NELA & NELP File Amicus Brief In Support Of Auto Dealership Service Advisors In U.S. Supreme Court

By Matthew Koski posted 05-02-2016 11:42 AM


On April 6, 2016, NELA and the National Employment Law Project filed an amicus brief in support of the Respondents in Encino Motors, LLC v. Navarro (Case No. 15-415), currently pending in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The five plaintiffs in this case were, or are, service advisors at a Mercedes-Benz dealership in California. Their responsibilities included greeting customers, recording their complaints, drafting service estimates, and suggesting work to be performed. While they regularly worked more than forty hours per week, they did not receive overtime pay and, in 2012, filed suit in federal district court alleging violations of the Flair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The district court held that although the relevant section of the FLSA—§213(b)(10)(A)—does not expressly exempt service advisors, the role is sufficiently similar to those of salesmen and mechanics to render the applicable U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulation unreasonable and therefore not entitled to deference. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. It held that the statute does not unambiguously exempt service advisors, that the DOL regulation is entitled to deference, and that the service advisors therefore were entitled to overtime.

Our amicus brief is focused tightly on addressing the issue of statutory construction, both to flesh out the discussion of the issue in the Respondents’ merits brief and to counter the arguments made in an amicus brief filed in this case on behalf of the Petitioners by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The brief argues that 1) the Court can affirm the Ninth Circuit’s decision without resort to the FLSA’s “narrow construction” rule, because other canons of statutory construction (i.e., Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius and Reddendo Singula Singulis) support the conclusion that service advisors are not covered by the relevant FLSA exemption, and 2) if the Court decides to reach the issue, the “narrow construction” canon is a well-settled method of interpreting the scope of FLSA exemptions and also supports affirming the Ninth Circuit’s ruling. The Court heard oral arguments in the case on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.

Our amicus brief was drafted by NELA member Jamie G. Sypulski (Law Office of Jamie Golden Sypulski in Chicago, IL), and is available for download from the Amicus Library on The NELA Exchange.