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Mayan v. Rydbom Express

September 30, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stengel, J.


A group of delivery drivers contend that their employer failed to pay them overtime compensation in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA")*fn1 and the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act ("PMWA").*fn2 See 29 U.S.C. § 207 (2006) (requiring employers to provide overtime compensation); 43 PA. STAT. ANN. 333.104(c) (West 2008) (same). Both parties have moved for summary judgment. Upon careful consideration of the parties' memoranda and applicable case law, I will grant in part and deny in part the defendant's motion, and deny the plaintiffs' motion. The defendants have also moved to decertify, and I will deny that motion.

I. Background

Rydbom Express, Inc. is a parcel delivery company based in Middletown, Pennsylvania. (See Pls.' Mem. for Summ. J. at 2 (Document #79); Def.'s Mem. for Summ. J. at 1 (Document #76).) The company also operates out of distribution terminals in Reading and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. (Pls.' Mem. for Summ. J. at 2; Def.'s Mem. for Summ. J. at 1.)

The plaintiffs are current and former Rydbom Express drivers. They are paid by the hour to deliver packages to residences and businesses. The majority of these packages originate outside of Pennsylvania. At no time during the relevant period did Rydbom Express employees receive overtime compensation. Instead, any work time exceeding forty hours in a given workweek was compensated at the employee's regular rate of pay. The plaintiffs believe that Rydbom Express violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to provide them overtime compensation; Rydbom Express believes that another statute, the Motor Carrier Act of 1935, 49 U.S.C. § 31502, exempts it from providing overtime compensation.

Rydbom Express' delivery fleet includes about 100 vehicles. Approximately one-third have a gross vehicle weight over 10,001 pounds; the remainder are below 10,000 pounds. Which type of vehicle a driver operated on a given day depended on the size, weight, and other characteristics of his delivery load. Rydbom Express had no control over these variables. A driver might drive a vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds on one day and then a vehicle weighing less than 10,000 pounds the next day. Consequently, all drivers were trained to operate any of the vehicles in the fleet. Rydbom Express did not record which vehicles a particular driver operated on a daily basis. The only records Rydbom Express has offered on this point are the fuel records showing which driver fueled a particular vehicle on a certain day.

Kyle Mayan, a former employee, commenced this suit to recover overtime compensation. The FLSA action was brought as a collection action, as provided under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b); the PMWA suit was brought as a class action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Since notice of this suit was sent out, fifty-six additional Rydbom drivers have opted-in.

II. Standard of review

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). An issue is "genuine" when a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party based on the evidence in the record. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "material" when it could affect the outcome of the case under the governing law. Id.

A party seeking summary judgment initially bears responsibility for informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on a particular issue at trial, the moving party's initial Celotex burden can be met simply by demonstrating "to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. After the moving party has met its initial burden, "the adverse party's response, by affidavits or otherwise as provided in this rule, must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e). Summary judgment is therefore appropriate when the non-moving party fails to rebut by making a factual showing that is "sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court must view the evidence in the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. The court must decide not whether the evidence unmistakably favors one side or the other, but whether a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the plaintiff on the evidence presented. Id. at 252. If the non-moving party has produced more than a "mere scintilla of evidence" demonstrating a genuine issue of material fact, then the court may not credit the moving party's version of events against the opponent, even if the quantity of the moving party's evidence far outweighs that of its opponent. Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).

III. Discussion

I will grant in part and deny in part the defendants' motion, and deny the plaintiff's motion. Many of the material facts in this case are undisputed. The summary judgment arguments turn on the interplay of two federal laws-the Motor Carrier Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act-and a set of statutory changes that generally confused the law in this area.

A. Relevant law

1. The Motor Carrier Act of 1935

Congress enacted the Motor Carrier Act in 1935. See United States v. Am. Trucking Ass'ns, 310 U.S. 534, 538 (1940) (discussing the purposes and policies of the Motor Carrier Act); see also Maurer v. Hamilton, 309 U.S. 598, 606 (1940) (same). In addition to promoting transportation efficiency and economy, one of the integral goals of this legislation was to ensure the safety of operations on the nation's roads and highways. Am. Trucking, 310 U.S. at 539.

To that end, Congress empowered the Secretary of Transportation*fn3 to "prescribe requirements for qualifications and maximum hours of service of employees of, and safety of operation and equipment of, a motor carrier." 49 U.S.C. § 31502(b). Section 13102 of the Motor Carrier Act defines "motor carrier" as a "person providing motor vehicle transportation for compensation." Id. § 13102(12) (2000). The term "motor vehicle" itself is defined as "a vehicle, machine, tractor, trailer, or semitrailer propelled or drawn by mechanical power and used on a highway in transportation." Id. § 13102(14). Thus, the Secretary has regulatory authority over "most employees [of a qualifying motor carrier] who drove any type and size of motor vehicle in interstate commerce." Tews v. Ratzenberger, Inc., 592 F. Supp. 2d 1331, 1343 (D. Kan. 2009) (citing Musarra v. Digital Dish, Inc., 454 F. Supp. 2d 692, 701 n.19 (S.D. Ohio 2006)).

2. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938

Three years later in 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act to ensure "certain minimum labor standards." Mitchell v. Robert DeMario Jewelry, Inc., 361 U.S. 288, 292 (1960). To this end, the FLSA imposes a financial disincentive on employers seeking to make their employees work overly long hours. See 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1).

The law sets a general maximum of forty hours in a workweek for all employees. Id. Though an employer may require an employee to work more than forty hours, he or she must provide overtime compensation at a rate of one and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay. Id.

3. The Motor Carrier Act Exemption

This general rule is subject to numerous exceptions, the most pertinent being the so-called Motor Carrier Act exemption.*fn4 This exemption provides that the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act do not apply to "any employee with respect to whom the Secretary of Transportation has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service pursuant to the provisions of section 31502 of Title 49." Id. § 213(b)(1) (2000). In light of this language, the Supreme Court stated that the Motor Carrier Act exemption is triggered by the mere existence of the Secretary of Transportation's power to regulate, not the actual exercise of that power. Levinson v. Spector Motor Serv., 330 U.S. 649, 678 (1947); accord Morris v. McComb, 332 U.S. 422, 434 (1947); Friedrich v. ...

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