Court Revives Dish Installer's FLSA Suit, Finding Jury Issue on ‘Employee' Status

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By Kevin McGowan

March 26 — A jury must decide if a technician who installs satellite dishes in Michigan for a satellite-internet-dish service firm is an employee entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act or an independent contractor, a divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled March 26.

In a 2-1 decision reversing summary judgment for Miri Microsystems LLC, the court said under a nonexclusive six-factor economic realities test, Michael Keller raised triable issues he was a Miri employee entitled to overtime pay.

Miri, which provides satellite installation services in Michigan for HughesNet and iDirect, argued Keller was an independent contractor, who was paid flat fees for each installation and repair, remained free to work for other installation companies and controlled the number of days he worked and how many jobs he accepted. Keller's evidence indicated he worked six days a week from dawn until midnight.

The Sixth Circuit, however, said after reviewing the relevant factors—permanency of the relationship, degree of skill required, Keller's investment in the enterprise, his opportunity for profit and loss, Miri's right to control how work is performed and whether Keller's services were “integral” to Miri's business—disputed issues remain that require a jury's resolution.

In dissent, Judge Alan E. Norris agreed Sixth Circuit precedent supports use of the six-factor test for determining employee or independent contract status in FLSA cases. But he said he would affirm Keller was an independent contractor, given the absence of an employment contract with Miri, his ability concurrently to work for other companies and Keller's control over his own schedule.

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at

Text of the opinion is available at