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Mohorn v. Tennessee Valley Authority

July 17, 2007

SUSIE S. MOHORN, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas A. Varlan United States District Judge

VARLAN/SHIRLEY

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs, eight employees of defendant Tennessee Valley Authority's ("TVA") Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, filed this action under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., to recover unpaid overtime compensation, liquidated damages, attorneys fees, and costs for TVA's alleged failure to compensate them for overtime hours worked since August 23, 2004. This case is related to the factual findings made and judgment rendered by United States Senior District Court Judge R. Leon Jordan in Beene, et al. v. TVA, Case No. 3:99-CV-350 (E.D. Tenn. August 12, 2003) by virtue of a stipulation entered into by the parties in this action [Doc. 11]. As the stipulation explains, in Beene, Judge Jordan determined that the positions of RadCon Supervisor and Task Supervisor, the positions held by plaintiffs in this action, were not exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA and accordingly, that the plaintiffs in Beene were entitled to back pay and liquidated damages through August 22, 2004 as a result of TVA's decision in June 1996 to cease paying overtime to its management employees. [Doc. 11 at ¶¶ 1, 4.] The instant action involves the issue of whether revisions made to the Department of Labor regulations governing the FLSA effective as of August 23, 2004 would result in the RadCon and Task Supervisor positions no longer being nonexempt from the FLSA's overtime provisions. The parties have stipulated that the facts as determined by Judge Jordan in Beene will govern in this case. Specifically, the parties have stipulated the following:

- The duties of the Plaintiffs as RadCon Supervisors and Task Supervisors have not changed from the date of the Beene trial before Judge Jordan to the present.

- TVA will not reargue in the captioned action Judge Jordan's findings and conclusions in Beene, but will accept that decision as binding in the captioned action.

- Apart from arguments on questions of law, the briefs in support of and in opposition to the cross motions shall make reference only to the record before this Court in Beene v. Tennessee Valley Authority, supra. [Doc. 11 at ¶¶ 6-8.] Accordingly, the Court will rely upon Judge Jordan's Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law from Beene, [Case. No. 3:99-CV-350, Doc. 94] (hereinafter cited as "Beene F&C at _____"), for the undisputed facts in this matter.

This action is currently before the Court on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment. In TVA's motion for summary judgment [Doc. 12], it argues that, as a result of the August 23, 2004 revisions to the FLSA regulations, plaintiffs are subject to the FLSA's administrative and highly compensated employee exemptions, thereby exempting them from the FLSA's requirement of overtime compensation. In plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment [Doc. 17], they argue that "the amended regulations have not changed the criteria for the administrative exemption" and that they still do not meet the definition of administrative employees and therefore are entitled to overtime compensation, as was determined by Judge Jordan in Beene. As to the highly compensated employee exemption, plaintiffs contend that TVA cannot show that this exemption is applicable to the RadCon Supervisor plaintiffs.

The Court has carefully considered the pending motions for summary judgment, as well as the briefs submitted in support of and opposition to the pending motions. [Docs. 14, 18, 19, 22.] For the reasons set forth herein, the Court will grant plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and deny TVA's motion for summary judgment.

I. Relevant Facts

As noted above, the parties agree that the relevant facts in this case have been determined and set forth in Judge Jordan's Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law in Beene. Accordingly, the Court will only briefly recount those facts to establish the background in which to consider the pending cross motions for summary judgment.

Plaintiffs are all current or former employees of TVA at its Sequoyah Nuclear Plant ("SNP"). [Beene F&C at 2.] Seven of the plaintiffs are Radiological Control Shift Supervisors ("RadCon Supervisors")*fn1 and one, Barry Hooper, is a Modifications Task Supervisor ("Task Supervisor"). [Doc. 14 at 4; Doc. 18 at 4.] On June 10, 1996, TVA changed its overtime policy to cease paying overtime compensation to all management and specialist employees. [Beene F&C at 2.] This change resulted in the filing of the Beene lawsuit on June 30, 1999 by thirty-three current and former employees of SNP. [Id. at 4 n. 2.] Four of those plaintiffs were RadCon Supervisors and four were Task Supervisors and therefore had the same duties as the plaintiffs in this action.*fn2 [Beene F&C at 2, 4; Doc. 18 at 4.] As noted above, the Beene lawsuit resulted in the determination that the RadCon and Task Supervisors were not exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA and that the plaintiffs occupying those positions were entitled to back pay, liquidated damages, and attorney fees. [Doc. 11 at ¶ 1.] Plaintiffs subsequently filed this lawsuit on November 9, 2005 as a result of TVA's alleged unlawful decision to cease paying plaintiffs overtime compensation for overtime hours worked since August 23, 2004. [Doc. 8 at ¶ 5.]

The pending cross motions for summary judgment center on the applicability of the amended FLSA regulations to the positions of RadCon and Task Supervisors and, therefore, a brief recounting of the job duties of those positions is necessary. Given that the parties agree that the respective duties of the RadCon and Task Supervisors have not changed since the issuance of Judge Jordan's decision in Beene, [Doc. 14 at 2; Doc. 18 at 3], the Court will look to the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law in Beene for an articulation of the duties of the plaintiffs in this case.

As to the RadCon Supervisors, Judge Jordan determined that their primary duty is "measur[ing] radiation levels to help protect SNP's workers and the public from radiation exposure." [Beene F&C at 11.] To that end, the RadCon Supervisors perform quality control review of the documentation prepared by RadCon technicians resulting from their routine radiological surveys of the plant, ensure that such radiological surveys are performed as scheduled, and are authorized to prevent workers from entering an area that has become contaminated with radiation. [Id. at 12-13.] The RadCon Supervisors also have human resource-related responsibilities, including issuing oral and/or written warnings in response to minor disciplinary violations of the RadCon technicians and preparing performance reviews which are subject to final review by the manager of SNP's Radiological Control Department. [Id. at 13.] RadCon Supervisors "do not hire, fire, or promote technicians or any other employees" and are not involved in budget-related activities or decisions. [Id.]

As to the duties of the Task Supervisors, Judge Jordan's factual findings note at the outset that "[t]he Task Supervisors are the lowest ranking persons in the Modifications Department and do not supervise other employees." [Beene F&C at 15.] As an employee of SNP's Modifications Department, a Task Supervisor primarily has oversight responsibilities through "monitoring the progress of the installations performed by TVA's contractors, as set forth in detailed work orders, to ensure that the projects are timely performed within budget and in accordance with procedures." [Id.] To that end, Task Supervisors act as points of contact between contractors and TVA staff, monitor the work being done by such contractors, and "occasionally ...


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