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Mazzarella v. FAST Rig Support, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 30, 2015

ALPHONSE MAZZARELLA, on behalf of himself and similarly situated employees, Plaintiffs
v.
FAST RIG SUPPORT, LLC and FIRST AMERICANS SHIPPING AND TRUCKING, INC., Defendants

Page 501

For Alphonse Mazzarella, on behalf of himself and similarly situated employees, Plaintiff: Mark J. Gottesfeld, Peter D. Winebrake, R. Andrew Santillo, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Winebrake & Santillo, LLC, Dresher, PA.

For Fast Rig Support, LLC, First Americans Shipping and Trucking, Inc., Defendants: William E. Vinsko, Jr., Vinsko & Associates, P.C., Wilkes-Barre, PA.

For Mediator, Mediator: Joseph Anthony Barrett, LEAD ATTORNEY, Scranton, PA.

Page 502

MEMORANDUM

MALACHY E. MANNION, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff is a truck driver who works for defendant trucking companies driving within Pennsylvania. He and his fellow employees transport water from Pennsylvania water sources to natural gas drilling sites located within the state. He and his coworkers are paid an hourly wage, and they regularly work for more than forty hours a week. The defendants have paid him and his fellow workers overtime only after they have worked forty-five hours in a week, not after 40 hours, as the Fair Labor Standards Act mandates. Plaintiff has thus sued defendants under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act on behalf of himself and his coworkers.

Defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims was denied on June 23, 2014. (Doc. 38). See Mazzarella v. Fast Rig Support, LLC, 2014 WL 2861027 (M.D.Pa. June 23, 2014). Trial is now set for August 3, 2015. At the pre-trial conference on May 20, 2015, it was decided that the parties should brief two issues: whether the water that plaintiffs haul is considered " property" subject to the Secretary of Transportation's jurisdiction; and whether the water is so integral to interstate commerce that even its intrastate transport directly affects interstate commerce. Defendants filed their brief on May 29, 2015, (Doc. 62), with exhibits, and plaintiff filed his brief on June 5, 2015, (Doc. 63).

I. BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff Alphonse Mazzarella (" plaintiff" ) is a truck driver employed by defendant FAST Rig Support, LLC (" FAST" ), and defendant First Americans Shipping and Trucking, Inc. (" First Americans" ). Plaintiff and his fellow drivers transport water from sources within Pennsylvania to natural gas rigs also located within Pennsylvania. The drivers do not travel outside of Pennsylvania during the normal course of their jobs. Plaintiff was employed with defendants from June 2012 to October 2013. Plaintiff was paid an hourly wage between $20-22 dollars per hour during the course of his employment with defendants. His coworkers were similarly paid hourly wages. While working for defendants, plaintiff and his coworkers routinely worked for more than 40 hours per week. As an example, the plaintiff worked for 85 hours one week in June 2012 and 75 hours another week in March 2013. Despite working more than 40 hours each week, plaintiff and his fellow employees only received overtime pay equal to 150% of their regular pay rate for hours worked in excess of 45 hours per week. Plaintiff contends that they are owed overtime for all hours worked in excess of 40 per week as mandated by the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ), 29 U.S.C. § § 201, et seq., and the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act

Page 503

(" PMWA" ), 43 P.S. § § 333.101, et seq. The court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Additionally, the court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

Plaintiff brought suit against defendants on November 21, 2013, (Doc. 1), for violations of the FLSA's overtime provision, 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1), and for violations of the PMWA's overtime provision, 43 P.S. § 333.104(c). The FLSA claim was brought as a collective action pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). The PMWA action was brought as a class action pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23. Plaintiff filed a motion for conditional class certification on March 19, 2014, (Doc. 24), but later withdrew that request as the parties stipulated that all drivers employed by defendants in Pennsylvania since May 1, 2011 were conditionally certified as a collective pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). (Doc. 34). While Plaintiff withdrew the Rule 23 class action claim, the parties agreed that drivers who opt in to the collective action join the action for both the FLSA and PMWA claims. (Id.). Further, the parties have agreed to work together to identify and notify all potential collective members of the suit and allow them the opportunity to opt in. (Doc. 34).

II. DISCUSSION

In order for the defendants to escape liability by citing the Motor Carrier Act (" MCA" ) exemption with respect to the maximum hours and overtime provisions of the FLSA, the defendants carry a heavy burden of proof regarding two issues. First, the water being hauled by the plaintiff drivers must be considered " property" for purposes of the Motor Carrier Act. Second, the intrastate trips made by the plaintiff drivers, in which water is transported from sources in Pennsylvania to gas-drilling rigs also in Pennsylvania, must constitute a practical continuity of movement in interstate commerce.

The court finds that the water at issue is considered property for purposes of the MCA. However, there is insufficient evidence that the intrastate transport of water by plaintiff drivers constitutes a practical continuity of movement in interstate commerce. Accordingly, the defendants cannot utilize the MCA exemption and the plaintiff is entitled to make a claim for overtime under the FLSA and the PMWA.

" In 1938, Congress enacted the FLSA to protect covered workers from substandard wages and oppressive working hours." Friedrich v. U.S. Computer Servs., 974 F.2d 409, 412 (3d Cir. 1992) ( citingBarrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight Sys., Inc.,450 U.S. 728, 739, 101 S.Ct. 1437, 67 ...


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