The FLSA’s highly technical motor carrier exemption applies to certain employees of motor carriers regulated by the Department of Transportation whose work affects the transportation of goods in interstate commerce. In addition to qualifying drivers, the exemption applies to mechanics, driver’s helpers, and also to “loaders,” who balance the cargo in motor carrier vehicles, thereby affecting transportation safety. In a new decision, a federal judge in Texas upheld application of the exemption to loaders who challenged the application of the exemption to overtime. Lucas v. Noypi, Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143889 (S.D. Tex. Oct. 3, 2012)
Plaintiffs in Lucas alleged they were entitled to overtime pay because they were “movers” who “merely furnish[ed] physical assistance,” and did not make decisions regarding the loading of cargo which affected transportation and safety. The court rejected this claim, finding the that the Defendant’s evidence, which Plaintiffs did not credibly dispute, established that “[P]laintiffs were responsible for using their discretion to build a balanced and safe load by placing and distributing property safely in the trucks.” Thus, they were exempt loaders.
Motor carrier exemption analysis is detailed and fact-intensive, and an employer availing itself of the exemption must ensure Department of Transportation regulation of the employee (which is the basis for the exemption, as the DOT and DOL cannot simultaneously regulate the same worker). Additionally, multi-state employers must analyze the applicability of the exemption under the laws of each state in which they operate.