee "has the authority to hire or fire other employees or whose suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring, firing, advancement, promotion or any other change of status of other employees are given particular weight." 29 C.F.R. § 541.100(a) (2006).
The parties agree that the first element of the executive exemption test—the amount of salary—is met. But they hotly dispute the second element—whether the store managers' primary duty is management. Thus, we examine the second element.
B. Primary Duty Is Management
Both regulations require that the employee's primary duty is management.
29 C.F.R. § 541.102(b) (2003).
The old and new regulations do not define primary duty. Both indicate the answer to the primary duty question "must be based on all the facts in a particular case." 29 C.F.R. § 541.700(a) (2006); 29 C.F.R. § 541.103 (2003). Both regulations identify factors to consider when determining whether an employee's primary duty is managerial. See 29 C.F.R. § 541.700(a) (2006); 29 C.F.R. § 541.103 (2003).
The old regulations list these five factors: (1) "[t]he amount of time spent in the performance of the managerial duties"; (2) "the relative importance of the managerial duties as compared with other types of duties"; (3) "the frequency with which the employee exercises discretionary powers"; (4) "his relative freedom from supervision"; and (5) "the relationship between [the employee's] salary and the wages paid other employees for the kind of nonexempt work performed by the supervisor." 29 C.F.R. § 541.103 (2003); see also Rodriguez, 518 F.3d at 1264 (listing factors in § 541.103 to be analyzed in determining whether an employee's primary duty is management). The old regulations explain: "In the ordinary case it may be taken as a good rule of thumb that primary duty means the major part, or over 50 percent, of the employee's time. Thus, an employee who spends over 50 percent of his time in management would have
The new regulations make a stronger effort to define primary duty, stating that "[t]he term `primary duty' means the principal, main, major or most important duty that the employee performs." 29 C.F.R. § 541.700(a) (2006). The new regulations also add that this determination is to be made "with the major emphasis on the character of the employee's job as a whole." Id. (2006). The new regulations explicitly reference the same factors with one exception. The third factor—"the frequency with which the employee exercises discretionary powers"—has been deleted.
The new regulations, like the old, expand upon the time-spent-on-exempt-work factor. The new regulations state that this factor "can be a useful guide in determining whether exempt work is the primary duty of an employee" and that "employees who spend more than 50 percent of their time performing exempt work will generally satisfy the primary duty requirement." 29 C.F.R. § 541.700(b) (2006). As in the old ones, the new regulations specify that "[t]ime alone, however, is not the sole test" and thus "[e]mployees who do not spend more than 50 percent of their time performing exempt duties may nonetheless meet the primary duty requirement if the other factors support such a conclusion." Id. (2006).
The new regulations also clarify that "[c]oncurrent performance of exempt and nonexempt work does not disqualify an employee from the executive exemption if the requirements of § 541.100 are otherwise met." Id. § 541.106(a) (2006). In other words, an employee's performance of nonexempt work does not preclude the exemption if the employee's primary duty remains management.
We turn to Family Dollar's argument that the primary duty of its store managers is managerial, triggering the FLSA's executive exemption, and that the court erred in denying Family Dollar's motion for judgment as a matter of law.
C. Family Dollar's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law
Family Dollar bears the burden of proving its executive exemption affirmative defense. Alvarez Perez, 515 F.3d at 1156; Brock, 835 F.2d at 826. This Court has recognized the "Supreme Court's admonition that courts closely circumscribe the FLSA's exceptions." Nicholson v. World Bus. Network, Inc., 105 F.3d 1361, 1364 (11th Cir.1997). And the exemption "is to be applied only to those clearly and unmistakably within the terms and spirit of the exemption." Brock, 835 F.2d at 826 (quotation marks omitted). Therefore, we narrowly construe exemptions to the FLSA overtime requirement. Alvarez Perez, 515 F.3d at 1156 (stating "exemptions are to be construed narrowly" (quotation marks omitted)); Nicholson, 105 F.3d at 1364.
We have rejected a "categorical approach" to deciding whether an employee is an exempt executive. Rodriguez, 518 F.3d at 1264. Instead, we have noted the "necessarily fact-intensive nature of the primary duty inquiry," that "the answer is in the details," and that "[w]here an issue turns on the particular facts and circumstances of a case, it is not unusual for there to be evidence on both sides of the question, with the result hanging in the balance." Id. And "[t]he result reached must be left intact if there is evidence from which the decision maker, the jury in this instance, reasonably could have resolved the matter the way it did." Id.
Here, the trial evidence was legally sufficient for a reasonable jury to find that Family Dollar failed to meet its burden of proving that its store managers' primary duty was management. Because that evidence is detailed above, we do not recount it but focus on the factors in the primary duty inquiry.
