Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Supreme Court to hear case on scope of outside sales exemption (and hopefully scope of DOL’s power)

Do you employ outside salespeople (pharmaceutical reps, for instance)? If so, then you are going to want to pay attention to what will transpire at the U.S. Supreme Court next year.

Yesterday, the Court agreed to hear Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham. This case will address two issues:

    1. Whether deference is owed to the Secretary's interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act's outside sales exemption and related regulations; and 
    2. Whether the Fair Labor Standards Act's outside sales exemption applies to pharmaceutical sales representatives.

While issue #2 is more practical, issue #1 has the potential to have the greatest long-term impact. It is no secret that the DOL—with its sweeping enforcement scheme and broad regulatory interpretations—is the bane of employers everywhere. This case has the potential to serve as a judicial referendum on the scope of its regulatory authority. A rebuke by the Supreme Court of the DOL on this narrow issue could signal that the agency’s powers are not as broad as it currently envisions, reigning in the DOL’s other attempts to broaden employee rights via regulatory interpretations.

For more coverage of this important wage and hour development, please click over and read the thoughts of others who got to this headline before me: