Insurance Adjusters Are Managers Within Meaning of FLSA, Appeals Court Rules


A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia caught the attention of our Illinois overtime rights attorneys. In Robinson-Smith v. Government Employees Insurance Co., No. 08-7146 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 5, 2010), more than 200 auto damage adjusters sued auto insurance company GEICO for unpaid overtime. The adjusters claimed that they were incorrectly classified as administrative employees, making them exempt from overtime laws. A federal district court agreed and granted summary judgment to the workers. However, the D.C. Circuit reversed that decision, saying the claims adjusters meet the definition of administrative employees because they exercise “some discretion” on the job.

The case turns on whether the adjusters exercise “discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance,” as required by the Department of Labor definition of an administrative employee. The adjusters claimed they did not have sufficient discretion or independence, in part because they estimate only the price of auto damage and not liability. The trial court agreed, finding that supervisors have to sign off on some of the adjusters’ decisions, and their decisions were largely constrained by GEICO training and standards. But the appeals court opinion, authored by Judge Karen L. Henderson, said it was undisputed that the adjusters exercised at least some discretion. Because the DOL test does not include a requirement for how often that discretion is exercised or whether it’s a primary duty, the judge wrote, some discretion is enough to make the adjusters ineligible for overtime.

The case follows a similar decision from the Ninth Circuit in In re Farmers Ins. Exch., Claims Representatives’ Overtime Pay Litig., 466 F.3d 853 (9th Cir. 2006). That case had very similar facts, and was also overturned at the appeals level by a court that found the definition of “administrative employee” sufficient for claims adjusters. Like that decision, the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Robinson-Smith overturns only a grant of summary judgment for the claims adjusters. This means both sides will still have a chance to prove their claims at trial.

The Chicago overtime attorneys at Lubin Austermuehle represent employees from all industries, jobs and backgrounds in claims for unpaid overtime pay. Federal law makes overtime a right — not a privilege that can be denied in order to save money for the employer. Nonetheless, too many employers tighten their belts by essentially stealing labor from their employees, by shaving hours off timecards, pressuring employees to work off the clock or incorrectly classifying them as exempt from overtime. Our Wheaton, Ill. employee rights attorneys handle both individual and class-action lawsuits from workers who are ready to stand up for their rights and collect hundreds or thousands of dollars in unpaid wages. Based in Chicago and its suburbs, we represent or have represented clients throughout Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan and all over the United States.

If you believe your labor has been stolen by an employer that consistently refused to pay overtime, the Chicago based attorneys at Lubin Austermuehle can help. To set up a free consultation with one of our Aurora, Wheaton, Naperville, Elgin Evanston< Waukegan or Chicago unpaid overtime attorneys, call us toll-free at 630-333-0333 or send us an email.

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