New Cases and Developments

NACUA's Legal Resources staff summarizes current higher education cases and developments and provides the full text of selected cases to members. New cases and developments are archived here for up to 12 months.  Cases provided by Fastcase, Inc.

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FLSA & Categorization of Employees; Faculty & Staff

State of Nevada v. U.S. Dep’t of Labor (E.D. Tex. August 31, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion and Order issued by the United States District Court, Eastern District of Texas, invalidating a Department of Labor (DOL) regulation that would have increased the salary threshold for employees eligible for overtime pay. The State of Nevada and twenty other states filed suit challenging the Department of Labor’s authority to issue FLSA regulations that would have raised the annual salary threshold for overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476. Applying Chevron v. National Resources Defense Council, the court found that the regulations did not give effect to Congress’ unambiguous intent of qualitatively defining “bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity duties.” The court noted that management-level workers would have fallen within the proposed overtime threshold even though “Congress intended for employees who perform ‘bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity’ duties to be exempt from overtime pay.” The court found that the Department’s Final Rule was invalid and not entitled to Chevron deference because the regulations make salary determinative of the overtime exemption, rather than job duties, as intended by Congress. 

FLSA & Categorization of Employees; Faculty & Staff

Request for Information by the Department of Labor on the Fair Labor Standards Act’s Minimum Wage and Overtime Requirements (July 26, 2017)

Request for Information issued by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division on the regulatory exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime requirements, commonly known as the “white collar” exemptions. These exemptions exclude from minimum wage and overtime protection regulations “employee[s] employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity,” as defined by three tests. The Obama administration issued a Final Rule in 2016 that raised the salary threshold required for an employee to qualify for the exemption, but a district court enjoined the Department from implementing the Rule before it went into effect. In response to concerns raised about the new salary level, the Department is inviting the public to comment on the 2016 revisions to aid in its formulation of a new proposal. Interested parties may submit comments on or before September 25, 2017.

FLSA & Categorization of Employees

Dawson v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (N.D. Cal. Apr. 25, 2017)

Opinion and Order granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a former football player for the University of Southern California (USC), filed a putative class action lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the PAC-12 Conference (PAC-12), alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state labor law. He claimed that the NCAA and PAC-12, as joint employers of student athletes who play Division I football on behalf of member institutions, unlawfully denied him and other players full pay for all hours worked and permitted them to work without receiving required minimum wage payments. Relying on the persuasive authority of Berger v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, 843 F.3d 285 (7th Cir. 2016), the district court concluded that former student athletes of Division I schools do not constitute “employees” under the FLSA due to the “long tradition of amateurism in college sports,” the fact that student athletes “participate in their sports for reasons wholly unrelated to immediate compensation,” and the voluntary nature of student participation in college athletics. 

FLSA & Categorization of Employees

Edelmann v. Keuka College (W.D.N.Y. Apr. 10, 2017)

Decision and Order denying Keuka College’s Motion to Dismiss. A former Senior Technical Support Technician at Keuka alleged that the College failed to compensate him for overtime work in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state law. When he was initially hired, Plaintiff chose to receive a salary after Keuka informed him that salaried workers are entitled to one week of vacation and do not work “much overtime.” However, Plaintiff alleged that he was assigned week-long “on call” shifts and was expected to be available for various events outside his normal work hours, which put his typical work week at 50 hours. The court found that Plaintiff’s allegations gave rise to a plausible inference that Plaintiff worked more than 40 hours in a given workweek without additional compensation, and thus that he had a legally-cognizable FLSA claim against the College. The court reasoned that the Second Circuit does not require plaintiffs to identify and specifically account for at least one week in which the employee worked uncompensated overtime, but that this is merely a suggested method of satisfying pleading requirements.  

Retaliation; FLSA & Categorization of Employees; Faculty & Staff

Mello v. Siena College (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 14, 2017)

Decision and Order granting Siena College’s Motion for Summary Judgment. A former dean of the Siena College School of Business (“Siena”) filed a Title VII retaliation and Fair Labor Standards Act suit against Siena for removing him from the dean position and reducing his salary after he complained of unlawful employment practices. The Court dismissed these claims, finding that Plaintiff failed to establish that a genuine dispute of material fact existed regarding whether the adverse employment actions complained of were causally related to his protected activity. The seven-month time gap between Plaintiff’s filing of the complaint and his demotion, as well as well-documented concerns with Plaintiff’s job performance, were legitimate reasons for Siena’s adverse employment actions against Plaintiff, and Plaintiff failed to produce evidence to show that these reasons were merely pretext for retaliation. 

FLSA & Categorization of Employees; Faculty & Staff

Survey of Institutions’ Responses to the Fair Labor Standards Act Injunction (Dec. 2016)

Survey results compiled by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) on how institutions are responding to the injunction blocking the implementation of new overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Of the 495 institutions surveyed, approximately equal percentages (around 30 percent) have decided to go forward with the planned changes, to implement some of the changes and delay others, or delay the changes entirely. The remaining 8 percent are rolling back or reversing the changes they have already implemented. 

FLSA & Categorization of Employees; Student Athlete Issues; Faculty & Staff; Athletics & Sports

Berger v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (7th Cir. Dec. 5, 2016)

Several former student athletes at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) sued the University, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and over 120 other NCAA Division I universities, asserting that student athletes are employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and thus entitled to minimum wage. The District Court found that Appellants lacked standing to sue any of the Appellees aside from Penn and failed to state a claim against Penn. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Appellants’ connection to the NCAA and the institutions other than Penn was too tenuous to be considered an employment relationship. Moreover, the “extracurricular” nature of student athletics and the long tradition of amateurism in NCAA athletics foreclosed the possibility that the FLSA applied to student athletes.

FLSA & Categorization of Employees; Athletics & Sports

Berger v. Nat.'l Collegiate Athletic Assoc., et al. (Feb. 16, 2016)

Order from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, dismissing with prejudice Plaintiffs' claims against the NCAA and 123 member institutions. Plaintiffs alleged that they were entitled to minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") because of their participation as student-athletes on the University of Pennsylvania ("Penn") track team. The Court concluded that the Plaintiffs lacked standing to sue any defendant other than Penn, and with respect to Penn, that Plaintiffs' participation on an athletic team did not make them employees for FLSA purposes.