As to the time-spent-on-exempt-work factor, the overwhelming evidence at trial showed Plaintiff store managers spent 80 to 90% of their time performing nonexempt, manual labor, such as stocking shelves, running the cash registers, unloading trucks, and cleaning the parking lots, floors, and bathrooms. Conversely, Plaintiff store managers spent only 10 to 20% of their time performing exempt work, a far cry from the DOL's 50% guideline for management tasks. See 29 C.F.R. § 541.700(b) (2006); 29 C.F.R. § 541.103 (2003). Family Dollar did not present evidence to the contrary. See Allen, 495 F.3d at 1315 ("The employer is in a superior position to know and produce the most
We recognize that the amount of time spent performing exempt tasks is not dispositive of the primary duty issue. But substantial evidence about the four other factors also supports the jury's verdict here.
As to the relative importance of store managers' managerial duties compared with their nonexempt duties, this factor weighs in favor of the jury's finding that store managers are not exempt executives. Admittedly, the store managers' job description includes managerial duties. But Family Dollar's job description of the store managers' "Essential Job Functions" provides that store managers must do the same work as stock clerks and cashiers. Store managers must work their store's preassigned merchandise delivery day, known as "truck day." Barkus acknowledged that store managers spent their delivery-day time doing manual labor. Rather than treat these manual tasks as an incidental part of a managerial job, Family Dollar describes them as essential. A large amount of manual labor by store managers was a key to Family Dollar's business model given each store's limited payroll budget and the large amount of manual labor that had to be performed. The jury was free to weigh the relative importance of the store managers' managerial and non-managerial duties, but ample evidence supported a finding that the non-managerial tasks not only consumed 90% of a store manager's time but were of equal or greater importance to a store's functioning and success.
The third factor in the old regulations— the frequency with which the employee exercises discretionary powers—also supports the jury's verdict.
The few decisions not mandated by the manuals and corporate headquarters are vested in the district manager. These decisions include the power to change store hours, close for bad weather, approve changes to store layouts, establish all employees' initial rates of pay, approve all pay raises, set payroll budgets, control the
As to the store managers' relative freedom from supervision, this factor likewise favors Plaintiffs. The evidence showed that district managers (1) supervised 10 to 30 stores, (2) headed the store team, (3) were responsible for enforcing the detailed store operating policies, (4) closely reviewed each store's inventory orders and net sales figures, (5) closely monitored each store's weekly payroll, (6) controlled employee hourly rates and pay raises, (7) routinely sent to-do lists and emails with instructions to store managers, (8) closely supervised the selection, pricing, sales, displays, and ordering of merchandise, and (9) closely supervised every aspect of store operations. Store managers had little freedom from direct supervision. Indeed, ample evidence showed that the combination of sweeping corporate micro-management, close district manager oversight, and fixed payroll budgets left store managers little choice in how to manage their stores and with the primary duty of performing manual, not managerial, tasks.
As to the last factor—the relationship between the store managers' salary and other wages for nonexempt work—the parties submitted evidence documenting the store managers' average salaries and the assistant managers' average hourly wages from 1999 to 2005. Using a 70-hour workweek, store managers earned, on average, roughly the same (less than a dollar or more per hour) as hourly assistant managers. Using a 60-hour workweek, store managers earned approximately two or three dollars more per hour than hourly assistant managers. The jury was entitled to consider these salary figures, along with the fact that store managers performed nonexempt work 80 to 90% of the time. Given the relatively small difference between the store managers' and assistant managers' hourly rates, it was within the jury's province to conclude that this factor either did not weigh in Family Dollar's favor or at least did not outweigh the other factors in Plaintiffs' favor.
In sum, there was legally sufficient evidence for the jury, after considering all of the evidence and weighing the relevant factors,
D. Other Circuits' Cases
Despite these factors, Family Dollar insists its store managers were "in charge" of the store, and therefore, exempt as a matter of law. Family Dollar cites several cases concluding that managers of a free-standing store or restaurant were exempt executives as a matter of law. However, the courts made that decision only after examining the factual details of the employees' duties and actual work. As we
In answering the primary duty inquiry, courts do not "simply slap[ ] on a talismanic phrase." Rodriguez, 518 F.3d at 1264. Family Dollar's "in charge" label strikes us as a way to bypass a meaningful application of the fact-intensive factors. As in Rodriguez, we reject that "categorical approach." Id.
Moreover, Family Dollar's cases had materially dissimilar facts and did not involve the combination of (1) store managers performing as high a percentage of nonexempt work, (2) the same severe degree of restriction on store managers' discretion by corporate policy, and (3) oversight as strict and involved as district managers' in this case. For starters, none of the circuit cases dealt with store managers that spent 80 to 90% of the time performing manual labor. For example, in Thomas v. Speedway SuperAmerica, LLC, 506 F.3d 496, 499 (6th Cir.2007), a store manager spent 60% of her time performing non-managerial duties.
