3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Issues Precedent on Trucking Overtime Rules

Kevin Anderson Employment and Labor, Regulations, Transportation

The 3rd Circuit recently clarified a rule that has had some trucking companies perplexed. In Ashley McMaster v. Eastern Armored Services, Inc., Case No. 14-1010(3rd Cir. 2015) the federal appeals court for the Third Circuit defined when the overtime rules of the Fair Labor Standards Act (or FLSA) applies to truck drivers, and when it does not. The FLSA requires employers to pay their employees time-and-a-half for every hour they work over 40 hours in a work week.

There are exceptions to this rule, however. One of those exceptions (known as the Motor Carrier Act Exemption)   was a primary issue in this case. The exception at issue is found at 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(1). That part of the code states that employees whose maximum hours of service are established by the Secretary of Transportation do not fall under the FLSA overtime rule. That essentially means that truck drivers for motor carriers are not required to be paid overtime when they work over 40 hours in a week.

But there is also an exception to that exception. In 2008 Congress passed a law known as the Corrections Act of 2008. This law made drivers of trucks weighing 10,000 pounds or less eligible for overtime pay when they drove for more than 40 hours in a week.

The Issue

The case presented an interesting issue for the court to decide. The plaintiff in the case worked for an armored trucking company where 51 percent of the time she was assigned to drive a truck that weighed more than 10,000, and 49 percent of the time she drove a truck weighing less than 10,000 pounds. The employer did not pay the employee overtime when she worked more than 40 hours in a work week. As a motor carrier, the company felt they and their employees were part of the Motor Carrier Exemption to the FLSA.

The employee did not agree. When she left her company she sued to recover the overtime she felt she was entitled to. The issue for the court was whether the Corrections Act exception applied to her or not.

The Ruling

In its decision the court ruled that the employee was entitled to the overtime. According to the court, the Corrections Act exception applied because the employee spent at least part of her time driving a truck that weighed less than 10,000 pounds. The court reasoned that the text of the exception enacted by Congress was unambiguous, and therefore should be enforced as written. And the text of the law clearly states that the Motor Carrier Act Exemption to the FLSA does not apply to drivers driving trucks that weigh less than 10,000 pounds. There was no additional exceptions to the law regarding percentages of types of trucks driven.

Conclusion

No matter what section of the trucking industry your business is a part of, you will run into questions about how different rules and regulations apply. This decision, like many others, will change the way many trucking companies approach their business. The attorneys at Anderson and Yamada are trucking industry lawyers whose advice will help guide and direct your business decisions based on trucking law.