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Keele v. Rite of Passage Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 6, 2016

Stephanos Keele, Plaintiff,
v.
Rite of Passage Incorporated, Defendant.

ORDER

Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge

Before the Court is Defendant Rite of Passage, Inc.’s (“ROP”) Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 33.) The motion is fully briefed, and the Court heard oral argument on April 22, 2016. For the following reasons, ROP’s motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

ROP owns and operates Canyon State Academy (“CSA”), an alternative high school located in Arizona. (Doc. 34, ¶ 1.) The campus includes residential cottages for the students, which ROP staffs with Group Living Coach Counselors and Group Leaders. (Id.) Plaintiff Stephanos Keele worked for CSA as Group Leader from December 2011 to December 2012. (Id., ¶ 2.) In September 2014, Keele filed this action against ROP for failure to pay overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (Doc. 1.) ROP moves for summary judgment, arguing Keele was exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements because he was a bona fide executive employee. (Doc. 33.)

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrates “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Substantive law determines which facts are material and “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “A fact issue is genuine ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.’” Villiarimo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Thus, the nonmoving party must show that the genuine factual issues “‘can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.’” Cal. Architectural Bldg. Prods., Inc. v. Franciscan Ceramics, Inc., 818 F.2d 1466, 1468 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250).

DISCUSSION

Under the FLSA, employers ordinarily must pay their employees one and one-half times their regular rate for work exceeding forty hours per workweek. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). This overtime requirement does not apply, however, to persons “employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity”-so-called “white collar” employees. 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1).

I. 29 C.F.R. § 541.3(b)(1)

Preliminarily, Keele argues that the Court need not address the white collar exemptions because his role as a Group Leader falls within the purview of 29 C.F.R. § 541.3(b)(1). Section 541.3(b)(1) provides that the white-collar exemptions do not apply to:

police officers, detectives, deputy sheriffs, state troopers, highway patrol officers, investigators, inspectors, correctional officers, parole or probation officers, park rangers, fire fighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, ambulance personnel, rescue workers, hazardous materials workers and similar employees, regardless of rank or pay level, who perform work such as preventing, controlling or extinguishing fires of any type; rescuing fire, crime or accident victims; preventing or detecting crimes; conducting investigations or inspections for violations of law; performing surveillance; pursuing, restraining and apprehending suspects; detaining or supervising suspected and convicted criminals, including those on probation or parole; interviewing witnesses; interrogating and fingerprinting suspects; preparing investigative reports; or other similar work.

Keele argues that ROP’s business is “so akin to what prisons do” that § 541.3(b)(1) applies. (Doc. 37 at 3.) He asserts that he “essentially functioned as a correctional officer” because CSA operates like a juvenile home and he was responsible for the residents’ safety. (Id. at 3-4.) Assuming Keele’s description of his job duties is accurate, a Group Leader is not sufficiently analogous to a police officer, first responder, or correctional officer. Keele cites no authority, and this Court is aware of none, applying § 541.3(b)(1) merely because a person is responsible for the safety of others. The Court finds this provision inapplicable to this case.

II. Executive Exemption

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) has promulgated a four-part test for determining whether a person is “employed in a bona fide executive capacity.” ...


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