Cases & Deals

Aetna summary judgment win and dismissal of nationwide putative wage-hour class action affirmed by Second Circuit

Clients Aetna Inc.

Jones Day secured a victory on behalf of Aetna Life Insurance Company at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, who affirmed summary judgment in favor of Aetna and the dismissal of a nationwide collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Plaintiff alleged that she and others who held the Appeals Nurse Consultant position were misclassified as exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA. Over plaintiff’s objections and while plaintiff’s motion to seek conditional certification of a nationwide collective action was pending, Aetna successfully sought leave to file a motion for summary judgment as to the individual misclassification claim. In its summary judgment motion, Aetna argued that the plaintiff was properly classified as exempt under both the professional and administrative exemptions to the FLSA’s overtime pay requirements. On September 30, 2018, the district court granted Aetna’s summary judgment motion, holding that plaintiff’s job duties satisfied the requirements of the professional exemption. Plaintiff appealed the matter to the Second Circuit.

On January 14, 2020, the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court’s summary judgment decision in favor of Aetna, describing the district court’s decision as careful and well-reasoned. Aetna’s victory on summary judgment in the lower court, now affirmed by the Second Circuit, mooted plaintiff claims on behalf of members of the putative nationwide collective action, including the claims of 28 individuals who joined the action as opt-in plaintiffs.

This ruling is significant because plaintiff sought relief on behalf of a large population of employees. The Second Circuit decision confirms the lawfulness of Aetna’s decision to classify its Appeals Nurse Consultants as exempt, despite uncertainty created by other court decisions, such as the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Clarke v. Cetene Co. of Texas, holding that nurses who performed similar utilization review duties for a managed health care company were misclassified as exempt.

Isett v. Aetna, Inc., Case Nos. 18-03271 (2d Cir.); 3:14-cv-01698 (D. Conn.)