Browne v.

Decision Date19 October 2018
Docket NumberCASE NO. 5:16-CV-5366
PartiesDAVID BROWNE; ANTONIO CALDWELL; and LUCRETIA HALL, on behalf of themselves and all those similarly situated PLAINTIFFS v. P.A.M. TRANSPORT, INC. DEFENDANT
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Arkansas
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Currently before the Court are:

Defendant P.A.M. Transport Inc.'s ("PAM") Motion for Partial Dismissal and Brief in Support (Doc. 55); Plaintiffs David Browne's, Antonio Caldwell's, and Lucretia Hall's (collectively, "Plaintiffs") Memorandum of Law in Opposition (Doc. 67); and PAM's Reply Brief in Support (Doc. 77); and
• PAM's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 56) and Brief in Support (Doc. 57); Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Opposition (Doc. 68); and PAM's Reply Brief in Support (Doc. 76).

For the reasons given below, both Motions are DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are individuals who worked for PAM as truck drivers. They have asserted a variety of claims against PAM in this case for alleged violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and the Arkansas Minimum Wage Law ("AMWL"). See Doc. 7. Plaintiffs brought their claims as a putative collective action under the FMLA and a putative class action under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23. See id. On May 8, 2017, this Court conditionally certified the collective action, see Doc. 19, and roughly three thousand individuals subsequently opted in as collective-action plaintiffs, see generally Docs. 21-39, 42-46. November 2, 2018 is the deadline for PAM to move for decertification of the collective action and for Plaintiffs to move for class certification under Rule 23. See Doc. 81.

On May 24, 2018, PAM filed a Motion for Partial Dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). See Doc. 55. In that Motion, PAM seeks dismissal of all Plaintiffs' "sleeper berth" claims (which will be explained further below), and of the Arkansas state law claims brought by Plaintiffs Browne and Hall. The following day, PAM filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). See Doc. 56. In that Motion, PAM seeks dismissal of all claims by Plaintiff Caldwell along with 54 additional opt-in plaintiffs. Both of these motions have been fully briefed and await decision from this Court. The Court will address them both below, after reciting the applicable legal standard.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

As mentioned above, both Motions are brought under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). Although one is styled a "motion to dismiss" and the other is styled a "motion for judgment on the pleadings," the same legal standard applies to both. Specifically, motions for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) are governed by the same standard that governs Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. See Westcott v. City of Omaha, 901 F.2d 1486, 1488 (8th Cir. 1990). To survive such a motion, a complaint must provide "a short and plain statement of the claim that [the plaintiff] is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The purpose of this requirement is to "give the defendant fair notice of what the. . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The Court must accept all of a complaint's factual allegations as true, and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Ashley Cnty., Ark. v. Pfizer, Inc., 552 F.3d 659, 665 (8th Cir. 2009).

However, the complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. "A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'" Id. In other words, while "the pleading standard that Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' . . . it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id.

III. DISCUSSION

Below, the Court will first discuss PAM's May 24 Motion for Partial Dismissal. Then the Court will take up PAM's May 25 Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.

A. PAM's May 24 Motion for Partial Dismissal (Doc. 55)

As previously mentioned, PAM's May 24 Motion seeks dismissal of two categories of claims: all sleeper berth claims brought by any of the plaintiffs in this case, and the Arkansas state law claims brought by Plaintiffs Browne and Hall. In the first subsection below, the Court will discuss the sleeper berth claims. Then the Court will discuss PAM'sarguments about Plaintiffs Browne's and Hall's Arkansas state law claims in the second subsection.

1. Sleeper Berth Claims

Plaintiffs have advanced a variety of theories of recovery in this case. One of those theories is that for any given 24-hour shift, Department of Labor ("DOL") regulations prohibit PAM from excluding more than 8 hours from compensation for time that a driver spends in a truck's sleeper berth. PAM disagrees, and contends that it is legally permissible for PAM to exclude all time from compensation that a driver spends in a truck's sleeper berth, regardless of whether that amount of time exceeds 8 hours within a given 24-hour shift. This dispute involves a somewhat tangled web of statutes, agency regulations, and agency interpretations of statutes and regulations, which the Court will attempt to summarize now for the readers' benefit.