Family Dollar's cases are also distinguishable in that they give less weight to the plaintiffs' estimates of time spent performing nonexempt work because the plaintiffs in those cases performed exempt and nonexempt work concurrently. See Thomas, 506 F.3d at 504; Donovan v. Burger King Corp. ("Burger King I"), 672 F.2d 221, 226 (1st Cir.1982); Baldwin, 266 F.3d at 1114. The evidence, in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs here, did not show they performed managerial and non-managerial tasks concurrently. Rather, there was evidence that, by and large, the store managers performed most managerial tasks before the store opened and after it closed. The amount of manual labor overwhelmed their capacity to perform managerial duties concurrently during store hours. Other evidence showed
Even the retail-chain cases with standardized instructions did not involve fact patterns with the same level of corporate directives or district managers that constrained the powers of the employees-in-question in quite the same way. For example, in Burger King I, 672 F.2d at 223, and Donovan v. Burger King Corp. ("Burger King II"), 675 F.2d 516, 517, 521-22 (2d Cir.1982), the assistant managers retained discretion over a number of operational decisions, and nothing suggested the Burger King restaurant manager, the position directly above the assistant manager, had oversight powers comparable to the ones exercised by Family Dollar district managers. The Second Circuit described restaurant managers as "available by phone" and "available for advice"-not as overarching remote micro-managers. See Burger King II, 675 F.2d at 522. Likewise, in Murray v. Stuckey's, Inc., 939 F.2d 614, 616 (8th Cir.1991), the court's description of regional-manager control pales in comparison to the rigid directives and supervision that Plaintiffs presented at trial. Id. For Family Dollar store managers, there was evidence that showed district managers and corporate headquarters made the vast majority of day-to-day decisions, and store managers had little discretion.
In any event, our affirmance of the jury's verdict here is based on a fact-intensive application of the factors espoused in the regulations, and not on a categorical approach of whether a particular employee is "in charge." More importantly, while there was "evidence on both sides of the question," the "jury[,] in this instance, reasonably could have resolved the matter the way it did." Rodriguez, 518 F.3d at 1264. "The issue is not whether the evidence was sufficient for [Family Dollar] to have won, but whether the evidence was sufficient for it to have lost. It was." Id. at 1264-65.
E. 163 Individual Plaintiffs Granted Judgment on Executive Exemption Defense
Family Dollar also appeals the district court's decision to grant judgment on the executive exemption defense as a matter of law to 163 of the 1,424 individual Plaintiffs. The court concluded that Family Dollar failed to prove these 163 Plaintiffs satisfied the third part of the executive exemption test, i.e., that they customarily and regularly directed the work of two or more other employees. 29 C.F.R. § 541.100(a) (2006) (identifying third part of executive exemption test as whether the employee "customarily and regularly directs the work of two or more other employees"); 29 C.F.R. § 541.1
Both regulations provide that customarily and regularly means a frequency that "must be greater than occasional but which, of course, may be less than constant."
Both regulations define "two or more other employees" as either two full-time workers or their equivalent. 29 C.F.R. § 541.104(a) (2006); 29 C.F.R. § 541.105(a) (2003). As to equivalency, an employee may supervise one full-time employee and two part-time employees. See 29 C.F.R. § 541.105(a) (2003). "For example, if the `executive' supervises one full-time and two part-time employees of whom one works morning[s] and one, afternoons; or four part-time employees, two of whom work mornings and two afternoons, this requirement would be met." Id. The new regulations express the same sentiment. See 29 C.F.R. § 541.104(a) (2006) ("One full-time and two half-time employees, for example, are equivalent to two full-time employees. Four half-time employees are also equivalent."). However, neither set of regulations defines "full-time."
To prove its store managers customarily and regularly directed the work of two or more employees, Family Dollar introduced payroll records and easy-to-digest exhibits summarizing that data. For example, Exhibit 1742C provided data about each of the 1,424 Plaintiffs including (1) their full names, (2) social security numbers, (3) the number of weeks each worked as a store manager (under a row heading entitled "# weeks supervised"), (4) the number of weeks each store manager had two or more full-time hourly employees working in the store, and (5) what percentage of time each store manager had two or more full-time hourly employees. Exhibit 1742C assumed that a full-time employee works 40 hours a week and that full-time meant 80 hours of employee work per week through any combination of employees.
In applying the requirement that an employee "customarily and regularly directs the work of two or more other employees," the district court examined whether store managers supervised 80 subordinate hours of employee work per week at least 80% of the time. The district court did not require the store managers to be present when hourly employees worked those 80 hours—only that the store employ 80 hours of subordinate employee labor 80% of the time. Using Family Dollar's Exhibit
Family Dollar argues the court should have used Family Dollar's internal definition of full-time as a 30-hour workweek. Although the preamble to the new regulations states that the DOL declines to clarify the meaning of "full-time," it "stands by its current interpretation that an exempt supervisor generally must direct a total of 80 employee-hours of work each week."
