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Dejohn v. Pitt Ohio Express, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 14, 2015

RYAN D. DeJOHN, individually and on behalf of all similarly situated employees, Plaintiff,
v.
PITT OHIO EXPRESS, LLC., and DOE DEFENDANTS Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

MALACHY E. MANNION, District Judge.

Plaintiff Ryan D. DeJohn was a dockworker for defendant Pitt Ohio Express, LLC ("Pitt Ohio" or "defendant"), in its terminal located in Hazelton, Pennsylvania. He and his fellow dockworker employees were responsible for loading and unloading Pitt Ohio trucks in a safe and effective manner. He and his coworkers were required to punch in and punch out for their 30 minute, uninterrupted meal break. Plaintiff alleges that he and his coworkers were misclassified as dockworkers and considered exempt employees. As such, he claims that defendant's policy of not paying him overtime compensation for all hours in excess of 40 in a given workweek illegally denied him overtime pay and, that defendant's policy of automatically deducting 30 minutes from his time each day for a lunch break, regardless of whether he actually took a full 30 minute uninterrupted break, violated the law. Plaintiff has thus sued defendant under the Fair Labor Standards Act, ("FLSA"), the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, ("PMWA") and the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, ("WPCL") on behalf of himself and his coworkers.

Plaintiff filed a motion for class certification. Plaintiff seeks to certify two classes comprised of himself and all other dockworkers employed by Pitt Ohio in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of plaintiff's complaint with prejudice. Defendant claims that plaintiff falls within the Motor Carrier Act ("MCA") exemption and thus is not entitled to either overtime pay or to pay for work during uncompensated meal breaks under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was employed by defendant as a part-time dockworker at defendant's Hazelton, Pennsylvania, terminal (the "Hazelton Terminal") from January 3, 2012 through May 28, 2013, and as a full-time dockworker at the Hazelton Terminal from May 29, 2013 until he submitted his voluntary resignation on July 11, 2013. ( See Doc. 5-1). The last day plaintiff worked for Pitt Ohio was July 12, 2013. Pitt Ohio paid plaintiff a straight-time hourly wage for all hours he worked as a dockworker, including time he worked over 40 hours per week. Pitt Ohio only paid dockworkers employed for three or more years one and a half times the regular wage for any hours worked over 40 hours per week.

Plaintiff's job, along with all the other dockworkers, was to load and unload freight on and off trucks at Pitt Ohio's facilities. In loading a truck, dockworkers are required to follow the order in which the driver's deliveries are to be made, such that material is to be loaded in reverse order of a driver's scheduled delivery. Pitt Ohio trained dockworkers to independently load and unload trucks. Inbound dockworkers were expected to use their own discretion when loading freight on the trucks. Dockworkers were also trained how to handle freight, including the planning and building of a balanced load, as well as the placement, distribution and securement of the pieces of freight. Dockworkers had discretion to decide which tools and equipment to use in loading the trucks. Thus, dockworkers exercised discretion and independent judgment in the performance of their duties.

Plaintiff filed this action against defendant Pitt Ohio and Doe Defendants 1-10 on May 24, 2013, (Doc. 1), bringing claims for violations of the FLSA overtime provision, 29 U.S.C. §207(a)(1), and claims for violations of the PMWA, overtime provision, 43 P.S. §331.104(c). Additionally, the plaintiff claims the automatic 30 minute meal deduction policy of Pitt Ohio constituted a willful violation of the FLSA and the PMWA since he performed work during his meal time without compensation. Plaintiff also asserted claims under the WPCL, 43 P.S. §260.1, alleging that he did not receive all compensation due and owed to him based on Pitt Ohio's failure to pay him overtime. All of plaintiff's claims relate to both the alleged failure of Pitt Ohio to pay him overtime for the hours he worked in excess of 40 hours per week and for the time he worked during his uncompensated meal breaks. The FLSA claim was brought as a collective action pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §216(b). The PMWA and WPCL claims were brought as a class action pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23. Plaintiff claims that he, and those similarly situated to him, were not paid all wages (including overtime and meal breaks) earned by them, in violation of the FLSA.

The court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331 and 29 U.S.C. §216(b). Also, the court can exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff' state law claims under 28 U.S.C. §1367.

On October 22, 2014, plaintiff filed a motion for class certification, (Doc. 25), seeking to certify the following class, pursuant to Rule 23(b)(3):

All persons employed in Pennsylvania as Dockworkers within the three years preceding the filing of this action who were not paid premium overtime compensation at a rate of 1.5 their regular rate for all hours worked in excess of forty in a workweek (the "Class").

Plaintiff's motion has been briefed and exhibits have been submitted. (Docs. 26, 33, 36).

