Court of Appeal Holds IT Employee Is... Exempt

A network administrator's job is described as follows in the opinion -
Combs served first as manager of capacity planning, and then as director of network operations. He voluntarily resigned in November 2004. Combs's resumé, which he prepared after he left Skyriver, indicated that as Skyriver's director of network operations, he was responsible for (among other things) "project management, budgeting, vendor management, purchasing, forecasting, [and] employee management"; management of "overseas deployment of wireless data network"; management of "the integration and standardization of three networks into the Skyriver architecture"; and the overseeing of "day to day Network Operations." At trial, Combs acknowledged his resumé was accurate. He testified that his "core" responsibility at Skyriver was "maintaining the well-being of the network," and he spent 60 percent to 70 percent of his time carrying out that responsibility. Combs called a number of witnesses who also confirmed that Combs's resumé was accurate. Specifically, Scott Akrie, who as Skyriver's chief technical officer supervised Combs from 2001 to about mid-2003, and Edward West, Skyriver's former vice president of operations, who supervised Combs from late 2003 until Combs left Skyriver, both testified that Combs's description of his duties in his resumé was accurate, as did Michael Williams, Skyriver's director of field operations. Combs's own testimony and the documentary exhibits (including Combs's resumé and some of his e-mails) showed that he was responsible for maintaining, developing and improving Skyriver's network, and his duties involved high-level problem solving and "troubleshooting"; preparing reports for Skyriver's board of directors; capacity and expansion planning;
planning to integrate acquired networks into Skyriver's network; lease negotiations; and equipment sourcing and purchasing.

The Court of Appeal decided the employee was exempt under the administrative test. Of note, the Court decided that the trial court was not required to analyze the case under the "administrative/production" dichotomy that has become important in recent cases. Acknowledging the importance of federal FLSA regulations in the analysis of the exempt duties under California law, the court had no trouble upholding the trial court's determination that Combs spent over 50% of his time on exempt, administrative duties, and that he had the
requisite discretion and independent judgment.

The case is Combs v. Skyriver Communications and the opinion is here.