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7th Circuit rules Lilly sales reps not entitled to overtime

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Pharmaceutical sales representatives from Eli Lilly & Co. and Abbott Laboratories were properly classified by their employers under the administrative exemption to the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The lawsuit brought by employees of both companies raised an issue of first impression for the Circuit court.

The 7th Circuit combined the Indiana case, Susan Schaefer-LaRose v. Eli Lilly & Co., No. 10-3855, with two from Illinois involving Abbott Laboratories Inc., in which current and former sales employees sued, claiming that they were misclassified as exempt employees and denied overtime pay in violation of the FLSA. Lilly and Abbott argued that the administrative exemption and the outside sales exemption, 29 U.S.C. Section 213(a)(1), remove the sales reps from the overtime protections of the FLSA.

U.S. Judge Sarah Evans Barker in the Southern District of Indiana ruled in favor of Lilly; the Illinois cases favored the plaintiffs. The Department of Labor filed an amicus curiae brief in the Indiana case, requesting the court find the plaintiffs are not administrative employees nor outside sales persons under the statute and the DOL’s regulations.

The 7th Circuit focused on just the administrative exemption, noting that the outside sales person exemption issue is before the U.S. Supreme Court from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs believe that they don’t fall within the exemptions because they don’t actually sell the drugs to the physicians, but merely engage in promotional work that results in sales by third parties.

The judges relied on their caselaw, including Haywood v. North American Vans Lines Inc., 121 F.3d 1066 (7th Cir. 1997), and a decision from the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals to find the work done by pharmaceutical sales reps is characterized properly as administrative.

“ … the sales representatives’ primary duty is the performance of work directly related to the general business operations of the employers, which satisfies the second prong of the administrative exemption,” wrote Judge Kenneth Ripple.

The issue of whether pharmaceutical sales employees’ primary duty includes “the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance” is one of first impression for the 7th Circuit. But other Circuits have considered this issue with regard to pharmaceutical sales reps, and the judges focused on the 2nd Circuit’s decision in In re Novartis Wage & Hour Litigation, 611 F.3d 141 (2nd. Cir. 2010), and the 3rd Circuit’s Smith v. Johnson & Johnson, 593 F.3d 280 (3d Cir. 2010), which are conflicting decisions.

The 7th Circuit concluded that the sales reps were required to exercise a significant measure of discretion and independent judgment, despite the constraints instituted by the regulatory environment of the pharmaceutical industry. Although they must deliver specific messages to the doctors, the sales reps must tailor their messages to respond to the circumstances, noted Ripple.

“The particular discretion exercised by the representatives before us is within the range of cases in which the exemption has been applied,” he wrote.

The 7th Circuit affirmed the decision by Barker in the Lilly case and ordered the Illinois court to enter judgment in favor of Abbott.


 

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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