Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), “motor carriers” have traditionally been exempt from the overtime requirement that employees receive time and one-half for all hours worked in excess of 40 each week. However, recent legislation has narrowed the use of this exemption and now provides for more protection to workers than previously allowed. The SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Act of 2008 (TCA) restricts the classes of employees who might qualify for the motor carrier exemption. Unfortunately for workers, the TCA limits an employer’s liability for certain overtime violations that occurred before August 10, 2006.
Generally, the motor-carrier exemption applies to employees who are under the regulatory authority of the Department of Transportation and for whom the U.S. Secretary of Transportation can set qualifications and maximum service hours. SAFETEA-LU limited the Transportation Secretary’s power to certain employees whose work involves vehicles having either a gross-vehicle-weight or a gross-vehicle-weight-rating of at least 10,001 pounds or more. Despite the 10,001 pound limit, many companies used the motor carrier exemption in situations involving lighter vehicles, such as automobiles, small trucks, SUVs, and compact vans. In other words, there have been thousands of employees who most likely should have received overtime pay, but didn’t.
Although the TCA restored some of the Secretary of Transportation’s power, it does not permit the motor-carrier exemption to be premised on lighter vehicles. Instead, TCA defines a class of “covered employee[s]” that is subject to FLSA overtime despite the motor-carrier exemption. Broadly stated, a TCA “covered employee” is someone who might otherwise be within the motor-carrier exemption but:
• whose work even partly affects the operation of motor vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less (with limited exceptions); and
• who performs duties on such motor vehicles. As a result, an employer still cannot apply the motor- carrier exemption on most lighter vehicles.
Accordingly, if you know of a person who operates a light motor vehicle, but doesn’t receive overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 each week, their employer may be in violation of the law. We have many clients where this has, in fact, been the case.
As the economy worsens and companies look for ways to save money, we expect that we will see even more companies try and squeeze dollars out of their employees by denying them wages to which they are legally entitled. If you need more information, contact Roman Shaul at 800-898-2034 or by email at Roman.Shaul@beasleyallen.com.
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