Class Action Defense Cases–Baum v. AstraZeneca: Pennsylvania Federal Court Grants Defense Summary Judgment Motion In Labor Law Class Action Holding Plaintiff Properly Classified As Exempt From Overtime Pay

May 25, 2009 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Labor Law Class Action Challenging Defendant’s Classification of Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives as Exempt from Overtime Laws Dismissed on Defense Motion for Summary Judgment because Plaintiff Fell within Outside Sales Exemption Pennsylvania Federal Court Holds

Plaintiff, a pharmaceutical sales representative, filed a class action in Pennsylvania state court against her employer, AstraZeneca, alleging labor law violations; the class action complaint asserted that defendant improperly classified her as “exempt” and failed to pay her overtime required by Pennsylvania law. Baum v. AstraZeneca LP, 605 F.Supp.2d 669, 2009 WL 827920, *1 (W.D.Pa. 2009). Defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court, id. Defense attorneys then moved for summary judgment on the class action claims, id. The facts are quite detailed: in broad terms, plaintiff’s job was to increase defendant’s market share by selling directly to physicians, which required that she build relationships with the doctors and exercise discretion in determining how best to pitch AstraZeneca to doctors. Id., at *2-*3. The defense motion was based on the argument that plaintiff “exercised substantial judgment and discretion while discussing pharmaceutical products with physicians.” Id., at *3. Plaintiff responded that she “gave the same canned speech to each physician.” Id. The district court granted the motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in favor of the defense as to the class action claims.

After summarizing the standard of review and the similarities between the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Pennsylvania’s Minimum Wage Act (PMWA), see Baum, at *4-*5, as well as the outside sales exemption and administrative exemption, id., at *5-*6, the court turned to an examination of whether either of those exemptions applied. The district court readily concluded that plaintiff had been properly classified. Id., at *6. The federal court’s decision was based on its finding that plaintiff made sales and obtained orders, and had been employed for the purpose of doing so, see id., at *7-*12. Put simply, “where pharmaceutical representatives seek to obtain physician commitments to write prescriptions, these representatives make sales and are engaged in the process of making sales for purposes of Pennsylvania’s outside sales exemption.” Id., at *12. Further, the district court found that plaintiff’s job involved sales activity, confirming she was employed for the purpose of making sales. Id., at *12-*14. Moreover, as noted above, plaintiff spent 90% of her time in the field, id., at *14. Accordingly, the outside sales exemption applied, id., at *14-*15. The court also opined that it would find that the administrative exemption would also apply to plaintiff. Id., at *16. Accordingly, the district court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the class action complaint. Id., at *16-*17.

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