The FLSA requires employers to pay their employees a minimum wage for every hour worked. See 29 U.S.C. § 206(a). "Under certain conditions an employee is considered to be working even though some of his time is spent in sleeping or in certain other activities." 29 C.F.R. § 785.20. This is so because, as the United States Supreme Court has recognized, an employer may hire an employee simply to wait for some period of time. See Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U.S. 134, 136-37 (1944). One such instance explicitly addressed by DOL regulations is where an employee is on duty for 24 hours or more. Specifically, the DOL has instructed that:

Where an employee is required to be on duty for 24 hours or more, the employer and the employee may agree to exclude bona fide meal periods and a bone fide regularly scheduled sleeping period of not more than 8 hours from hours worked, provided adequate sleeping facilities are furnished by the employer and the employee can usually enjoy an uninterrupted night's sleep. If sleeping period is of more than 8 hours, only8 hours will be credited. Where no expressed or implied agreement to the contrary is present, the 8 hours of sleeping time and lunch periods constitute hours worked.

29 C.F.R. § 785.22(a). In other words, when an employee is required to be on duty for 24 hours, his employer must pay him for at least 16 of those hours, even if he has spent more than 8 hours sleeping and eating during that 24-hour period.

The FLSA does not affirmatively define the terms "on duty" or "hours worked." See 29 C.F.R. § 785.6; 29 U.S.C. § 203. To find a definition of "on duty," PAM points to Department of Transportation ("DOT") regulations that prohibit commercial truck drivers from being on duty for more than 14 hours in any 24-hour period. See 49 C.F.R. § 395.3(a). These DOT regulations define "on-duty time" as "all time from the time a driver begins to work or is required to be in readiness to work until the time the driver is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work," but they explicitly exclude from on-duty time "[t]ime spent resting in a sleeper berth." See 49 C.F.R. § 395.2.

However, this Court believes those DOT regulations have little, if any, bearing on the matter at hand. They are a different set of regulations from the DOL regulations under discussion, promulgated pursuant to different statutes, and concerned with different policy aims. The DOT regulations aim to make our roads safe, while the DOL regulations aim to provide workers adequate compensation. If the DOT prohibits commercial truck drivers from driving for more than 14 hours in a 24-hour period while the DOL requires their employers nevertheless to pay them for at least 16 hours in that same period, then this Court sees nothing inconsistent or inharmonious about that state of affairs. It would simply be a cost of business that the federal government has seen fit to impose on employers of commercial truck drivers in order to ensure an adequate level of road safetyand driver compensation. This seems especially unremarkable in light of the DOL's requirement, already quoted above, that all sleeping time in a 24-hour shift must be compensated absent an explicit agreement to the contrary between the employer and the employee. See 29 C.F.R. § 785.22.

Nor is this Court troubled by the potential for the DOT's explicit definition of "on duty" to conflict with the DOL's implicit definition of the same phrase. Different laws frequently assign different technical meanings to identical words or phrases. And indeed, both the DOL and the DOT have explicitly, albeit informally, acknowledged that their respective definitions of "on duty" differ. See DOL Field Operations Handbook, § 14g03 at https://www.dol.gov/whd/FOH/FOH_Ch14.pdf (last visited Oct. 18, 2018) ("Time during which an employee is considered on or off duty by the Department of Transportation (DOT) is not governed by the same principles as apply under the FLSA. . . . Thus, the off-duty time required by DOT for safety purposes may exceed the amount of sleep time or other non-working time that may be deducted pursuant to [the Field Operations Handbook]."); 65 FR 25540-01, 25564-65 (May...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT