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Grage v. Northern States Power Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 28, 2015

Veronica R. Grage, Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
Northern States Power Co. - Minnesota, Defendant - Appellant

Submitted October 21, 2015.

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis.

For Veronica R. Grage, Plaintiff - Appellee: Matthew H. Morgan, Timothy C. Selander, Nichols & Kaster, Minneapolis, MN.

For Northern States Power Co. - Minnesota, Defendant - Appellant: Ryan E. Mick, Melissa Raphan, Dorsey & Whitney, Minneapolis, MN.

Before WOLLMAN, BEAM, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

BEAM, Circuit Judge.

Veronica Grage sued her employer, Northern States Power Company-Minnesota (NSP), for failing to pay overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § § 201-219. The district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Grage, holding that because Grage's work was not directly related to NSP's management or general business operations, she did not fall within the administrative exemption of the FLSA. As a result, the district court determined Grage was entitled to overtime pay. NSP appeals the district court's denial of its motion for summary judgment and grant of partial summary judgment in favor of Grage. For the reasons discussed below, we reverse in part and remand for further proceedings.

I. BACKGROUND

NSP provides gas and electricity to customers throughout Minnesota. Grage worked for NSP for over thirty years and was eventually promoted to Supervisor I. As a Supervisor I she worked at NSP's Chestnut Service Center. She was a salaried employee classified by NSP as exempt from overtime pay under the administrative exemption of the FLSA. She retired at the end of 2013 and sued NSP for failing to pay her overtime in her capacity as a Supervisor I in violation of the FLSA.

NSP and Grage describe her Supervisor I duties and responsibilities quite differently. NSP's description, which Grage agreed generally reflected her primary job duties, includes development and management of daily work plans, assigning and directing Field Operations employees, providing work direction to construction resources, assigning equipment, overseeing work detail, coordinating all components involved with requested outages, and independently assigning resources to work. One of the " competencies" listed as part of the job description for Supervisor I is " Project/Program Management," which includes planning, directing, managing, and monitoring programs, schedules, and resources. Specifically, she regularly engaged in daily and long-term planning in regards to work plans and reprioritization of jobs. NSP notes that crews took direction and guidance from Grage, she authorized overtime when necessary, and she investigated and responded to customer complaints.

Conversely, Grage claims that her primary duty was to schedule and dispatch NSP's work crews to do installations, maintenance, and repairs. She claims she did not have to manage the business or use discretion because NSP employees, called " Designers," performed consultations and designed plans to meet customer needs. After work orders from the Designers were submitted to Grage, she simply scheduled crews to perform the orders. She also alleges that although she was in charge of scheduling and assigning crews to deal with emergencies and routine maintenance, she had minimal customer service responsibility, did not oversee contract crews, and did not manage operations or the budget. Grage points out that NSP lists the title of Supervisor I under the " Production Operations" job family, not the " Administrative Services" job family. Jobs within Production Operations are " directly involved in the production distribution or maintenance of system[s] that produce or distribute energy." Also, the Supervisor I's official " Job Function" is " Field Operations" rather than " Field Support." Field Operations includes duties such as " development, and implementation management of processes and systems directing the overall gas and electric construction, operations, maintenance and emergency repair activities." Field support, she claims, is the category that includes performance of administrative or support functions.

In October 2013, NSP moved for summary judgment requesting dismissal of the case, arguing there was no genuine dispute of material fact that Grage is exempt from overtime under the FLSA as an administrative employee. Grage also moved for summary judgment, arguing that there was no genuine dispute of material fact that one of the three requirements for the administrative exemption was not met and requested liquidated damages. In September 2014, the district court found that Grage was not exempt from overtime pay under the administrative exemption of the FLSA because her primary duty did not directly relate to the management or general business operations of NSP. Accordingly, the court denied NSP's motion for summary judgment and granted Grage's request for summary judgment on liability. But the court denied Grage's request for summary judgment on the issue of liquidated damages. NSP now appeals the district court's grant of partial summary judgment in favor of Grage and denial of its motion for summary judgment.

II. DISCUSSION

We review a district court's decision to grant or deny summary judgment de novo. Tusing v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist.,639 F.3d 507, 514 (8th Cir. 2011). Summary judgment is only proper " where the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, shows that no genuine issue of material fact exists, such that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Id. There is no genuine issue of material fact when " the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party." Torgerson v. City of Rochester,643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Ricci v. DeStefano,557 U.S. 557, 586, 129 S.Ct. 2658, 174 L.Ed.2d 490 (2009)). " 'The burden of demonstrating that there are no genuine issues of material fact rests on the moving party,' and '[w]e review the evidence and the inferences that reasonably may be drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.'" Davis v. Jefferson Hosp. Ass'n,685 F.3d 675, 680 (8th Cir. 2012) (alteration in original) (quoting Davis v. KARK-TV, Inc.,4 ...


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