|November 5, 2013|
Previously published on November 1, 2013
Lady Gaga is back in the news, but this time it has nothing to do with her music; just days before trial, the singer — real name Stefani Germanotta — settled a 2011 lawsuit filed by a former personal assistant. It is a case that reminds employers of all sizes that unless their administrative assistants meet all of the requirements of the administrative exemption test, they must be paid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Jennifer O’Neill sued the singer and her touring company under the FLSA, claiming she was owed approximately $380,000 in overtime. O’Neill claimed that she was required to be on call 24-7, thus working 7,100 hours in overtime over a 15-month period. Gaga argued that much of the time worked was personal in nature, and asserted there were long stretches of time in which no work was performed at all. The singer further argued that O’Neil lived a lavish lifestyle at her expense, flying around the world, receiving clothes from famous designers, and eating at fine restaurants.
Unfortunately, Gaga admitted at her deposition that the position O’Neill worked did not call for much, if any, independent discretion or judgment. Under the FLSA, employers can avoid having to pay overtime if the following administrative exemption test is met:
- The employee is compensated on a salary or fee basis at a rate of not less than $455 per week;
- The employee’s primary function must be the performance of office or non-manual work that is directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer, and
- The employee’s primary duty includes the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to significant matters.
The administrative exemption test to the FLSA does not care if assistants get to fly around the world for free. If the employee does not exercise independent judgment and discretion in matters of significance, he or she must be paid overtime.
The result, in this case, was a settlement — and yet another headline for Lady Gaga.