Supreme Court rules auto service advisors exempt from overtime pay

Supreme Court rules auto service advisors exempt from overtime pay

The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday that service advisors at car dealerships are excluded from federal overtime pay requirements.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that service advisors are exempt from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) [text, PDF] overtime provision, which does not require overtime pay “to any salesman, partsman, or mechanic primarily engaged in selling or servicing automobiles.”

The court classified service advisors as salesman, stating that “a service advisor is obviously a ‘salesman.’ The ordinary meaning of ‘salesman’ is someone who sells goods or services, and service advisors ‘sell [customers] services for their vehicles.’ They meet customers, suggest repair and maintenance services, [and] sell new accessories or replacement parts.”

The case arose in 2012 when former service advisors at Encino Motorcars, a Mercedes dealership, sued the company for backpay, alleging that the petitioner violated the FLSA by failing to pay them overtime.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] found in favor of the petitioners. The Ninth Circuit agreed that service advisors are salesman in a “generic sense” but did not believe that Congress intended to exempt service advisers.

The Supreme Court said that “even if Congress did not foresee all of the applications of the statute, that is no reason not to give the statutory text a fair reading.”

Even for those Members of this Court who consider legislative history, silence in the legislative history, no matter how ‘clanging,’ cannot defeat the better reading of the text and statutory context. If the text is clear, it needs no repetition in the legislative history; and if the text is ambiguous, silence in the legislative history cannot lend any clarity.

The opinion was delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed a dissent, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with their opinion.