“Better Ingredients, Better Pay?” – Federal Court Provides Guidance on FLSA Compliance and Reimbursement of Expenses for Pizza Delivery Drivers

Executive Summary: On November 5, 2019, a federal district court in Ohio issued a decision clarifying the law governing whether owners of 73 Papa John’s franchised locations violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to adequately reimburse their delivery drivers for expenses incurred in using their own vehicles to complete deliveries. In deferring to the Department of Labor (DOL) Field Operations Handbook, the court held that where employees are paid at or close to minimum wage and they use their own vehicles to make deliveries, the proper measure of minimum wage compliance for pizza delivery drivers is to either (1) track and pay delivery drivers’ actual expenses incurred or (2) pay the mileage reimbursement rate set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). See Hatmaker v. PJ Ohio, LLC, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 191790 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 5, 2019). Continue reading

DOL Pivots, Providing Guidance Likely To Mitigate Recent Blitz of Minimum Wage Class Actions Related to Sleep Time And Off Duty Time Spent In Vehicles

Executive Summary: Almost all long-haul drivers are exempt from overtime under the motor carrier exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). However, these same drivers are not exempt from the FLSA’s minimum wage requirements. Due to the ongoing driver shortage, drivers’ rates far exceed the minimum wage, especially when considering the Motor Carrier Safety Act limits on-duty hours to 60 per week. So it’s no surprise that many motor carriers were caught off guard when federal courts found them liable for not paying minimum wage because they failed to count the time drivers spent sleeping as hours worked. In guidance issued July 22, 2019 the United States Department of Labor (DOL) addressed the circumstances when time in the sleeper berth is compensable and shifted the burden to drivers to prove they were performing compensable work in the berth, providing “straightforward” guidance for the motor carrier industry and a defense to the minimum wage claims. Continue reading

Judge Refuses To Dismiss Domino’s Collective Action Without Seeing Settlement Agreement

Russell_Jackson_IL
Russell Jackson

On May 17, 2019, Judge Renee Marie Bumb of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey rejected the parties’ request to dismiss a Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) lawsuit without the Judge’s review of the settlement agreements.  In doing so, the District Court ordered defendants to submit the settlement agreement reached with the named plaintiff or attest that no agreement covering FLSA claims exists.  The case is Kessler v. Joarder Props., LLC, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83571 (D.N.J. May 17, 2019) and is a reminder for employers engaged in FLSA litigation that obtaining court approval is a requirement before dismissal of the action is proper. Continue reading