United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi.
For Linda Noble, Plaintiff: Roman Ashley Shaul, LEAD ATTORNEY, BEASLEY, ALLEN, CROW, METHVIN, PORTIS & MILES, P.C., Montgomery, AL.
For Dolgencorp, Inc., Dollar General Partners, Dolgencorp of New York, Inc., Dolgencorp of Texas, Inc., Defendants: Joel S. Allen - PHV, Ronald E. Manthey - PHV, LEAD ATTORNEYS, PRO HAC VICE, MORGAN, LEWIS & BOCKIUS, LLP - Dallas, Dallas, TX; Herbert C. Ehrhardt, OGLETREE, DEAKINS, NASH, SMOAK & STEWART, PC - Ridgeland, Ridgeland, MS.
LOUIS GUIROLA, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
BEFORE THE COURT are the Motion for Summary Judgment  and the Motion to Strike  filed by the defendant, Dolgencorp, Inc. (hereinafter " Dollar General" ). Dollar General argues that there is no genuine issue of material fact that the plaintiff, Linda Noble, qualified for the executive exemption to the overtime requirement imposed by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). It also requests that the Court strike certain exhibits presented by Noble in opposition to its Motion for Summary Judgment. After a thorough review of the submissions of both parties and the applicable law, the Court finds that Dollar General is entitled to judgment as a matter of law and that this lawsuit should be dismissed with prejudice. The Court further finds that the Motion to Strike is moot because none of Noble's exhibits present a genuine issue of material fact.
Noble and numerous other Dollar General store managers have sued the company, alleging that they were denied overtime compensation in violation of the FLSA. The store managers argue that they were improperly treated as exempt employees pursuant to the executive exemption of the FLSA. These managers argue that the majority of the work they performed in their stores was non-managerial manual labor, such as stocking shelves and running cash registers, due to insufficient labor budgets provided by Dollar General. They particularly emphasize that " truck day," which is the day on which stock was delivered to the store, required the average Dollar General employee to walk three to eight miles and carry three to four tons of merchandise. They also argue that they had little discretion in running their stores due to detailed corporate policies and supervision from district managers.
Dollar General has requested a stay of the other Dollar General FLSA cases assigned to this Court until this Court has issued a ruling on the present Motion for Summary Judgment concerning Noble's claims. The plaintiffs in the other cases assigned to this Court are also in favor of a stay, but on the grounds that they have filed a motion to reopen the multidistrict litigation proceedings, In re: Dollar General Corp. Fair Labor Standards Act Litigation, MDL No. 1635. Since a stay has not been requested by either party in Noble's case, the Court will address Dollar General's Motion for Summary Judgment.
Noble was first hired by Dollar General on April 11, 2000, and was trained as a certified store manager. (Noble Deposition, Ex. R to Def.'s Mot. at 68-69, 75-76, 79). She worked as the store manager for the Dollar General Store on Highway 61 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. ( Id. at 69, 76). She was initially paid approximately $425 per week, and she understood that this was a flat rate, regardless of the number of hours she worked. ( Id. at 70-71). On January 11, 2001, she was robbed and beaten while making a night deposit for the store and was unable to work for approximately three months. ( Id. at 197, 200). When she returned to work, she was on light duty and could not lift more than five pounds. ( Id. at 200). On April 13, 2001, she received a raise to $440 a week. ( Id. at 157). She also received another raise the following year to either $453 or $463 per week. ( Id.) She continued to work as store manager until she voluntary resigned her employment with Dollar General on June 12, 2002. ( Id. at 80). She was eligible for bonuses throughout her employment but never received one. ( Id. at 164).
The job description of the store manager provided by Dollar General provides that the store manager reports to the district or area manager. (Ex. H to Def.'s Mot.) The store manager supervises the assistant store manager and store clerks. ( Id.) The general summary of the position provides that the duties of the store manager are to " manage inventory efficiently and effectively present merchandise," to " manage store employees," and to " ensure a safe working environment while providing for the protection of company assets." ( Id.) The duties and essential job functions for this position include recruiting and selecting qualified employees, training employees, supervising employees, ordering merchandise pursuant to company procedures and policies, facilitating efficient staging and storing of merchandise, maintaining accurate inventory levels, ensuring the store's financial integrity, providing superior customer support leadership, and completing paperwork and documentation. ( Id.)
At a deposition taken by counsel for Dollar General, Noble described her employment and job duties as store manager. She testified that the major problems she experienced in managing the store were a severe rodent problem that destroyed merchandise and a lack of sufficient employees to help keep the store stocked. (Noble Deposition, Ex. R to Def.'s Mot. at 49). She was given a labor budget, and if she exceeded that budget one week, she would be given a lower budget the following week to make up for the extra hours. ( Id. at 232). This inevitably meant that she would have to work extra hours the next week. ( Id.)
She explained that Dollar General provided her with a plan, which was called a " plan-o-gram," that showed where the merchandise should be displayed on the shelves and how the store should be organized. ( Id. at 47). She did not have the right to change that plan. ( Id.) However,
she had extra space that was not covered by the plan-o-gram, and she decided what to do with that space. ( Id. at 111-12, 189-90).
There were five to ten employees on the payroll for her store at all times that she served as store manager. ( Id. at 162-63). She assigned tasks to her employees and told them what to do every day. ( Id. at 50-51). She decided which employees did which tasks in running the store, and even decided which tasks she would perform. ( Id. at 128). She trained all of her employees, which took approximately three weeks for each employee. ( Id. at 110-11). She trained the employees how to run the cash registers, how to stock shelves, and how to " recover" the store after customers disturbed the shelves and merchandise. ( Id. at 122-25). She also trained her staff on how to look for shoplifters, and she was constantly watching for shoplifting while performing other tasks like running the cash register and stocking shelves. ( Id. at 65-67). In addition, she was constantly monitoring her employees, regardless of what other tasks she was performing. ( Id. at 68). For example, she would watch her cashiers and evaluate their performance while she was working in the store's beauty section. ( Id. at 106).
Noble admitted that she was in charge of the store. ( Id. at 51). It was her responsibility to make sure that the employees followed the employee handbook, and she tried to enforce it. ( Id. at 81-82). She was the person in the best position to ensure that store policies were being followed. ( Id. at 82). She was the highest ranking person in the store on any given day. ( Id. at 83). She was expected to enforce the company's OSHA policy, drug testing policy, and antidiscrimination and harassment policies, and she reviewed these policies with each new employee. ( Id. at 83-84). Noble disciplined the employees without input from the district manager and was expected to evaluate each employee's performance. ( Id. at 95, 97, 120). She was responsible for generating written performance reviews concerning each employee. ( Id. at 97; Ex. 61 to Noble's deposition). These evaluations were based on her personal observation of employees in the store. (Noble Deposition, Ex. R to Def.'s Mot. at 98). Employees could get a pay raise or a promotion based on her evaluations, and Noble was permitted to recommend ...