Notably, the preamble does not suggest a workweek as short as 30 hours counts as "full-time" under the FLSA, much less 60 labor hours substituting for 80 hours. Further, Family Dollar's brief points to no evidence in the trial record suggesting that the industry standard in its line of retail business is a 30-hour workweek. While there may be instances where a deviation from the 40-hour workweek is appropriate, we cannot say that the district court, based on this record, erred in adopting 80 hours as constituting two full-time employees or their equivalent in this case.
Although Family Dollar also criticizes the 80% threshold, Family Dollar does not argue that the court's effort to quantify the customary — regular requirement as a percentage of time was error or that the customary — regular issue should have gone to the jury. Rather, Family Dollar primarily challenges the district court's last step in the calculation of whether Plaintiffs met the 80% threshold. As we noted above, the district court authorized Family Dollar to count every week that the stores in question had 80 labor hours worked by the hourly employees, and it did not require the store managers to be physically present at the store during those 80 hours for those weeks to count towards the 80% mark.
Family Dollar contends that the court should have used the average percentage of all 1,424 store managers as a group. In other words, its argument is that, on average, store managers (as a group) had 80 labor hours in their stores 93% of the time. Family Dollar arrives at this conclusion by dividing the number of weeks that Plaintiffs supervised two or more employees for 80 hours (61,481) by the total number of weeks that Plaintiffs worked at Family Dollar (66,097). The total percentage: 93%. While averaging the number of weeks that employees meet the criteria may suffice in some collective cases, the court here enjoyed more precise data that showed (1) the percentage for each of the 1,424 store managers individually and (2) that 163 of the Plaintiffs failed to supervise two or more employees 80% of the time. Family Dollar cites no authority, and presents us with no principled basis, for determining that the court's use of this more precise evidence was reversible error.
The parties cite two other circuit court cases addressing this issue. In Secretary of Labor v. Daylight Dairy Prods., Inc., the First Circuit concluded that employees who do not direct work 76% of the time "fall[ ] short" of "regular and customary" supervision of 80 hours of work. 779 F.2d 784, 788 (1st Cir.1985). Although Daylight Dairy failed to decide what precise figure constitutes customary and regular direction, it determined that 76% was insufficient. In the Eighth Circuit's Murray decision, the "store managers supervised at least two or more employees who worked eighty hours per week 98.2% of the time." 50 F.3d at 567-68. The Eighth Circuit concluded: "That is `customarily and regularly' by any definition." Id. Although the court expressed its disagreement with Daylight Dairy, id. at 568, it similarly failed to define a minimum threshold of precisely what "customary and regular" means.
We likewise do not draw a bright-line rule but examine only whether Family Dollar has shown reversible error in the court's use of Family Dollar's Exhibit 1742C as a basis for granting judgment in favor of the 163 Plaintiff store managers. It has not.
V. REPRESENTATIVE TESTIMONY
Family Dollar's challenge to the use of representative testimony proceeds as follows: Seven Plaintiffs testified. There are 1,424 Plaintiffs. Therefore, the verdict is based on only the representative testimony of less than 1% of the total number of Plaintiffs. Family Dollar argues that this was simply too small a sample size of testifying Plaintiffs, and therefore the jury verdict is unreliable and should be set aside.
Family Dollar's depiction of the trial is belied by the record. First, Plaintiffs did not use representative testimony to prove its prima facie case. Instead, Plaintiffs relied on Family Dollar's thorough payroll records for each of the 1,424 Plaintiffs to show (1) when each employee worked, (2) how many actual hours they worked, (3) how much they were paid, and (4) that they never received overtime pay. Rather than contesting Plaintiffs' prima facie
Second, Family Dollar's claim, stripped of its hyperbole, is reduced to an objection that not enough Plaintiffs testified to ensure a reliable verdict on whether the executive exemption defense applied. But the jury's verdict as to that defense was not based on the testimony of just seven Plaintiffs. Instead, the parties presented an abundance of trial evidence about the executive exemption issue, including (1) a vast array of corporate manuals; (2) testimony from 39 witnesses including Family Dollar executives, district managers who ran the operations of 134 stores, and store managers who worked at a total of 50 different stores; (3) detailed charts summarizing wages and hours; and (4) a wealth of exhibits including emails, internal Family Dollar correspondence, payroll budgets, and in-store schematics. If one factors in that Broome and Barkus oversaw thousands of stores, the witnesses go from representing hundreds of stores to thousands. In addition to the large quantity of testimonial evidence, the non-testimonial evidence was equally high in quality and largely comprised of Family Dollar's corporate records. The jury's verdict is well-supported not simply by "representative testimony," but rather by a volume of good old-fashioned direct evidence.
