Court Reaffirms Exemption of Drivers from Overtime Law.

A decision filed by the California Court of Appeal on September 5, 2012 in Oscar Bell et al. v. H.F. Cox, Inc. reaffirmed the exemption from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) overtime provisions for employed drivers – even if they mostly drive intrastate.

In a case that originally was filed in July 2005 when some employee drivers sought to bring a wage and hour class action against their employer – Cox – making five allegations of which one was that they were not paid for work performed beyond 40 hours. The trial court found that plaintiffs were exempt from federal overtime compensation requirements.  Plaintiffs had also alleged other violations which three of the counts were summarily adjudicated in favor of Cox and a jury found in favor of Cox on another count. Cox was awarded attorney fees as the prevailing party.

Plaintiff drivers on appeal were successful in getting a reversal on the award of attorney fees based on the appellate court’s decision that Summary Adjudication on a single count for failure to pay vacation benefits due upon termination of employment was improper. More importantly, the appeals court allowed to stand the decision made by the trial court that the drivers were in fact exempt from the FSLA – in part because the drivers failed to state any valid argument concerning the trial court’s decision on appeal.

The ruling and background of this case are useful reading to determine if your drivers are exempt from the overtime provisions of the FSLA. The FSLA overtime provisions are inapplicable to “any employee with respect to whom the Secretary of Transportation has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service pursuant to the provisions of section 31502 of Title 49” (known as the motor carrier exemption).

The appeals court noted that, “Even drivers who do not transport goods in interstate commerce are subject to the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Transportation if, as part of their regular duties, they reasonably could be expected to be called on to make interstate runs.”  Citing to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling – Morris v. McComb (1947) – The Supreme Court in Morris held that, although interstate hauls constituted only 3.65 percent of the carrier’s trips and many of its drivers performed no interstate hauls, the motor carrier exemption applied to all of the carrier’s drivers.

Read the decision (icon Obell_v_HF (162.86 kB 2012-09-14 13:46:10).

More background on the case can be read at: http://www.morelaw.com/verdicts/case.asp?n=B199605&s=CA&d=34740

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