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Angel L. Hernandez and v. Alpine Logistics

August 29, 2011

ANGEL L. HERNANDEZ AND DANIELLE KELLY, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHER SIMILARLY SITUATED EMPLOYEES, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ALPINE LOGISTICS, LLC, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Angel Hernandez and Danielle Kelly, former employees of defendant Alpine Logistics, LLC, ("Alpine"), bring this action pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and the New York Labor Law claiming that they were improperly denied overtime benefits under state and federal law. Specifically, the plaintiffs, who were employed as delivery drivers for Alpine, and who seek to proceed on behalf of all drivers employed by Alpine, claim that because of an amendment to the FLSA effective on June 7, 2008, they became entitled to Federal overtime benefits to which they had previously been exempted. Plaintiffs also contend that the defendant failed to properly pay overtime wages in accordance with New York State law. Defendant denies the plaintiff's allegations, and claims that the June 7, 2008 amendment to the FLSA did not institute a new requirement that it pay overtime wages to its drivers.

The parties now move for summary judgment. Plaintiffs seek an order declaring that as a matter of law, they are entitled to overtime wages under the FLSA as of June 7, 2008, and that they were entitled to overtime wages under New York State law prior to June 7, 2008. Defendant also moves for summary judgment, seeking an order that as a matter of law, the plaintiffs are exempt from receiving overtime pay under the FLSA, and therefore not entitled to federal overtime benefits. The defendant does not address the legal merits of plaintiffs' claims regarding entitlement to overtime benefits under New York State law, but alleges that questions of fact regarding hours worked precludes granting judgment as a matter of law on plaintiffs' state law claims.

For the reasons set forth below, I find that as of June 7, 2008, Alpine was required to pay overtime benefits under the FLSA of one-and-one-half times its drivers' regular rate of pay to any driver who qualified as a "covered employee" for the relevant pay period. I further find that prior to June 7, 2008, defendant was required under the New York Labor Law to pay overtime wages equal to or greater than one-and-one-half times the minimum wage in effect in the State of New York.

BACKGROUND

Defendant Alpine Logistics, LLC, is a company that was created in 2007 to pick up and deliver packages in the eastern half of the Rochester, New York metropolitan area. Alpine operated on behalf of DHL, a courier service that, at the time, was expanding its operations to compete with other courier services such as UPS and Federal Express.*fn1 Alpine began operations on August 27, 2007, and employed several drivers to operate its initial fleet of 25 vehicles. Of these vehicles, 6 had a gross weight greater than 10,000 pounds, and 19 had a gross vehicle weight less than 10,000 pounds. Shortly after Alpine began its operations, it acquired its permanent fleet of 26 vehicles, including 2 vehicles that had gross weights greater than 10,000 pounds, and 24 vehicles that had gross weights less than 10,000 pounds. Under the terms of their employment, any of the drivers could be required to drive any one of the vehicles regardless of its weight.

Because some of Alpine's vehicles had a gross weight greater than 10,000, its drivers were subject to regulations promulgated by the United States Department of Transportation, which regulates larger trucks, and inter alia, limits the amount of time that a driver may drive without taking a break, and mandates required rest periods when driving large trucks. Pursuant to laws and regulations governing large trucks and their drivers, and specifically due to provisions of the Motor Carrier Act, ("MCA") drivers of large trucks are not entitled to overtime compensation.

Moreover, even if drivers regularly drove vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds, the drivers remained exempt from overtime eligibility if they could be called on to drive a truck heavier than 10,000 pounds. Because the Alpine fleet contained two trucks that weighed more than 10,000 pounds, and because the drivers could be required to drive those trucks, not one of Alpine's drivers was entitled to overtime benefits.

In June, 2008, the United States Congress enacted the SAFETEALU Technical Corrections Act of 2008. ("the Act" or "Technical Corrections Act") P.L. 110-244, 122 Stat. 1572. According to the plaintiffs, Section 306 of the Act amended the FLSA, and changed the eligibility of drivers for overtime pay by providing that drivers who drove trucks weighing less than 10,000 pounds would now be eligible for overtime compensation. Defendant contends that the Act made no such change, and that drivers who could still be required to drive trucks in excess of 10,000 remained exempt from FLSA overtime provisions.

Prior to filing the instant action, plaintiffs sought overtime wages from Alpine, which Alpine refused to pay. As a result, plaintiffs brought the instant action.

DISCUSSION

I. The Parties' Motion for Summary Judgment Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." When considering a motion for summary judgment, all genuinely disputed facts must be resolved in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). If, after considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the court finds that no rational jury could find in favor of that party, a grant of summary judgment is appropriate. Scott, 550 U.S. at 380 (citing Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-587 (1986)).

In the instant case, the plaintiffs move for summary judgment seeking a declaration that as of June 7, 2008, because of an amendment to the FLSA, they became entitled to overtime compensation under the FLSA. Plaintiffs further seek a declaration that under state law, prior to June 7, 2008, they were entitled to overtime compensation payable at ...


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