Family Dollar's trial conduct is also revealing. It actually opposed the introduction of more witness testimony from Plaintiff store managers. After Family Dollar presented the deposition testimony of 12 opt-in store managers, Plaintiffs attempted to introduce into evidence the deposition testimony of 238 more opt-in store managers. But Family Dollar objected,
This leads us to a third flaw in Family Dollar's argument. Plaintiffs did not shoulder the burden of proof on the executive exemption defense. Family Dollar did. See Atlanta Prof'l Firefighters Union, 920 F.2d at 804. Thus, Family Dollar cannot rely on an insufficient number of witnesses being called by the Plaintiffs to meet Family Dollar's burden of proof on its own affirmative defense.
Fourth, Family Dollar relies on two FLSA decisions involving representative testimony, but they do not help Family Dollar. See Reich v. S. Md. Hosp., Inc., 43 F.3d 949, 951-52 (4th Cir.1995); Sec'y of Labor v. DeSisto, 929 F.2d 789, 792-96 (1st Cir.1991). Since these cases are part of a line of circuit cases dating back to Anderson v. Mount Clemens Pottery, 328 U.S. 680, 66 S.Ct. 1187, 90 L.Ed. 1515 (1946),
In Mt. Clemens, the Supreme Court authorized a burden-shifting scheme designed to facilitate the ability of plaintiffs to prove an FLSA violation where the employer failed to maintain proper records (such as how many hours its employees worked and the amount of pay). Id. at 686-88, 66 S.Ct. at 1192. To prevent workers from being penalized by the employer's failure to keep adequate records, the Supreme Court provided that plaintiffs could meet their burden of proof so long as they "prove[ ] that [they have] in fact performed work for which [they were] improperly compensated" and "produce[ ] sufficient evidence to show the amount and extent of that work as a matter of just and reasonable inference." Id. at 687, 66 S.Ct. at 1192. Although Mt. Clemens never used the term "representative testimony," subsequent courts have interpreted it to authorize some employees to testify about the number of hours they worked and how much they were paid so that other non-testifying plaintiffs could show the same
As a result, most of the circuit cases addressing how many FLSA plaintiffs need to testify before their testimony can be considered representative of the group involve an employer's failure to keep adequate records and the plaintiffs' use of the Mt. Clemens burden-shifting scheme. See, e.g., McLaughlin, 850 F.2d at 589; Donovan v. Bel-Loc Diner, Inc., 780 F.2d 1113, 1115-16 (4th Cir.1985), disapproved of on other grounds, McLaughlin v. Richland Shoe Co., 486 U.S. 128, 108 S.Ct. 1677, 100 L.Ed.2d 115 (1988); Brennan v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp., 482 F.2d 825, 829 (5th Cir. 1973). Family Dollar relies on two of these kinds of cases to support its argument that, statistically, not enough plaintiffs testified here. See Reich, 43 F.3d at 951-52 (reversing district court because testimony from 58 employees was insufficient to represent 3,368 employees); DeSisto, 929 F.2d at 792-96 (reversing district court for allowing one employee to represent 244 employees at trial).
This line of cases does not help Family Dollar. Here, Family Dollar adequately maintained its records. Indeed, Plaintiffs relied on those records extensively. Therefore, the Mt. Clemens burden-shifting analysis does not apply. Furthermore, the question in these burden-shifting cases is whether the plaintiffs showed the amount and extent of the work performed as a matter of just and reasonable inference. In such a context, it makes sense to examine whether there is, statistically speaking, enough evidence to support the inference, and to shift the burden of proof on an element of the plaintiffs' case (the number of hours worked) to the employer. See DeSisto, 929 F.2d at 794 ("The evidence was simply inadequate to give rise to a `just and reasonable inference' as to the amount and extent of undercompensated work."). Where employer payroll records are inadequate, litigants can only approximate the number of hours worked and the amount of pay due. In such cases, the answer requires a numerical estimate of hours and pay.
In contrast, the Plaintiffs here relied on Family Dollar's extensive payroll records that broke down, week-by-week, how many hours each of the 1,424 store managers worked. Reich and DeSisto are nothing like this case. Here, there was no need for such numerical approximation.
If anything, the Mt. Clemens line of cases affirms the general rule that not all employees have to testify to prove overtime violations. See DeSisto, 929 F.2d at 793 (indicating that, generally speaking, employees who perform "substantially similar work" may testify on behalf of their counterparts); Reich v. S. New England Telecomms. Corp., 121 F.3d 58, 63 (2d Cir. 1997) (stating "there is no bright line formulation that mandates reversal when
We reject Family Dollar's argument that the executive exemption defense is so individualized that the testifying Plaintiffs did not fairly represent the non-testifying Plaintiffs. For the same reasons that the court did not err in determining that the Plaintiffs were similarly situated enough to maintain a collective action, it did not err in determining that the Plaintiffs were similarly situated enough to testify as representatives of one another.
In any event, the only issue we must squarely decide is whether there was legally sufficient evidence—representative, direct, circumstantial, in-person, by deposition, or otherwise—to produce a reliable and just verdict. There was.
