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Should Drivers Be Paid Overtime Wages? I Need The Top Wage Theft Lawyer!

| Nov 18, 2015 | minimum wage violation, overtime time violation |

Best Ohio Overtime Attorney Answer: Am I exempt from overtime laws if I drive an airport shuttle? Do truck drivers have to be paid overtime? My boss said I don’t get overtime because of the size of my truck. What is he talking about?

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As our wage and hour attorneys frequently blog about, the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA“) requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, plus time and one-half their regularly hourly rates for all hours worked over 40 in a given workweek. (See How Far Back Can I Sue For Overtime? Best Lawyer Reply; Are All Professionals Exempt From Overtime?; What If I Can’t Afford To Sue For Overtime Pay? Can I Sue For Overtime Violations For All Employees?; and If I Do Domestic Work, Can I Sue For Overtime Pay?).

As overtime law lawyers, we frequently encounter employees who have been misclassified by their employer as exempt and, as such, have been denied their rightful overtime pay. The most commonly encountered exemptions in FLSA overtime cases are the Professional, Administrative, and Executive exemptions, each of which requires a fact intensive inquiry into the actual job duties of the employee. While those exemptions make up the bulk of disputes in overtime misclassification cases, there are dozens of jobs that are oddly exempt from the FLSA’s overtime provisions. For example, farm implement salespeople, television station employees in small markets, and livestock auction workers are all exempt for the purposes of the FLSA’s overtime requirements.

One of the more complicated FLSA exemptions is the Motor Carrier Act Exemption (“MCAE”). Section 13(b)(1) of the FLSA provides that the FLSA’s overtime provisions do not apply to employees who are subject to the authority of the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, under the Motor Carrier Act of 1935. The Secretary, in turn, has authority to regulate an employee if the employee: (1) is employed by a “motor carrier” or “motor private carrier” as defined by the Act, (2) affects highway safety, and (3) is involved in “interstate commerce” as defined by the Act. In a nutshell, the MCAE exempts from FLSA overtime provisions certain drivers, mechanics, and other workers whose jobs have a nexus to the transport of goods and passengers in interstate commerce.

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Few questions regarding MCAE applicability are easy to answer. For example, the driver of an eighteen wheeler whose job requires him to haul goods in one state, where those goods originated in another state, may or may not be exempt. The answer sometimes depends on the type of goods being hauled and the intent of the shipper as to the goods’ final destination. Similarly, whether or not the MCAE applies to a driver whose job never causes him to cross state lines is not always clear. If the driver could reasonably be expected to cross state borders, the MCAE might apply even though he never actually drives interstate.

Even the simplest of MCAE applications tends to get a little muddled. Take the recent case of Byers v. Care Transport, for example. Byers addresses the applicability of a 2008 amendment to the Motor Carrier Act. The effect of the SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Act of 2008 (“SLTCA”) on the MCAE is that workers whose duties relate to many vehicles with gross vehicle weight ratings of 10,000 lbs or less are no longer exempt under the MCAE, even if all of the other required factors are met. This seems straightforward enough…if an employee drives a vehicle that has a GVWR of less than 10,001 lbs, her employer cannot label her exempt under the MCAE and must pay her overtime. Of course, like everything related to the MCAE, the SLCTA is not entirely straightforward.

Drivers, mechanics, and other individuals who work on vehicles with a GVWR under 10,001 lbs may still fall within the MCAE if the vehicle is: (1) designed or used to transport more than eight passengers for compensation; (2) designed or used to transport more than fifteen passengers, whether for compensation or not; or (3) used to transport hazardous material. In practice, this means that the driver of a small truck who transports goods in interstate commerce must be paid overtime, while a mechanic who works on a small van that carries nine passengers for hire across state lines is exempt and need not be paid overtime.

The employees in Byers drove sedans, minivans, and wheelchair vans for Care Transport, a company that provides transportation for disabled veterans. The company’s sedans and minivans were clearly not designed or used to transport more than eight passengers. The wheelchair vans, on the other hand, presented a more difficult call. As originally manufactured, the company’s Ford Econoline vans were designed to carry either twelve or fifteen passengers. However, before the company put them into service, the vans were modified to facilitate the transport of wheelchair patients. The company that modified the vans for Care Transport testified that the vans, as modified, could accommodate nine passengers, including four wheelchair passengers. The plaintiffs, however, contended that in reality the vans could only accommodate two wheelchairs, for a total of seven passengers. Because the plaintiffs sometimes transported passengers across state lines, the capacity of the vans was outcome determinative.

Care Transport’s first argument was that since the vans were all originally manufactured to carry twelve or fifteen passengers, the vans were not subject to the SLCTA and, as such, the drivers were exempt under the MCAE. The court dismissed this argument out of hand, finding that what mattered was not the vans capacity as originally manufactured but the capacity in the form that the vans were actually used. Care Transport next argued that even after modification, the vans, as attested to by the company that did the modifications, could still carry more than eight passengers. The court determined that while the vans may have been intended to carry more than eight passengers, the plaintiffs established that there was an issue of material fact as to whether the vans could actually transport more than eight passengers.

There are a few lessons to be gleaned from Byers. The first lesson is that when analyzing the impact of the SLCTA on the MCAE, what matters is not the intended design of a vehicle but rather the actual capability of that vehicle. Another, hopefully obvious, lesson of Byers is that while FLSA exemptions in general can be tricky, Motor Carrier Act exemptions to the FLSA are notoriously so and the counsel of experienced attorneys like the wage and hour attorneys at The Spitz Law Firm is invaluable.

If you believe that your employer is not paying you all of your wages for all of your lawfully earned overtime compensation at a rate of one and half times your normal wages as requires under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act or Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards laws or you are an nonexempt employee that has been misclassified as exempt or independent contractor, contact the attorneys at The Spitz Law Firm today for a free and confidential initial consultation. The wage and hour lawyers at The Spitz Law Firm will provide you with the best options for your overtime pay dispute situation. If you even think that you may be entitled to overtime pay that you are not being paid, call (216) 291-4744.

Disclaimer:

The materials available at the top of this overtime, wage and hour web page and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “Am I entitled to overtime?”, “Does my job have to pay me for …”, “My paycheck is not right…” or “What do I do if…”, the your best option is to contact an Ohio overtime attorney to obtain advice with respect to FLSA questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at the top of this page or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.