Here is what's at issue:
Whether “service advisors” at car dealerships are exempt under 29 U.S.C. §213(b)(10)(A) from the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime-pay requirements.
- It involves something called the Chevron Deference, as well as how statutory language should be interpreted.
- Click here for the article.
The Justices should have a relaxing moment with Encino Motorcars v. Navarro, next week’s dispute under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), one of the simplest cases of the entire Term. The FLSA, as presumably all of you know, obligates employers to pay overtime pay to qualifying employees who work more than forty hours in a week, but has exceptions that take large swaths of the workforce out of its protection. Several of those exceptions govern salesmen of various kinds – no references to “salespersons” in this FDR-era statute! The relevant exception here covers any “salesman, partsman, or mechanic primarily engaged in selling or servicing automobiles.” The subject employees are service advisors at car dealers – who neither sell cars nor service automobiles, but sell the servicing of automobiles.
. . . Against that history, the employee (respondent Hector Navarro) naturally contends that the language is sufficiently ambiguous to warrant Chevron deference to the DOL reading; the employer (petitioner Encino Motorcars) contends just as vigorously that the language is so plain that the courts owe no deference to the shifting views DOL has adopted through the years. In the end, then, the case centers on the statute’s simple reference to any “salesman, partsman, or mechanic primarily engaged in selling or servicing automobiles.”
The arguments on that point are carefully drawn. The employer emphasizes the strange line-drawing that flows from the DOL view: all agree that employees selling cars are covered and that employees servicing cars are covered; it is strange to exclude those who sell the servicing of cars. As Paul Clement (counsel for the employer) quips, “it would be nonsensical to suggest that a salesman primarily engaged in the selling of automobile servicing is engaged in neither selling nor servicing automobiles.” Parsing the language, Clement contends that service advisors are covered because they are “primarily engaged in . . . servicing automobiles.”
On the other side, Stephanos Bibas and the Supreme Court Clinic at the University of PennsylvaniaLaw School’s Supreme Court Clinic, representing Hector Navarro and his fellow employees, tender a tour de force of close linguistic analysis. Rife with citations to Strunk & White, Black’s Law Dictionary, and of course Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner’s Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts, they rest on the obscure interpretive canon “reddendo singula singulis” – literally “applying separate words to separate subjects.”