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. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues