Recent Case Law Focuses Heavily on “Outside Salesman” and “Administrative” Exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act
The issue of whether pharmaceutical company sales representatives who promote their employer’s products to doctors and hospitals are exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) has spurred litigation across the country. Courts have considered whether these employees are entitled to overtime compensation or are exempt under the “outside salesman” or “administrative” exemptions recognized by the FLSA. The results have been inconsistent, leaving employers with many questions. For example, the Second Circuit (covering the states of New York, Connecticut, Vermont) has held that the pharmaceutical company sales representatives at issue did not qualify for either the “outside salesman” or “administrative” exemptions and were entitled to overtime compensation. Conversely, the Ninth Circuit (covering California, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) recently held the pharmaceutical sales representatives were exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements under the “outside salesman” exemption, noting that the term “sale” must be ready broadly to include employees who “in some sense” sell. The Ninth Circuit ruled that the Department of Labor regulations, which supported a finding that the “outside salesman” exemption applied to the pharmaceutical representatives, were entitled to substantial deference and disagreed with the Second Circuit’s conclusion to the contrary. Most recently, the Third Circuit (covering New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware) held that a pharmaceutical company’s sales representatives qualified for the “administrative” exemption in large part because they “executed nearly all of [their] duties without direct oversight.” Interestingly, despite the different results, the sales representatives at issue in the cases decided by the Second and Third Circuits performed similar functions.