On March 11, 2015, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that the motor carrier exemption to the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) did not apply to a truck driver who operated vehicles lighter than 10,000 pounds, even though she spent more than half her time operating vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or more. McMaster v. Eastern Armored Services, Inc., ____ F.3d____ 2015 WL 1036035 (3d Cir. 2015).
The FLSA generally provides that employers must pay hourly employees one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for hours they work above 40 in a week. Under the motor carrier exemption, however, overtime is not required for individuals working as drivers (and certain other positions) for a motor carrier, unless the “small vehicle exception” applies. Under that exception, drivers are not exempt from the overtime requirements if their job “in whole or in part” involves operation of vehicles lighter than 10,000 pounds.
In this case, even though the plaintiff spent the majority (51 percent) of her time operating vehicles heavier than 10,000 pounds, her operation of a vehicle lighter than 10,000 pounds 49 percent of the time placed her squarely within the small vehicle exception to the motor carrier exemption, and thus she was entitled to overtime. The Third Circuit expressly refused to define “in part,” simply stating that 49 percent was sufficient. As a result, it is possible that some more de minimis percentage of time spent operating a lighter vehicle (such as 10 percent or 20 percent) could fall outside the “in whole or in part” exception.