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Employers With Mixed-Class Fleets Could Lose the Motor Carrier OT Exemption

September 26, 2011

ROCHESTER, NY - A decision by a federal district court in New York now requires employers to pay overtime for specific employees. The decision applies to those who were otherwise exempt from overtime under the Motor Carrier Act who drive vehicles that weigh less than 10,000 lbs. during a normal workweek. (You can view a PDF of the court document here.)

In the case Hernandez v. Alpine Logistics, LLC, 2011, (U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96708), the plaintiffs were employed as delivery drivers and were responsible for picking up and delivering packages in and around Rochester, New York. They filed a class action lawsuit against their employer for not paying overtime based on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the State of New York’s labor law.

Alpine Logistics had a fleet of 26 vehicles, two of which weighed more than 10,000 lbs. The rest of the vehicles in the fleet weighed 10,000 lbs. or less. According to the court document, any of Alpine’s employees could be required to drive any of the vehicles in the fleet.

Alpine Logistics argued that the employees weren’t eligible for overtime compensation under the Motor Carrier Act. However, the plaintiffs argued that due to an amendment to the FLSA that went into effect on June 7, 2008, they were entitled to overtime compensation.

The judge found in late August, 2011 that the plaintiffs were entitled to overtime compensation for the overtime hours worked in which they qualified as “covered employees” under the FLSA.

A “covered employee” is defined as an individual whose work, in whole or in part, is defined as “that of a driver, driver's helper, loader, or mechanic”... “as affecting the safety of operation of motor vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less in transportation on public highways in interstate or foreign commerce” ... “who performs duties on motor vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less.”

The only exceptions to this rule are vehicles designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation; those designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers (including the driver) and not used to transport passengers for compensation; or those used in transporting material deemed hazardous by the Secretary of Transportation, and transported in a quantity requiring placarding (under regulations prescribed by the Secretary).

According to a post by Michael Gregg on the employment law firm Littler Mendelson’s website (Michael Gregg is a Shareholder in Littler Mendelson's Orange County office), this ruling could create additional financial burdens and exposure for companies with mixed fleets.

Also, the decision in this case may create added regulatory and recordkeeping obligations for companies with mixed vehicle fleets by subjecting employees to the dual jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Department of Labor.

By Greg Basich

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