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Motor Carrier Prevails on Minimum Wage Claims

Jan 24, 2014

 

Motor Carrier Prevails on Minimum Wage Claims

 

The United States District Court for the District of Oregon recently issued a favorable opinion on two issues critical to the transportation industry.  It found:

 

·         Motor carriers are not obligated to compensate team drivers who are in the sleeper berth of a moving truck.

·         Applicants were not entitled to compensation for time spent in the qualification process and provided a clear "test" to determine   whether the time spent qualifying an applicant for a driving position is compensable.

 

In Nance v. May Trucking Co., the court found that the FLSA and parallel Oregon minimum wage laws do not require motor carriers to compensate drivers for time they spend in the sleeper berth of a moving truck simply because the truck is moving.  The court further found the driver applicants at issue did not constitute "employees" entitled to minimum wage under the FLSA or Oregon laws for the time they spent undergoing qualification testing and some safety training because (1) there was no express or implied agreement to compensate the driver applicants for time they spent completing the qualification process and (2) the motor carrier received no "immediate advantage" from the work the driver applicants completed during the qualification process.

 

The case was brought against May Trucking Company as a putative class action by drivers May Trucking hired as entry level drivers (“ELDs”)—i.e., drivers who shadowed a driver trainer to obtain the experience and training necessary to qualify as solo drivers.  The current and former drivers claimed May Trucking violated the FLSA and Oregon minimum wage laws because they claimed they were entitled to be compensated for the time they spent in the sleeper berth of a moving truck because they were effectively under May Trucking’s “control.”   The court rejected this assertion, relying on regulations that provide that a driver is not “working” when the driver is permitted to sleep in “adequate facilities.”  While the ELD drivers argued that sleeper berths do not constitute adequate facilities, the court did not find this argument persuasive in light of U.S. DOL (and parallel Oregon) guidance expressly deeming sleeper berths “adequate sleeping facilities.”  This determination, the first applying these regulations to these claims, will help the industry defend similar attacks.  The decision should also put and end to the claims made against motor carriers that drivers must be considered on duty for at least 16 hours per day because they spend time in a sleeper berth regardless of whether it is moving. 

 

The drivers also claimed May Trucking violated the FLSA and Oregon minimum wage laws because May Trucking did not compensate the drivers for time they spent participating in a 2 to 4 day application and qualification process or “orientation.”  The court acknowledged the differing tests applied by the DOL and various courts for purposes of determining whether “trainees” are employees covered by the FLSA and found it most appropriate to consider whether (1) May Trucking received an “immediate advantage” from the “work” the drivers completed during the orientation and (2) “there was an express or implied agreement for compensation.”  The court found the drivers were not employees during the orientation because the drivers merely underwent a drug test, physical examination, and road test, learned to safely operate a truck, and did not haul any loads, displace any regular employees, or receive pay during orientation.  Consequently, the drivers were not entitled to receive compensation during the so-called “orientation” as a matter of law.

 

If you have any questions or need additional information please contact Jim Hanson at jhanson@scopelitis.com or (317) 637-1777, or Adam Smedstad at asmedstad@scopeltiis.com or (312) 255-7200.