686 F.3d 1172 (11th Cir. 2012), 11-12532, Layton v. DHL Exp. (USA), Inc.
|Citation:||686 F.3d 1172|
|Opinion Judge:||WILSON, Circuit Judge:|
|Party Name:||Leandre LAYTON, on behalf of himself and all those similarly situated, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. DHL EXPRESS (USA), INC., Defendant-Appellee, Sky Land Express, Inc., et al. Defendants.|
|Attorney:||Marc N. Garber, Alan Howard Garber, The Garber Law Firm, PC, Marietta, GA, Roderick T. Cooks, Lee David Winston, Winston Cooks, LLC, Birmingham, AL, for Plaintiff-Appellant. Devand Anthony Sukhdeo, TerRance Q. Woodard, Jackson Lewis, LLP, Miami, FL, Beverly P. Baker, Christopher W. Deering, James...|
|Judge Panel:||Before EDMONDSON, WILSON and KRAVITCH, Circuit Judges.|
|Case Date:||July 09, 2012|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit|
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.
Leandre Layton, on behalf of himself and the similarly-situated members of his conditionally-certified class (collectively, " Drivers" ), appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of DHL Express, Inc. (" DHL" ) on his claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. After a thorough examination of the realities of the economic relationship between Drivers and DHL, we affirm on the grounds that DHL is not a joint employer of Drivers.
DHL is a provider of shipping and logistic services. In some parts of the country, DHL hires third-party contractors who employ couriers to deliver DHL's packages. Between 2005 and 2009, DHL utilized Sky Land Express, Inc. (" Sky Land" ) as such a contractor in Alabama. Sky Land worked out of three warehouse locations in the state: Birmingham, Jasper, and Tuscaloosa. The relationship between DHL and Sky Land was governed by a Cartage Agreement that stated that Sky Land was an independent contractor of DHL and specified Sky Land's contractual duties. Drivers were employed by Sky Land and served mainly as delivery couriers, although some also acted as supervisors, dispatchers, and shuttle drivers. Sky Land owned the vehicles that Drivers used to deliver packages; DHL owned the warehouse facilities and all other equipment.
Every morning, DHL had packages delivered to the Birmingham warehouse. Drivers could not begin work until a DHL employee informed them that those packages had been received and coded and were ready for pick-up. After receiving the go-ahead, Drivers sorted, scanned, and loaded the packages. Sky Land leased the necessary scanners from DHL. As Drivers
loaded their vehicles at the warehouse, a DHL employee would often inspect Drivers' vehicles and uniforms to ensure that they conformed to the standards specified in the Cartage Agreement. The uniforms and the vehicles bore the names of both DHL and Sky Land.
Drivers delivered some packages straight from the Birmingham warehouse to customers; the rest of the packages were shuttled to the Tuscaloosa and Jasper warehouses, retrieved by Drivers, and then delivered. Drivers spent the majority of their days making pick-ups and deliveries in their vehicles. Throughout the day, DHL sent information regarding customer complaints, requests for re-deliveries, and other non-routine matters to Drivers. As Drivers worked, they used the scanners to log the time at which each package was picked up or delivered. When Drivers had completed their delivery routes for the day, they unloaded any remaining packages at one of the warehouses and returned their scanners to be charged overnight. At that time, the information that the scanner had collected during the day about package locations was transmitted to a DHL data server.
On August 27, 2008, Layton filed a collective action under the FLSA for unpaid overtime compensation, naming DHL, Sky Land, and Gary Littlefield, the owner and president of Sky Land, as his joint employers and defendants to the suit. On June 22, 2009, the district court granted Layton conditional collective-action certification pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). The conditionally-certified class included forty-nine delivery drivers who had worked for Sky Land in Alabama; the class period was June 22, 2006 through June 22, 2009. 1
On October 22, 2010, DHL moved for summary judgment on the ground that it was not an employer of Drivers. On November 5, 2010, Sky Land and Littlefield moved for summary judgment, claiming that (1) the FLSA's Motor Carrier Act Exemption (" MCE" ) made Drivers ineligible for overtime compensation and (2) one member of the conditionally-certified class fell within the executive exemption to the FLSA. On November 16, 2010, DHL filed an untimely motion to join and adopt Sky Land and Littlefield's motion. On December 3, 2010, Layton, Sky Land, and Littlefield jointly moved to dismiss Sky Land and Littlefield as defendants. Three days later, the district court granted the motion, dismissed Sky Land and Littlefield and ordered their motion withdrawn, and denied DHL's motion to adopt. On January 12, 2011, the district court denied DHL's motion for summary judgment. Then, on February 15, 2011, the district court sua sponte vacated its order denying DHL's request to join Sky Land and Littlefield's motion to dismiss. Subsequently, on May 3, 2011, the district court granted summary judgment for DHL, finding that (1) the " dismissal of Sky Land effectively eliminated [Plaintiff class members'] claim against DHL" and (2) Plaintiff class members fell within the MCE and were thus not able to assert overtime pay claims. The district court later amended the order to add an additional reason for granting the motion:
DHL did everything it could possibly do to relate to Sky Land only as an " independent contractor[." ] The contract with Sky Land allowed DHL to exercise only the minimal supervision necessary to monitor compliance with the contract. The undisputed facts lead to the conclusion that if plaintiffs were employed by anybody, they were employed by Sky
Land, the entity that they ostentatiously dismissed as a defendant, for reasons this court can only guess at. DHL was not an employer, much less a joint employer.
Layton now appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment.
We review de novo a district court's grant of summary judgment. Vector Prods., Inc. v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 397 F.3d 1316, 1318 (11th Cir.2005) (per curiam). We can affirm a grant of summary judgment on grounds other than those relied upon by the district court. Edwards v. Niagara Credit Solutions, Inc., 584 F.3d 1350, 1354 (11th Cir.2009). In reviewing a grant of summary judgment, we resolve all ambiguities and draw reasonable factual inferences from the evidence in the non-movant's favor. Rice-Lamar v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 232 F.3d 836, 840 (11th Cir.2000). Therefore, throughout this opinion we have presented all evidence in the light most favorable to Layton.
The FLSA defines an employer as " any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee." 29 U.S.C. § 203(d). An entity " employs" a person under the FLSA if it " suffer[s] or permit[s]" the individual to work. Id. § 203(g). In order to...
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