VI. WILLFULNESS AND LIQUIDATED DAMAGES
Family Dollar also appeals (1) the sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury's finding that Family Dollar willfully violated the FLSA, a decision that extended the statute of limitations from two to three years, and (2) the court's reliance on the jury's willfulness finding in determining that Family Dollar did not act in good faith, a decision that triggered the liquidated damages award.
A. Willful Violation
The statute of limitations for a claim seeking unpaid overtime wages under the FLSA is generally two years. 29 U.S.C. § 255(a). But if the claim is one "arising out of a willful violation," the statute of limitations is extended to three years. Id.
"To establish that the violation of the [FLSA] was willful in order to extend the limitations period, the employee must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his employer either knew that its conduct was prohibited by the statute or showed reckless disregard about whether it was." Alvarez Perez, 515 F.3d at 1162-63 (citing McLaughlin, 486 U.S. at 133, 108 S.Ct. at 1681). Federal regulations define "reckless disregard" as the "`failure to make adequate inquiry into whether conduct is in compliance with the [FLSA].'" Id. at 1163 (quoting 5 C.F.R. § 551.104).
Family Dollar raises several challenges to the jury's willfulness finding. All fail. First, the evidence, detailed above, was legally sufficient to support the jury's finding that Family Dollar's FLSA violations were willful. For example, the Plaintiffs presented testimony from Family Dollar executives that it never studied whether the store managers were exempt executives. Executives also testified that Family Dollar's company-wide policy was that store managers were exempt from FLSA overtime requirements, but they had no idea who made that policy. Further, given the evidence at trial, the jury reasonably could have found that Family
Second, we reject Family Dollar's suggestion that the complex and fact-intensive nature of the executive exemption inquiry means that, as a matter of law, the FLSA violations were not willful. Such a rationale would effectively preclude a willfulness finding in cases involving an executive exemption affirmative defense. While the jury could have well considered that factor in its willfulness determination, complexity alone does not preclude a willfulness finding.
Third, we reject Family Dollar's argument that the court's decision to grant judgment as a matter of law for 163 Plaintiffs somehow biased the jury in its willfulness determination. This speculation has no support in the record. One could just as easily speculate in the other direction— the judgment for the 163 Plaintiffs meant the court thought the other 1,261 Plaintiffs failed to prove their case. Furthermore, the record shows the court instructed the jury that it still had to decide whether Family Dollar acted willfully and to determine damages for the 163 Plaintiffs. The court also instructed the jury to determine whether Family Dollar met its burden of proof on the executive exemption for the remaining Plaintiffs and, if so, to determine willfulness and damages.
Finally, Family Dollar has not shown the district court abused its discretion
Family Dollar's brief cites and describes the relevant exhibits. However, it fails to discuss Rule 403, to engage the court's reason for excluding these exhibits, or to explain why the court's particular findings and rulings were an abuse of its discretion. See Flanigan's Enters., Inc. v. Fulton County, 242 F.3d 976, 987 n. 16 (11th Cir.2001) (stating that argument was waived because the appellants "fail[ed] to
B. Good Faith and Liquidated Damages
When the jury finds an employer has violated the FLSA and assesses compensatory damages, the district court generally must add an award of liquidated damages in an equal amount. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) ("Any employer who violates the provisions of ... section 207 of this title shall be liable to the employee or employees affected in the amount of... their unpaid overtime compensation... and in an additional equal amount as liquidated damages."); Alvarez Perez, 515 F.3d at 1163. However, the district court has discretion to reduce or deny liquidated damages "`if the employer shows to the satisfaction of the court that the act or omission giving rise to such action was in good faith and that he had reasonable grounds for believing that his act or omission was not a violation of the [FLSA].'"
"[T]he judge and jury answer what is essentially the same question for two different purposes. The willfulness or good faith question is answered first by the jury to determine the period of limitations and then, if there is a verdict for the employee, again by the judge to determine whether to award liquidated damages." Id. at 1162.
Here, the district court determined that Family Dollar failed to meet its burden of proving good faith on the liquidated damages issue because the jury already had found willfulness on the statute of limitations issue. Family Dollar argues that the district court erred because judges have the discretion to decide good faith regardless of the jury's willfulness finding.
While this was an open question in our circuit in 2006—the time of the second trial—our subsequent decision in Alvarez Perez forecloses Family Dollar's argument. In Alvarez Perez, we concluded that "in an FLSA case a jury's finding in deciding the limitations period question that the employer acted willfully precludes the court from finding that the employer acted in good faith when it decides the liquidated damages question."
