“The Fourth Circuit’s outlier decision cannot be reconciled with Supreme Court precedent.”
—John Masslon, WLF Senior Litigation Counsel

Click here for WLF’s brief.

WASHINGTON, DC— Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) today urged the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify the burden of proof employers must satisfy to show that a Fair Labor Standards Act exemption applies. In an amicus brief, WLF argues that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit erred by applying the clear and convincing evidence standard.

The case arises from a suit by three salesmen who helped a woman-owned business sell goods to stores in the Washington, DC metro area. The three salesmen worked more than forty hours per week and argued that they were entitled to overtime under the FLSA. EMD, however, argued that the three salesmen were covered by the FLSA’s “outside salesmen” exemption. The District Court held that EMD failed to prove that the exemption applied by clear and convincing evidence, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed that decision.  

WLF’s brief details why the Fourth Circuit’s outlier position requiring employers to prove FLSA exemptions by clear and convincing evidence is wrong. The Fourth Circuit cited a single Tenth Circuit case supporting that burden. The Tenth Circuit, however, has held that the Fourth Circuit’s decision is wrong. Requiring clear and convincing evidence to show an FLSA exemption arose from the principle that FLSA exemptions must be construed narrowly. But the Supreme Court rejected that principle five years ago. The Fourth Circuit’s decision ignores that precedent.

WLF’s brief also explains why this is an important and recurring issue. FLSA exemptions are often litigated. And many of those cases involve close and complex issues. Forcing employers to prove exemptions’ applicability tilts the scale in favor of plaintiffs. Nothing in the FLSA’s text suggests that Congress intended that result. Because the FLSA’s venue provision is so broad, the Supreme Court’s intervention is necessary to stop the Fourth Circuit from applying its incorrect rule in disputes from around the nation.