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Middle District of Pennsylvania Rules Employees Do Not Qualify for Motor Carrier Act Exemption to the FLSA

In Mazzarella v. Fast Rig Support, LLC, the Middle District of Pennsylvania held that truck drivers who primarily transported water from various fracking sites within Pennsylvania did not qualify under the Motor Carrier Act exemption to the FLSA.  823 F.3d 786 (M.D. Pa. 2016). Plaintiffs claimed that they often worked in excess of forty hours, but only received overtime when they exceeded forty-five hours in a single week.  Under the FLSA, employees are entitled to 150% of their hourly wage for any hours worked above forty. There are various exceptions to this overtime requirement including employees “to whom the Secretary of Transportation has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service.” These exemptions, including the one at issue, must be construed narrowly against the employer, thus the defendant bears the burden of establishing “plainly and unmistakably” that the employees fall within this exemption.

The Motor Carrier Act exemption required Defendant to show that the drivers’ transportation of water was part of a continuous stream of interstate travel. When analyzing this issue, courts refer to various factors including the following: (1) whether and to what extent a product pauses in a warehouse or other location during transportation before reaching its final destination; (2) whether the product is altered in any way during its transport; (3) the employer’s intent concerning the delivery of the product at the time the transportation commences; and (4) whether the employer’s business involves an integrated system of interstate shipments.”

In an attempt to satisfy these factors, Defendant presented a DOT certificate, which authorized the drivers to engage in interstate commerce, an online article stating that most fracking water is trucked out of Pennsylvania into Ohio, and lastly, a spreadsheet indicating that certain shipments of water were tracked and bound for specific destinations in Pennsylvania. The Court found that none of this evidence “plainly and unmistakably” established that the employees were engaged in interstate commerce, and thus rejected Defendant’s argument and refused to apply the Motor Carrier Act exemption.

For more information, call our Philadelphia employment lawyers for Fair Labor Standards Act in Philadelphia and South Jersey at the Law Office of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.