In addition, on October 22, 2014, Pitt Ohio filed a motion for summary judgment, (Doc. 27), pursuant to Rule 56, maintaining that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all of plaintiff's claims since plaintiff is an exempt employee in accordance with the MCA exemption to the FLSA and the Pennsylvania Motor Carrier Exception, ("PMCA"). Pitt Ohio's motion has been briefed, (Docs. 28, 35, 39), and a statement of material fact, a response with a counterstatement of material facts, and a reply were filed. (Docs. 29, 34, 40). Also, exhibits have been submitted.

Both motions are ripe for disposition. Since the summary judgment motion presents a threshold issue as to whether plaintiff is an employee exempt from the FLSA's overtime requirements, this motion will be addressed first.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Turner v. Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1990). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party and is material if it will affect the outcome of the trial under governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Aetna Casualty & Sur. Co. v. Ericksen, 903 F.Supp. 836, 838 (M.D. Pa. 1995). At the summary judgment stage, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; see also Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (holding a court may not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations). Rather, the court must consider all evidence and inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Andreoli v. Gates, 482 F.3d 641, 647 (3d Cir. 2007).

Moreover, the Third Circuit indicated that "although the party opposing summary judgment is entitled to the benefit of all factual inferences in the court's consideration of a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must point to some evidence in the record that creates a genuine issue of material fact, ' and cannot rest solely on assertions made in the pleadings, legal memorandum or oral argument.'" Goode v. Nash 2007 WL 2068365 (3d Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). A material factual dispute is one that may affect the outcome of the case under applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248.

To prevail on summary judgment, the moving party must affirmatively identify those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24. The moving party can discharge the burden by showing that "on all the essential elements of its case on which it bears the burden of proof at trial, no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party." In re Bressman, 327 F.3d 229, 238 (3d Cir. 2003); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. If the moving party meets this initial burden, the non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts, " but must show sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict in its favor. Boyle v. County of Allegheny, 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). However, if the non-moving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to [the non-movant's] case, and on which [the non-movant] will bear the burden of proof at trial, " Rule 56 mandates the entry of summary judgment because such a failure "necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23; Jakimas v. Hoffman La Roche, Inc., 485 F.3d 770, 777 (3d Cir. 2007); Watson v. Eastman Kodak Co., 235 F.3d 851, 858 (3d Cir. 2000) (stating the non-movant must establish the existence of each element on which it bears the burden of proof). A "genuine" disputed issue exists only "if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party." Kaucher v. Cnty. of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006).

III. MATERIAL FACTS[1]

The defendant, Pitt Ohio, is a transportation solutions provider specializing in trucking services including supply chain, ground, less-than-truckload, and truckload shipments throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest region of the United States. Pitt Ohio's vehicles are operated on highways and in interstate commerce. Pitt Ohio operates seven terminals in Pennsylvania, including one located in Hazelton. At the Hazelton Terminal where plaintiff worked, Pitt Ohio employs individuals whom it designates as dockworkers. These dockworkers load and unload Pitt Ohio's trucks and are trained to do so in a specific safe and effective manner.

The plaintiff was hired in January 2012 as a part-time, Outbound dockworker. He was given a Realistic Job Preview document for the dockworker position. This showed that the plaintiff's starting wage was $13.84 per hour and that he would be paid straight time for all hours worked for his first three years of employment. When he was first employed, the plaintiff received about one week of training from a dock trainer. During his training, the plaintiff received Pitt Ohio's Safety Guide, Material Handling Guidelines, Policy on Drug and Alcohol Use for Non-Commercial Drivers, and Hazardous Material Regulation Guidelines. The plaintiff was also given a copy of Pitt Ohio's Driver and Dockworker Handbook.

Further, the dockworkers are trained to safely load trucks. All new dockworkers go through training. Every facility has a dock trainer who has the responsibility of training the new dockworkers on the best practices employed by Pitt Ohio regarding the loading, unloading, and shipping of material. The purpose of the dockworker training program is to train the new dockworkers as to how things are done at Pitt Ohio so that the new dockworkers can independently load and unload trucks. However, new dockworkers do not work independently until after they have completed the dockworker training program. During the training program, a new dockworker loads and unloads trucks with his dock trainer to ensure that the new dockworker is trained properly. In addition, new dockworkers are oriented on material handling equipment, including both how and when to use equipment such as two-wheeled dollies and forklifts. Also, all of the handling equipment used at the Hazleton facility was listed on the activities checklist.

As part of plaintiff's training, he learned various techniques for handling freight, including blocking and bracing freight, blocking and moving reels, and selecting appropriate tools to load freight. In addition, the plaintiff was trained to secure heavier freight to the left and taller freight to the right to keep the truck balanced and safe because of the slant in the road for water runoff. Otherwise, ...


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