Indiana District Court Applies Federal Motor Carrier Exemption to Former Employees Who Never Crossed State Lines

Intrastate haulers and slingers of trash and recyclables are exempt under the federal Motor Carrier Act according to a recent decision by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. Craft, et al. v. Ray’s LLC and Donald Matthews, 1:08-cv-627-RLY-JMS (S.D. Ind.). The FLSA mandates that employers pay employees one and a half times their regular rate for each hour worked in excess of forty during a work week. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). Several exceptions to this rule exist, including one for employees “over whom the Secretary of Transportation has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service.” 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(1).The Motor Carrier Act exemption specifically applies to drivers, drivers’ helpers, loaders, and mechanics who participate in interstate commerce within the scope of their employment. 29 C.F.R. § 782.2(b)(2).

In Craft, the plaintiffs transported full containers from customer locations to Ray’s Recycling or a transfer location owned by Ray’s, within Indiana state lines. Trash and recyclables are sorted, with trash being taken by a Ray’s driver to an in-state landfill or incinerator. Recyclable material is shredded, compacted or baled in preparation for delivery to end recipients. Ray’s Recycling does not process recyclable scrap metal. Instead, a Ray’s driver transports scrap metal from Ray’s Recycling or a transfer station to Farnsworth Metals, Inc., an Indiana company owned by the majority shareholder of Ray’s. Ray’s Recycling, the transfer stations, and Farnsworth typically received advance purchase orders and shipping instructions from end recipients. Over 50% of the end recipients are out-of-state.

The court’s decision is comprised of two separate findings. First, the court found that the drivers’ intrastate transportation was a part of the “practical continuity of movement” that resulted in the recyclable material crossing state lines between the point of origin and the point of destination. The plaintiffs argued that the continuity of movement was interrupted when the recyclable materials were processed, which took place in Indiana. The court found otherwise. Crucial to the court’s finding was the fact that the recyclable material at issue—unlike the meat scraps at issue in Goldberg v. Faber Indus., Inc., 291 F.2d 232 (7th Cir. 1961)–was not transformed to a new good when it was processed. The court also relied on Bilyou v. Dutchess Beer Distributors, Inc., 300 F.3d 217 (2d Cir. 2002) (delivery drivers who collected empty beer bottles for recycling center that sold recycled glass to clients out-of-state were exempt under Motor Carrier exemption). Additionally, the court found relevant the policy of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) that the practical continuity of movement is not interrupted by repackaging or reconfiguring, but may be interrupted where a good is substantially modified. Finding that the recyclable materials that the plaintiffs transported were not substantially modified, the court held that the practical continuity of movement was uninterrupted.

Second, the court found that the defendants had a fixed and persisting intent to ship a majority of the recyclables that the plaintiffs transported to out-of-state destinations. Again, the court looked to the ICC. The ICC policy provides that a fixed and persisting intent may exist where a shipper has a factual basis for projecting out-of-state sales. The defendants sold more than 50% of the recyclable material transported by the plaintiffs to out-of-state recipients that executed advance purchase agreements. These facts led the court to conclude that the defendants had the necessary fixed and persisting intent.

The intrastate activities of the plaintiffs were part of a practical continuity of movement across state lines and the defendants had a fixed and persisting intent to ship the recyclables in interstate commerce when the shipment began. Consequently, the plaintiffs’ intrastate activities constituted participation in interstate commerce as required by the Motor Carrier Act exemption to the FLSA. The plaintiffs were therefore not entitled to damages under the FLSA.

This entry was written by Brian Mosby.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.