Hale v. Spears Wrecker Serv. LLC, Case No. 10-CV-0532-CVE-FHM

CourtUnited States District Courts. 10th Circuit. Northern District of Oklahoma
Writing for the CourtCLAIRE V, EAGAN, CHIIEF
PartiesWAYNE D. HALE, Plaintiff, v. SPEARS WRECKER SERVICE, LLC, an Oklahoma corporation, and DALE SPEARS, an individual, Defendants.
Docket NumberCase No. 10-CV-0532-CVE-FHM
Decision Date19 May 2011

WAYNE D. HALE, Plaintiff,
SPEARS WRECKER SERVICE, LLC, an Oklahoma corporation,
and DALE SPEARS, an individual, Defendants.

Case No. 10-CV-0532-CVE-FHM


DATED: May 19, 2011


Now before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Brief in Support (Dkt. # 17). Plaintiff filed a response in opposition (Dkt. # 19); defendants filed a reply (Dkt. # 24) and an amended reply (Dkt. # 25).


Plaintiff Wayne D. Hale was hired by defendant Spears Wrecker Service, LLC (Spears) as a "wrecker driver" in April 2009. Dkt. # 2, at 2. Defendant Dale Spears is an officer of Spears and, plaintiff claims, "the responsible party for the corporate defendant and the acts complained [of] herein." Id. at 1-2. Spears is licensed to operate only in Oklahoma, and "is engaged in the business of providing wrecker services in Osage and Tulsa Counties only." Dkt. # 17, at 2. Wrecker drivers for Spears perform two services: "courtesy runs," which involve towing vehicles from scenes where no one has been arrested; and "impoundment runs," in which a vehicle is towed following an arrest. Id. at 3. Drivers are not required to make out-of-state phone calls or otherwise communicate with people in other states. Li Although drivers are required to answer calls for service, such calls generally come from local law enforcement agencies. Id.

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From April 2009 to May 22, 2010, plaintiff was employed by Spears, where his "only job" was to operate a wrecker truck. Dkt. ## 2, at 2; 17, at 2. Plaintiff claims that his responsibilities at Spears included removing "wrecked and broken down vehicles from Interstates 44 and 244, U.S. Routes 64 and 412, the Creek Turnpike,1 Muskogee Turnpike,2 the Broken Arrow Expressway,3Oklahoma State Highways 97 and 412, and "the city and county streets of Sand Springs, Oklahoma and Tulsa, Oklahoma." Dkt. # 19, at 6. Plaintiff's job responsibilities did not require him to travel outside Oklahoma. Dkt. # 17, at 2. During the time of his employment with Spears, plaintiff made a total of 356 runs, including 301 "impoundment runs" and 55 "courtesy runs." Dkt. # 17, at 3.

Plaintiff states that "courtesy runs" required him to travel to the scene of the accident, remove the wrecked vehicle from the scene, and clean up any debris on the roadway. Id. at 7. Plaintiff would then "transport the vehicle either to the place selected by the owner... or the [Spears] impound lot located in Sand Springs, [Oklahoma]." Id. Plaintiff describes "impoundment runs" as providing assistance to law enforcement agencies in removing impounded vehicles from the roadways, including "vehicles seized from D.U.I. drivers that were pulled over by the police, vehicles seized at safety checkpoints, [vehicles at the scene of] accidents, stolen vehicles which had been recovered, and disabled law enforcement vehicles." Id. at 8. Defendants claim that

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"impoundment runs do not involve removing vehicles from roadways," but they do not address the duties involved in "courtesy runs." Dkt. # 17, at 3.

In September 2009, an automobile that plaintiff was transporting was damaged while under his sole control. Dkt. # 17, at 3-4. He claims that although he secured the vehicle properly, the chain connecting the vehicle to his truck became loose, causing the vehicle to slide. Dkt. # 19, at 8. Spears paid $835.68 to repair the damage to the automobile. Dkt. # 17, at 4. Beginning October 7, 2009, Spears deducted $25.00 from plaintiffs wages each week to recoup its repair costs. Id. Plaintiff was aware of the deductions. Id. Plaintiff claims that, although he knew about the deductions, they were made pursuant to a unilateral decision by Dale Spears, and no agreement regarding the deductions was memorialized in writing. Dkt. # 19, at 9. Plaintiff's employment with Spears was terminated May 22, 2010, based on plaintiff's failure to appear for work. Dkt. # 17, at 4. The full amount of the repair costs was recouped by Spears prior to plaintiff's termination. Id.

Plaintiff claims that he regularly performed work in excess of forty hours per week while employed by defendants, and that he was not properly compensated for the time he worked. Dkt. # 2, at 2. He also claims that the withholding of money from his paycheck was improper under Oklahoma law.4 Dkt. # 2, at 3.

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Summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); Kendall v. Watkins, 998 F.2d 848, 850 (10th Cir. 1993). The plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 317. "Summary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed 'to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.'" Id. at 327.

"When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.... Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (citations omitted). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the [trier of fact] could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. In essence, the inquiry for the Court is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Id. at 250. In its review, the Court draws "all justifiable inferences," id. at 254, and construes the record in the light most

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favorable, Garratt v. Walker, 164 F.3d 1249, 1251 (10th Cir. 1998), to the party opposing summary judgment.


Plaintiff brings a claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) based on defendants' failure to pay him the overtime wages he was due. Defendants move for summary judgment on the ground that the overtime provisions of the FLSA did not apply to plaintiff.

Under the FLSA,
[N]o employer shall employ any of his employees who... is engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, or is employed in an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, for a workweek longer than forty hours unless such employee receives compensation for his employment in excess of the hours above specified at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed.

29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). By its terms, the FLSA overtime provision applies only to those employees who are engaged in commerce, produce goods for commerce, or are employed by an enterprise engaged in commerce or the production of goods. Plaintiff claims that during his employment with Spears, he was an individual engaged in commerce under the FLSA. Dkt. # 19, at 11. He does not claim that he produced goods for commerce, or that he was employed by a qualifying enterprise. Id.

It is "established beyond controversy that to be engaged in commerce within the meaning of that phrase [in the FLSA], an employee must be actually engaged in the movement of commerce, or the services he performs must be so closely related thereto as to be for all practical purposes an essential part thereof." New Mexico Public Servs. Co. v. Engel, 145 F.2d 636, 638 (10th Cir. 1944). "And in that connection closeness depends upon the essentiality and indispensability of the particular work or services performed to the actual movement of commerce." Id. "If a cessation of

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the services of the employee causes an interruption or interference with the free movement of commerce, it is ordinarily regarded as an essential and indispensable part thereof." Id. "[A]lthough Congress did not intend to exert its full powers over interstate commerce [in the FLSA], it did intend 'to extend federal control in this field throughout the farthest reaches of the channels of interstate commerce,' and in determining whether an employee was engaged in commerce within the meaning of the definition, courts should be guided by practical considerations." Id. at 638-39 (quoting Walling v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 317 U.S. 564 (1943)). "The question of essentiality and indispensability involves the process of exclusion and inclusion - a problem of drawing lines, and where the line should be drawn depends upon the application of these facts to the prescribed legal standards." Id. at 639.

As noted, plaintiff alleges that, while an employee of Spears, he cleaned up accident scenes at and towed vehicles from Interstates 44 and 244, U.S. Routes 64 and 412, the Creek Turnpike, Muskogee Turnpike, the Broken Arrow Expressway, Oklahoma State Highways 97 and 412, and "the city and county streets of Sand Springs,...

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