VII. JURY INSTRUCTIONS
Family Dollar's last claim involves the district court's jury instructions. We start with our standard of review. Although "[w]e review jury instructions de novo to determine whether they misstate the law or mislead the jury to the prejudice of the party who objects to them," United States v. Campa, 529 F.3d 980, 992 (11th Cir.2008) (citing United States v. Grigsby, 111 F.3d 806, 814 (11th Cir.1997)), the standard is "deferential," Bateman v. Mnemonics, Inc., 79 F.3d 1532, 1543 (11th Cir. 1996). As long as the instructions accurately reflect the law, the district court is afforded "wide discretion as to the style and wording employed in the instructions." Bateman, 79 F.3d at 1543 (quotation marks omitted); Campa, 529 F.3d at 992; Bogle v. McClure, 332 F.3d 1347, 1356 (11th Cir.2003).
Our practice is not to nitpick the instructions for minor defects. "[I]f the jury charge as a whole correctly instructs the jury, even if it is technically imperfect, no reversible error has been committed." Bateman, 79 F.3d at 1543. "[W]e examine the challenged instructions as part of the entire charge, in view of the allegations of the complaint, the evidence presented, and the arguments of counsel, to determine whether the jury was misled and whether the jury understood the issues." Iervolino v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 796 F.2d 1408, 1413 (11th Cir.1986) (citation and quotation marks omitted). "When the instructions, taken together, properly express the law applicable to the case, there is no error even though an isolated clause may be inaccurate, ambiguous, incomplete or otherwise subject to criticism." Somer v. Johnson, 704 F.2d 1473, 1477-78 (11th Cir.1983) (quoting Johnson v. Bryant, 671 F.2d 1276, 1280 (11th Cir.1982)); Verbraeken v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 881 F.2d 1041, 1050 (11th Cir.1989). We reverse where we are "left with a substantial and ineradicable doubt as to whether the jury was properly guided in its deliberations." Somer, 704 F.2d at 1478 (quoting Miller v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 650 F.2d 1365, 1372 (5th Cir.1981)); Johnson, 671 F.2d at 1280.
After review of the jury charge as a whole and counsels' entire closing arguments, we are convinced that the jury properly understood the issues and applicable law. Family Dollar has shown no reversible error in the charge.
First, Family Dollar challenges the district court's jury instruction on willfulness. However, the district court used the Eleventh Circuit Pattern Jury Instruction 1.7.1 that in order to prove willfulness, Plaintiffs must establish that Family Dollar knew, or showed reckless disregard for, the fact that its conduct was forbidden by the FLSA. The charge is consistent with our case law outlined earlier. See Alvarez Perez, 515 F.3d at 1162-63. The district court's decision not to elaborate further was within its discretion.
The court also instructed that the "rule of thumb" is that primary duty means that the major part, or more than 50% of the employee's time, was spent in performing executive duties. But it clarified that time alone is not the only factor in determining whether the employee's duties were primarily managerial and that an employee's primary duty may be executive even if the employee spends less than half of his or her time in such work.
In addition, the court told the jury to consider these primary duty factors: (1) the relative importance of executive duties compared with non-executive duties, (2) the frequency with which the store managers exercised discretionary powers, (3) their relative freedom from supervision, and (4) the relationship between store managers' salaries and wages paid to other employees for nonexempt work.
Importantly for this case, the court also issued a concurrent duties instruction stating: "An executive employee may sometimes perform non-exempt or non-managerial duties concurrent with his executive duties, so long as the non-exempt duties are not his primary duties."
Family Dollar's principal complaint on appeal is that the court should not have added this part: "A working or supervising foreman works alongside his or her subordinates performing the same kind of work as the subordinates, and carrying out supervisory functions" and "are not executives within the meaning of the law."
Family Dollar correctly points out that there is a regulation entitled "working foremen," see 29 C.F.R. § 541.115 (2003), and that its stated purpose is to clarify one aspect of the long test.
Although the parties hotly dispute whether the working foreman regulation applies, there is no need to resolve that thorny question in order to determine whether this particular jury charge was error here. In order for Family Dollar to prevail, it must do more than show that the working or supervising foreman charge was technically inapplicable. It must demonstrate that the charge, combined with all of the other instructions on the executive exemption issue, undermined the jury's ability to correctly understand the applicable law and resolve the executive exemption issue. In the vernacular of our precedents, it must either mislead the jury or leave us with a "substantial and ineradicable doubt" as to whether the court properly instructed the jury.
Family Dollar has not made this showing. Family Dollar overstates the significance of the working or supervising foreman charge. The charge relates to only a narrow slice of the executive exemption issue—how to deal with supervisors who work alongside of, and do the same work as, other employees. At root, it is designed to illustrate that an employee who performs the same nonexempt, manual tasks as his co-workers is not an executive even though he is technically a supervisor. Even assuming that concept is inapplicable here—a proposition that we by no means concede—the concurrent duties instruction cures any potential confusion from the working or supervising foreman charge. The concurrent duties instruction makes clear that one can still be an exempt executive even though he performs a plethora of nonexempt duties at the same time as exempt duties. Indeed, the court also accurately told the jury that a store manager may be exempt even though he spends more of his time on nonexempt duties provided that his primary duty is management.
