The Third Circuit joined other circuits in its ruling this week that trucking companies are not relieved from the payment of overtime wages to their employees whose job “in whole or in part” affects the safe operation of vehicles lighter than 10,000 pounds.  In general, the Fair Labor Standards Act provides that employers are required to pay employees 150% of wages for the hours they work over 40 hours per week.  Prior to this decision, some trucking companies believed, as the defendant in this case, that the Motor Carrier Exemption excused payments to truck drivers for overtime.

The Exemption generally provides that a trucking company is not required to pay overtime pursuant to the FLSA for any employee who falls within the Secretary of Transportation’s regulatory authority.  This is consistent with other federal statutes that recognize that motor carriers are in a different position than other employers.  One of note is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (to be explored in subsequent blogs) which has an extremely narrow trucking industry exception.

However, in this precedential decision, the Third Circuit found that the enactment of the Corrections Act of 2008, removed certain “covered” drivers from the Exemption.  Boiling it down, the Corrections Act provides that the FLSA requires the payment of overtime to truck drivers whose job “‘in whole or in part’ affects the safe operation of vehicles lighter than 10,000 pounds, except vehicles designed to transport hazardous materials or large numbers of passengers.”

In this conditionally certified class action, McMaster, the lead plaintiff of 25, frequently worked over 40 hours a week either driving or securing vehicles rated heavier than 10,000 pounds for 51% of her work days, and vehicles rated lighter than 10,000 pounds for 49% of her work days.  While other jurisdictions, like the Seventh Circuit, have held otherwise, the Third Circuit affirmed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment ruling that McMaster was entitled to overtime wages because 49% of her work entailed a vehicle lighter than 10,000 pounds.

Specifically highlighted by the Third Circuit is that it did not decide whether less than 49% of a worker’s time in a vehicle classified below 10,000 pounds would satisfy the “in part” language contained in the Corrections Act.  We will have to wait to see if any of the other conditionally certified class members will likewise be entitled to overtime pay – an issue to be addressed in subsequent proceedings by the District Court.