KYLE HALLE, Individually and On Behalf of Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff-Appellant,
GALLIANO MARINE SERVICE, L.L.C.; C-INNOVATION, L.L.C., Defendants-Appellees.
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Louisiana
PRADO, HIGGINSON, and COSTA, Circuit Judges.
C. PRADO, CIRCUIT JUDGE
Kyle Halle sued Galliano Marine Service, LLC and C-Innovation, LLC (collectively,
"the Defendants") under the Fair Labor Standards
Act ("the FLSA" or "the Act") to recover
unpaid wages for overtime worked during his employment at
C-Innovation. The district court granted summary judgment
against Halle because it concluded that Halle qualified as a
"seaman" under the FLSA and was thus exempt from
the Act's overtime provisions. Halle appealed. We REVERSE
and REMAND this case for further proceedings.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
October 30, 2015, Kyle Halle sued the Defendants under the
FLSA for unpaid overtime. The Defendants in this case run a remotely
operated vehicle ("ROV") business for offshore
applications and employed Halle from May 12, 2009, to October
12, 2015, as an ROV Technician and ROV Supervisor.
are unoccupied mechanical devices used, among other things,
to fix, service, and repair offshore, underwater drilling
rigs. They are generally used to perform tasks that otherwise
could not be performed by human divers because of depth or
water conditions. Technicians like Halle navigate and control
ROVs aboard an ROV Support Vessel, to which the ROVs remain
tethered while in use. ROV Support Vessels serve as "a
means of transporting their attached ROVs over water"
and are specially outfitted for this purpose. The ROV's
"handling system, wench, A-frame, hydraulic power unit[,
] vans, and control system" are all welded to the
technicians who steer the ROVs work inside a windowless
shipping container converted into an ROV command center
located on the support vessel. From there, the ROV
Technicians steer and control the ROVs using a video feed and
joysticks. Although the ROV command center is located on the
support vessel, technicians are not mixed with the support
vessel's crew, cannot see whether any navigational issues
are affecting the support vessel, and, according to Halle,
are considered by the crew to be "passengers" or
"third parties." According to Halle, ROV
Technicians are subject to a chain of command separate and
apart from that of the support vessel. Halle in particular
always reported to C-Innovation's Operations Coordinator
and Operations Manager, both of whom are land-based.
particular duties were dedicated only to ROVs. According to
Halle, he took no part in upkeep of the support vessel-he
never performed maintenance work like sanding, painting, or
chipping the ROV Support Vessel. Rather, the only maintenance
work he performed was to the ROVs themselves. Halle also
never steered the support vessel but, in his role as ROV
Supervisor, did occasionally relay GPS coordinates from
C-Innovation's customers to the support vessel captain
either by radio or by pointing to a location on a chart. This
process apparently never took more than a few seconds.
Despite his knowledge of the support vessel's final
destination, Halle had "nothing to do with determining
the ROV Support Vessel's path to the intended target,
steering, anchoring, making any navigational decisions[, ] or
taking any navigational actions."
sued the Defendants on October 30, 2015, for failing to pay
him for overtime as purportedly required by the FLSA. The
Defendants moved for summary judgment on January 25, 2016,
arguing that Halle was exempt from the FLSA's overtime
provisions because he qualifies as a "seaman" under
the Act. On February 25, 2016, the district court granted the
Defendants' motion and dismissed Halle's claim with
prejudice. Thereafter, Halle filed a motion for
reconsideration, which was denied on April 18, 2016. Halle
review a grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the same
standard that the district court applied." Smith v.
Reg'l Transit Auth., 827 F.3d 412, 417 (5th Cir.
2016). Summary judgment is proper where "the movant
shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In reviewing a motion for
summary judgment, factual inferences are viewed in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. Smith, 827
F.3d at 417.
FLSA requires employers to provide overtime pay to any
employee who works more than forty hours per week unless an
exemption from this protection applies. 29 U.S.C.
§§ 207, 213; Coffin v. Blessey Marine Servs.,
Inc., 771 F.3d 276, 279 (5th Cir. 2014). It is the
"employer [who] bears the burden to establish a claimed
exemption." Songer v. Dillon Res., Inc., 618
F.3d 467, 471 (5th Cir. 2010). This case involves the
"seaman" exemption to the FLSA's overtime
provision, 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(6), and presents an issue
of first impression: whether ROV Technicians are seamen under
employee is a seaman when the following criteria are met:
"(1) the employee is subject to the authority,
direction, and control of the master; and (2) the
employee's service is primarily offered to aid the vessel
as a means of transportation, provided that the employee does
not perform a substantial amount of different work."
Coffin, 771 F.3d at 281 (citing 29 C.F.R. §
783.31). Per Department of Labor ("DOL")
regulations,  "work other
than seaman work becomes substantial if it occupies more than
20 percent of the time worked by the employee during the
279-80 (citing 29 C.F.R. § 783.37). This Court must
"evaluate an employee's duties based upon the
character of the work he actually performs and not on what it
is called or the place where it is performed."
Id. at 280 (citing 29 C.F.R. § 783.33). ...