Appeals Court Dismisses OT Claim By County Lab Director

The State Appeals Court ruled that a county laboratory director is exempt from the protections of state wage and hour law embodied in General Laws chapters 149 and 151. Like its federal counterpart (the Federal Labor Standards Act), the state overtime law requires that employees receive time-and-a-half of their regular wages for hours worked beyond 40 in one week. The state and federal wage and hour laws exempt bona fide “executive, or administrative or professional” employees from this guarantee of overtime.

In Ahadul Quazi v. Barnstable County, #06-P-486 (Dec. 3, 2007) [], the Court ruled that the phrase bona fide executive, or administrative or professional person under the state law is interpreted consistently with federal law. Applying federal precedent to the case, the Court ruled that the plaintiff, a laboratory director, was exempt. His job qualified as professional because the water analysis job required that plaintiff possess advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction. Further, the responsibilities of the plaintiff’s job, which involved problemsolving, policymaking and directing the work of other employees, also qualified under the “executive” (a.k.a. managerial) exemption. Because of these facts, the Court ruled that the plaintiff was not entitled to any overtime under state law.

The Appeals Court also ruled that the plaintiff could maintain a claim against his employer under the state whistleblower act, G.L. c. 149, §185. The Act generally protects public employees against retaliation for reporting of misdeeds or illegal behavior by their employer. To obtain protections under the Act, employees must notify superiors of the misconduct allegations in order to provide employers with an opportunity to correct behavior. The Appeals Court ruled that the notice requirement does not apply when, as here, the employee claims that the retaliation arose as a result of the employee’s refusal to participate in misconduct, as opposed to the employee’s threat to publicize said misconduct.

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