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Jones and Associates, Inc. v. District of Columbia

May 26, 1994

JONES AND ASSOCIATES, INC., APPELLANT
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; (Hon. Rufus King, III, Trial Judge)

Before Schwelb, Farrell, and Wagner, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schwelb

SCHWELB, Associate Judge: The District of Columbia brought this action against Jones and Associates, Inc. (Jones), on behalf of six of Jones' employees, *fn1 to recover overtime pay which Jones allegedly owed the employees for the period beginning January 1, 1987 and ending March 31, 1989. See D.C. Code § 36-220.2 (c) (1993). Following a bench trial, the trial Judge ruled in favor of the District. The Judge held that Jones had not met its burden of showing that the employees fell within the statutory exemption for "bona fide executive, administrative, or professional" employees. See D.C. Code § 36-220.3 (a)(1) (1993) (incorporating 29 U.S.C. § 213 (a) (1993)). On appeal, Jones contends that the trial Judge erred as a matter of law by concluding that the employees were eligible to receive overtime pay. We affirm.

I.

THE FACTS *fn2

The trial court found that, during the 27-month period to which this appeal pertains, Jones and Associates, Inc. was a private corporation which provided counseling and taught independent living skills to children in foster care who had been committed to the Department of Human Services pursuant to the District's child neglect laws. The company was founded in 1983 by Dr. James L. Jones, who was its president and who directed its operations.

Counsellors at the company worked in teams on one of three shifts. Each shift had a team leader, but the Judge found that there was no rigid hierarchical structure within the organization. The teaching methods utilized by the counselors were set forth in a manual developed by Dr. Jones. The counselors taught life skills from the manual, but they were authorized to determine which skills should be taught to a particular client at any given time, and they exercised discretion in that regard.

The five Jones employees on whose behalf this proceeding was instituted included Marjorie McGaha, James Gates, Robert Parker, James Epps and Rev. Allen Horton. All five of these individuals were salaried employees. Each of them worked more than forty hours per week, and all except Rev. Horton earned more than $250 per week. The trial Judge made the following written findings regarding the five complaining employees' duties:

(5) The employees Marjorie McGaha, *fn3 James Gates and Robert Parker *fn4 were team leaders. Their primary duties were to counsel the residents, work with social workers, attend administrative reviews and court proceedings and to "treat the child as their own." They were also responsible for completing work assignments on their shift. Work not completed would then be passed on to the next shift. The employees were not responsible for reviewing and evaluating the work of the employees on the different shifts.

(6) James Epps was responsihle for transporting the residents to various activities.

(7) Allen Horton's primary duties were to ensure residents were in the facility on time and awaken them in the morning.

The Judge further found that the complainants had no authority to hire, fire, or discipline employees, and that they did not have as their primary duty management of the company. On the contrary, according to the court's findings, "the evidence offered at trial established that they were line employees whose primary duty was counselling."

On the basis of these findings, the Judge concluded as a matter of law that the five employees were not employed in a "bona fide executive or administrative capacity" within the meaning of D.C. Code § 36-220.3 (a)(1) (1993) and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et, seq. He ruled that each employee ...


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