Overtime compensation suit against WHYY will proceed, says federal court

By Nicholas Malfitano | Feb 3, 2016


PHILADELPHIA – A federal court has ruled a former employee’s claims of a local radio and broadcast television network not paying her for overtime compensation will proceed.

Judge Cynthia M. Rufe of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled Monday Revah Anzaldua’s complaint alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (PMWA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) by WHYY, Inc. would go forward.

Anzaldua brought the aforementioned claims in regards to her previous work with WHYY as a Manager of Corporate Sponsorships and Manager of Corporate Affairs, in booking and planning events, securing grant funding and establishing underwriting relationships with clients on behalf of the network.

Anzaldua claims she was routinely required to work more than 40 hours each week, but was never compensated at the overtime rate for these hours. Instead, Anzaldua alleges she was paid an identical weekly salary, plus commission – regardless of the number of hours she worked – and that the defendant classified her as an “exempt employee” under both the FLSA and the PMWA.

WHYY motioned to dismiss Anzaldua’s suit for failure to state a claim, and that she was not entitled to overtime compensation under the FLSA and PMWA (set at a rate of time-and-a-half), as a result of an administrative employee exemption.

Exempt administrative employees are defined as employees “compensated on a salary or fee basis at a rate of not less than $455 per week; whose primary duty is the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer’s customers; and whose primary duty includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.”

Rufe believed it was not clear from Anzaldua’s complaint as to whether she satisfied all three of these criteria.

“Plaintiff alleges that, in her primary duty of securing donations, grants, and underwriting support, she was generally required to follow specific procedures and guidelines and use a fixed schedule of products and prices,” Rufe said.

“The exercise of discretion and independent judgment generally ‘involves the comparison and the evaluation of possible courses of conduct, and acting or making a decision after the various possibilities have been considered. This is sufficient to allow the Court to infer that plaintiff was unauthorized to compare and evaluate various courses of conduct and make a decision after considering the various possibilities,” Rufe added.

Rufe stated the Court “draws the reasonable inference that Anzaldua did not exercise discretion and independent judgment in matters of significance, and therefore was a non-exempt employee entitled to overtime compensation.”

WHYY argued because Anzaldua claimed she generally was required to follow a fixed schedule of prices, she admits that she sometimes exercised discretion and independent judgment. But Rufe countered on a motion to dismiss, the Court would not “infer Anzaldua exercised discretion in her primary duty based solely upon averments that she generally did not exercise discretion, or that [plaintiff] did so in matters of significance.”

“The Court cannot adequately analyze plaintiff’s full range of duties without a developed factual record and courts have routinely found that it is inappropriate to do so,” Rufe said. “While it is possible that plaintiff exercised discretion in matters of significance, it is not apparent from the face of plaintiff’s complaint and defendant’s motion to dismiss will therefore be denied.”

The plaintiff is represented by Michael Patrick Murphy Jr. of Murphy Law Group, in Philadelphia.

The defendant is represented by Joel I. Fishbein of Litchfield Cavo, also in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-00732

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

More News

The Record Network