Warehouse “Captains” Qualify as Exempt Executives Under FLSA, 2nd Circuit Rules
The “captains” were employed on the night shift in the warehouse department, each of whom performed the same job duties which included overseeing the work of a “team” of three to six “pickers,” the employees who retrieve food products from the warehouse shelves and load them onto trucks to be delivered to customers. Each captain is “in charge of” his team, the Court observes, being responsible for making sure that the pickers arrive at work on time for each shift, retrieve the correct products from the warehouse shelves, and load the products onto the correct trucks. The captain is also responsible for improving his team’s performance and efficiency over time. Each captain has the power to assign slow pickers “easier work” so that they do not fall behind or hurt the team’s performance, and the captain can “give certain orders to certain pickers if [he] trust[s]” a particular picker “to get the right product.” It is the captain’s job to ensure pickers “have done their job right.” Supervising his team is the “main part” of a captain’s job, the Court says.
The company has continuously operated its warehouse department in its current structure, with captains in charge of teams of pickers, since at least 1999, and although each team performs the same general tasks as other teams, each team has a distinct “assigned work area” in the warehouse where the captain and his team of pickers “report each shift.”
The Court says that the captains met the FLSA criteria for the executive exemption: each captain is paid more than $455 per week, each captain customarily and regularly directs the work of two or more pickers, and captains’ suggestions and recommendations concerning the hiring, firing, and promotion of pickers “are given particular weight,” and there was no dispute that their primary duty was spent in supervising their respective teams.
The captains argued that the executive exemption did not apply to them because the teams of pickers did not constitute customarily recognized departments or subdivisions as defined in the regulations since each team performed the same tasks as other teams at the same time and in the same warehouse.
The Court decides that a unit can have “a permanent status and a continuing function” when it is functionally identical to other units, when it works the same shift as other units, and when it operates in the same physical space as other units. Ramos v. Baldor Specialty Foods, Inc.