Auer v. Robbins, 519 U.S. 452 (1997)

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AUER et al. v. ROBBINS et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eighth circuit

No. 95-897. Argued December 10, 1996—Decided February 19, 1997

Petitioners, St. Louis police sergeants and a lieutenant, sued respondent police commissioners for overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA). Respondents argued that petitioners were "bona fide executive, administrative, or professional" employees exempted from overtime pay requirements by 29 U. S. C. 213(a)(1). Under the Secretary of Labor's regulations, that exemption applies to employees paid a specified minimum amount on a "salary basis," which requires that the "compensation . . . not [be] subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of the work performed." Petitioners claimed that they did not meet this test because, under the terms of the Police Department Manual, their compensation could theoretically be reduced (though this was not the department's general practice) for a variety of disciplinary infractions related to the "quality or quantity" of their work. Both the District Court and the Eighth Circuit disagreed with that assertion, holding that the salary-basis test was satisfied as to all petitioners.

Held: 1. The "no disciplinary deductions" element of the salary-basis test reflects a permissible reading of the FLSA as it applies to public-sector employees. It is not apparent that the Secretary's interpretation of 213(a)(1) is rendered unreasonable, as applied to public-sector employees, by the absence of other (non-salary-reduction) means of discipline, or by the peculiar needs of "quasi military" law enforcement organizations. The Secretary's approach must therefore be sustained, given 213(a)(1)'s grant of broad authority to the Secretary to "defin[e] and delimi[t]" the statutory exemption's scope. See Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837, 842-843. Respondents' procedural objection to the Secretary's failure to amend the disciplinary-deduction rule in the wake of Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, 469 U. S. 528, cannot be raised in the first instance in this lawsuit, but must be presented initially in a petition to the Secretary for amendatory rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U. S. C. 553(e). Pp. 456-459. 2. The Secretary has reasonably interpreted the salary-basis test to be met when an employee's compensation may not "as a practical mat-

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