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Campbell v. Kannapolis City Schools Bd. of Education

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

September 23, 2014

JEFFREY CAMPBELL, Plaintiff,
v.
KANNAPOLIS CITY SCHOOLS BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant

For JEFFREY CAMPBELL, Plaintiff: KIRK J. ANGEL, MICHAEL C. HARMAN, LEAD ATTORNEYS, THE ANGEL LAW FIRM, PLLC, CONCORD, NC.

For KANNAPOLIS CITY SCHOOLS BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant: D. J. O'BRIEN, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, BROOKS PIERCE MCLENDON HUMPHREY & LEONARD, GREENSBORO, NC; CAITLIN M. POE, BROOKS PIERCE MCLENDON HUMPHREY & LEONARD, LLP, GREENSBORO, NC.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

N. Carlton Tilley, Jr., Senior United States District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #18). For the reasons that follow, the Defendant's Motion will be GRANTED.

Page 822

I.

Plaintiff worked for Defendant as a Local Area Network (" LAN" ) Engineer from August 2004 until December 2012. Plaintiff filed the instant action contending that Defendant violated Section 207 of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (" FLSA" ), by failing to compensate Plaintiff " for hours worked in excess of forty hours in a work week at a rate of not less than one and one-half times his regular rate of pay" during that period of employment. See Doc. #1, ¶ ¶ 20-22. Through its summary judgment motion, Defendant argues that Plaintiff qualifies as both an exempt computer employee and an exempt administrative employee such that Plaintiff was not entitled to overtime pay and that, therefore, Plaintiff's claim fails as a matter of law. See Doc. #21 at 8.

II.

Summary judgment is proper only when, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue of any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Holland v. Washington Homes, Inc., 487 F.3d 208, 213 (4th Cir. 2007). An issue is genuine if a reasonable jury, based on the evidence, could find in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Holland, 487 F.3d at 213. The materiality of a fact depends on whether the existence of the fact could cause a jury to reach different outcomes. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Summary judgment requires a determination of the sufficiency of the evidence, not a weighing of the evidence. See id. at 249. In essence, the analysis concerns " whether the evidence presents sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Id. at 251-52.

III.

The FLSA provides in relevant part as follows:

Except as otherwise provided in this section, no employer shall employ any of his employees who in any workweek is engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, or is employed in an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, for a workweek longer than forty hours unless such employee received compensation for his employment in excess of the hours above specified at a rate not less than one and one-half the time the regular rate at which he is employed.

29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). However, the FLSA includes a number of exemptions from those requirements. Resolving whether a plaintiff falls into one the FLSA's enumerated exemptions involves a mixed question of law and fact. That is, " [t]he question of how the [employee] spent [his] working time . . . is a question of fact . . . [while] [t]he question whether [his] particular activities excluded [him] from the overtime benefits of the FLSA is a question of law . . . ." Icicle Seafoods, Inc. v. Worthington, 475 U.S. 709, 714, 106 S.Ct. 1527, 89 L.Ed.2d 739 (1986). Exemptions under the FLSA " are to be narrowly construed against the employers seeking to assert them and their application limited to those establishments plainly and unmistakably within their terms and spirit." Arnold v. Ben Kanowsky, Inc., 361 U.S. 388, 392, 80 S.Ct. 453, 4 L.Ed.2d 393 (1960); see also Purdham v. Fairfax Cnty. Sch. Bd., 637 F.3d 421, 427 (4th Cir. 2011)

Page 823

(" However, the Supreme Court has cautioned that the FLSA 'must not be interpreted or applied in a narrow, grudging manner,' Tennessee Coal[, Iron & R.R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123], 321 U.S. [590, 597, 64 S.Ct. 698, 88 L.Ed. 949 (1944)], and that exemptions from FLSA coverage 'are to be narrowly construed against the employers seeking to assert them,' Arnold[, 361 U.S. at 392]." ).

IV.

The evidence before the Court, viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, reveals that there is no genuine issue of material fact regarding Plaintiff's qualification as an exempt computer employee under the FLSA. An exempt computer employee is:

any employee who is a computer systems analyst, computer programmer, software engineer, or other similarly skilled worker, whose primary duty is --
(A) the application of systems analysis techniques and procedures, including consulting with users, to determine hardware, software, or system functional specifications;
(B) the design, development, documentation, analysis, creation, testing, or modification of computer systems or programs, including prototypes, based on and related to user or system design specifications;
(C) the design, documentation, testing, creation, or modification of computer programs related to machine operating systems; or
(D) a combination of duties described in subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C) the performance of which requires the same level of skills, and
who in the case of an employee who is compensated on an hourly basis, is compensated at a rate of not less than $27.63 an hour.

29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(17); see also 29 C.F.R. § 541.400. Of note, however,

[t]he exemption for employees in computer occupations does not include employees engaged in the manufacture or repair of computer hardware and related equipment. Employees whose work is highly dependent upon, or facilitated by, the use of computers and computer software programs (e.g., engineers, drafters and others skilled in computer-aided design software), but who are not primarily engaged in computer systems analysis and programming or other similarly skilled computer-related occupations identified in § 541.400(b), are also not exempt computer professionals.

29 C.F.R. § 541.401.

Because it is undisputed that Plaintiff's annual salary of " between 60 and $70,000" (Doc. #21-1 (Campbell dep. at 80-81)) satisfies the relevant salary requirements of 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(17) and 29 C.F.R. § 541.400(b) (see Doc. #21 at 7; Doc. #23 at 9-10), at issue in this case is only whether Plaintiff's " primary duty" satisfies the exemption. " Primary duty" refers to the employee's " principal, main, major or most important duty." 29 C.F.R. § 541.700. " Determination of an employee's primary duty must be based on all the facts in a particular case, with the major emphasis on the character of the employee's job as a whole." Id. " Factors to consider when determining the primary duty of an employee include, but are not limited to, the relative importance of the exempt duties as compared with other types of duties; the amount of time spent performing exempt work; the employee's ...


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