After reviewing the charge as a whole and the closing arguments, we are convinced that the jury was fully and accurately advised that an exempt executive may do exempt and nonexempt work concurrently so long as his primary duty is managerial. Although it may have been better for the court to have avoided using the working foreman charge, Family Dollar has shown no reversible error here.
For all of the above reasons, we affirm the district court's judgments.
The manual states that "there are only two sets of keys to a Family Dollar Store." One set is for the store manager, who "should maintain possession of his or her keys at all times," and the other set is held by the assistant manager or the floor supervisor. The manual allows for a third key to be given to another employee for emergency purposes, but that employee must be recommended by the store manager and approved by the district manager.
All Plaintiffs' Salaries Nationwide Salaries (526) 1999: $523 1999: $553 (882) 2000: $542 2000: $573 (940) 2001: $555 2001: $596 (684) 2002: $581 2002: $601 (249) 2003: $623 2003: $606 (123) 2004: $668 2004: $628 (86) 2005: $706 2005: $651
The two sets of figures do not differ materially. For example, there is only a 5% difference between the 1999 salaries. Plaintiffs' figures (for 2003 to 2005) benefit Family Dollar by suggesting that Plaintiffs made more per hour than Family Dollar attempted to show.
Store managers may earn a bonus. Although Family Dollar's brief cites testimony by a few store managers showing that the average bonus size was $1,800, it is difficult to factor the bonus into the salary spread between store managers and assistant managers without an indication of how often Family Dollar paid such bonuses and to what percentage of store managers. In any event, the bonus does not substantially increase the range of pay. For example, even if every store manager earned a $1,800 bonus every year, that translates into $34.61 more per week. Assuming a 60-hour workweek, that equals an extra $.58 more an hour. Assuming a 70-hour week, it amounts to $.49 more an hour. These small amounts do not alter the analysis of whether store managers earn "significantly" more than assistant managers.
Store Manager's Salary Store Manager's Salary Assistant Manager's ÷ 60 hours: ÷ 70 hours: Hourly Wage 1999: $ 8.72 1999: $ 7.47 1999: $7.11 2000: $ 9.03 2000: $ 7.74 2000: $7.19 2001: $ 9.25 2001: $ 7.93 2001: $7.43 2002: $ 9.68 2002: $ 8.30 2002: $7.65 2003: $10.38 2003: $ 8.90 2003: $7.79 2004: $11.13 2004: $ 9.54 2004: $7.88 2005: $11.77 2005: $10.09 2005: $8.18
After the verdict, the district court twice adjusted the back pay amount for certain Plaintiffs for various reasons (such as bankruptcy, judicial estoppel, and standing), and ultimately entered a March 31, 2006 judgment for back pay of $16,623,989.32, and increased the amount by $1,164,040.42 on April 6, 2007, for a total back pay judgment of $17,788,029.74.
The parties' respective charts not only conflict as to what the deposition testimony shows, but also fail to paint a full picture. For example, according to Family Dollar's chart, Mary Kimsey had the "authority to hire" (depicted by a "Y" in the "Authority to Hire" column). But Kimsey's deposition shows that she lacked the power to hire assistant managers (although she did have the power to hire sales clerks). The chart suggests that she had the power to discipline subordinates. But according to her deposition, her ability to discipline was contingent on district manager approval. Where Family Dollar's chart indicates that Kimsey "set or adjust[ed] the hours of employees," she actually testified that she had some flexibility to adjust hours, but that she was heavily constrained by the corporate planner and the district manager.
Furthermore, Family Dollar's charts do not include all of the factors, discussed later, that courts examine when making an executive exemption inquiry. Family Dollar's charts mostly addressed a store manager's authority to hire, fire, interview, train, and discipline other employees. But they did not address many other aspects of a store manager's day-to-day duties. In any event, the district court was free to assess the quality of the charts, and there was ample evidence to support the court's fact-findings that the Plaintiffs were similarly situated.
The current regulations (effective August 23, 2004) abolished the distinction between the long and short tests. See Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales and Computer Employees, 69 Fed.Reg. 22,122, 22,122-25 (Apr. 23, 2004) (codified at 29 C.F.R. pt. 541) (explaining reasons for the August 23, 2004 change). The Plaintiffs whose claims involve conduct that occurred prior to August 23, 2004 all earned more than $250 a week. Therefore, only the short test under the old regulations and the August 23, 2004 regulations apply to this case.
29 C.F.R. § 541.105 (2006).
29 C.F.R. § 541.102 (2006).
29 C.F.R. § 541.700(a) (2006).
29 C.F.R. § 541.106(b) (2006) (emphasis added).
29 C.F.R. § 541.106(c) (2006) (emphasis added).
Therefore, Family Dollar benefited from every subordinate hour worked—without regard to whether the store managers were physically present or on vacation, out sick, on leave, or just not there.
Alvarez Perez, 515 F.3d at 1165 (quotation marks omitted).