This is Part Two of the two-part series of articles discussing the overtime wage exemption of truck loaders under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Following the United State Supreme Court’s decisions discussed in Part One, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) issued regulations interpreting the Motor Carrier Act Exemption set forth at 29 C.F.R. § 782.5. The applicable DOL regulation (at § 782.5(a)) defines “loader” under the Motor Carrier Act (MCA) to mean “an employee of a carrier [under the Motor Carrier Act] … whose duties include … the proper loading of his employer’s motor vehicles so that they may be safely operated on the highways of the country.” The regulations explain that a loader’s work “directly affects ‘safety of operation’ [of a motor vehicle] so long as he has responsibility when such motor vehicles are being loaded, for exercising judgment and discretion in planning and building a balanced load or in placing, distributing, or securing the pieces of freight in such a manner that the safe operation of the vehicles on the highways in interstate commerce will not be jeopardized.” Following the DOL’s issuance of this regulation, substantial court litigation followed addressing the meaning, and ultimately the legal enforceability of this regulation. Federal appellate court decisions have viewed the DOL regulation as an overeach of the DOL’s authority that properly resides with the Department of Transportation. The Mavrick Law Firm defends businesses against overtime wage claims.
A relatively recent decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in Williams v. Central Transport International, Inc., 830 F.3d 773 (8th Cir. 2016), rejected the DOL’s reference to “exercising judgment and discretion” set forth in 29 C.F.R. § 782.5(a) as “not the governing standard.” Citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Levinson v. Spector Motor Serv., 330 U.S. 649, 67 S.Ct. 931 (1947), the Eighth Circuit in Williams stated that “the DOL has no authority to define what employees are subject to the Secretary of Transportation’s jurisdiction and therefore fall within the MCA Exemption … Accordingly, we give no weight or deference to the DOL’s regulation purporting to define who is an exempt loader.” Williams further explained that:
“the DOL regulation, 29 C.F.R. 782.5(a), is contrary to the Supreme Court’s governing standard. The ICC asserted jurisdiction over loaders because ‘a motor vehicle must be properly loaded to be safely operated on the highways’ … ‘What the [ICC] intended to cover was the physical act of loading freight in a safe manner.’ … ‘[L]oaders, even if closely supervised, remain within I.C.C. jurisdiction.’ … Thus, Pyramid’s de minimus exception ‘is not based upon whether the worker was supervised in activities that have an undeniable, direct effect on safety,’ such as loading a trailer bound for interstate travel. … [¶] Based on the Supreme Court’s controlling precedents, we conclude that, if an employee spends a substantial part of his time (as defined in Levinson, Pyramid, and Morris) participating in or directing the actual loading of a motor vehicle’s common carrier’s trailers operating in interstate or foreign commerce, the Secretary of Transportation has the authority to regulate that employee’s hours of service and the MCA Exemption applies, regardless of the employee’s precise role in the loading process.”
A more recent decision by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Mendoza v. Quirch Foods Co., 2017 Wage & Hour Cas.2d (BNA) 348 (September 30, 2017), agreed with the analysis in Williams. Mendoza stated in pertinent part that the court “finds the decision in Williams v. Central Transport International, Inc. … to be persuasive.”
Several other federal appellate and district courts also have rejected the DOL’s authority to issue a regulation purporting to define when a loader is exempt from overtime wages because of the Motor Carrier Act Exemption. Packard v. Pittsburgh Transportation Co., 418 F.3d 246 (3d Cir. 2005); Troutt v. Stavola Bros., 107 F.3d 1104 (4th Cir. 1997); Benson v. Universal Ambulance Serv., Inc., 675 F.2d 783 (6th Cir. 1982); Khan v. IBI Armored Servs., Inc., 474 F.Supp.2d 448 (E.D.N.Y. 2007).
It appears that the of legal authorities is that the Department of Labor overstepped its authority in issuing its regulations defining when loaders are exempt from overtime and minimum wages under the Motor Carrier Act.
Peter Mavrick has successfully defended many businesses against employment lawsuits in Miami-Dade County, Broward County, Palm Beach County, Collier County, and Lee County, Florida. This article does not serve as a substitute for legal advice tailored to a particular situation.