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Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham Corp.

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: June 18, 2012
Case #: 11-204
Alito, J., delivered the Court's opinion which Roberts, C.J., and Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas, JJ., joined. Breyer, J., filed a dissenting opinion, which Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-204.pdf

Employment Law: Pharmaceutical sales representatives are "outside salesmen" under the most reasonable interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and are thus exempt from overtime compensation.

Petitioners brought suit alleging that Respondent violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to pay Petitioners overtime. Respondent argued that Petitioners fell under an exemption that excludes employees “employed … in the capacity of outside salesmen,” from overtime compensation.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Respondents and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that Petitioners made “sales” within the meaning of the regulation and therefore qualified as outside salesmen.

The Supreme Court affirmed. The Court refused to give deference to the Department of Labor's (DOL) interpretation of the salesman exemption because the DOL first stated that the exemption did not apply to pharmaceutical sales reps in an Amicus Curiae brief in this proceeding and therefore violated the "fair warning" required when creating rules and bypassed public comments on new rules. Using standard tools of statutory interpretation, the Court found that Petitioner's transactions were sales and therefore Petitioner was exempt from overtime compensation.