Co-authored by Nadia S. Bandukda and Robert S. Whitman

The green gecko is surely happy about this: a federal judge has held that GEICO’s telephone claims representatives (“TCR”) are exempt from overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law.

The plaintiff sued in 2009, seeking back pay for herself and others and claiming that the work of TCRs requires little skill and independent judgment.  Judge Leonard Wexler of the Eastern District of New York conditionally certified a nationwide group of TCRs in 2012.

In summary judgment briefing, GEICO argued that the TCRs meet the requirements of the administrative exemption, and Judge Wexler agreed.  He held that they perform administrative duties servicing GEICO’s general business operations, even though part of their job duties involved sales.  He also rejected the plaintiff’s contention that TCRs serve in a non-exempt “production” role.  The court also relied in part on a 2005 Department of Labor opinion letter that contrasted the duties of employees with the titles “Claims Specialist I,” “Claims Specialist II” and “Senior Claims Specialist.”

The court further rejected the argument that GEICO’s “Claim IQ software,” which helps the TCRs establish payouts for claims, constrained their exercise of discretion.  Instead, it concluded that the existence of company-wide procedures was to ensure consistency and did not eliminate the discretion and judgment from the TCRs’ work. After reviewing industry practices and other court decisions, the court held that the TCRs fell “squarely within the particular [DOL] regulation” and that GEICO properly classified them as exempt.