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Wiest v. Delaware Valley Wholesale Florist, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 6, 2019

ERIC WIEST, Plaintiff,
v.
DELAWARE VALLEY WHOLESALE FLORIST, INC. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          J. MARK COULSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Eric Wiest brings this action seeking overtime benefits under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq, against Defendant Delaware Valley Floral Group, Inc.[1] Pursuant to Standing Order 2018-4 and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the case was assigned directly to a magistrate judge and the parties consented to proceed before that magistrate judge. (ECF No. 13). Now pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and/or for Summary Judgement. (ECF No. 14). The Court has reviewed all the filings and finds that no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant is a wholesale flower and floral supply corporation formed under the laws of New Jersey and operating out of a headquarters in Sewell, New Jersey. (ECF No. 1 at 2). Defendant's business involves the import and delivery of flowers across the United States. (ECF No. 14-1 at 2). From May of 2002 to April 30, 2018, Plaintiff worked for Defendant as a delivery driver transporting product from a distribution center in Jessup, Maryland to various locations throughout the western panhandle of Maryland. (ECF Nos. 1 and 14-1). Plaintiff filed suit with this Court on November 6, 2018 alleging that Defendant has failed to properly compensate Plaintiff for overtime as mandated by the FLSA. (EFC No. 1 at 4-5). Defendant now moves to dismiss the claim or, alternatively, for summary judgment. (ECF No. 14).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When a defendant seeks dismissal or, in the alternative, summary judgment, the Court may use its discretion, under Rule 12(d), to determine whether to consider matters outside the pleadings. See Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't., Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D. Md. 2011), aff'd sub nom., 684 F.3d 462 (4th Cir. 2012). Pursuant to Rule 12(d), “[w]hen matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the 12(b)(6) motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56.” Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 260-61 (4th Cir. 1998) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d)). Here, both parties supply and reference matters outside of the pleadings and therefore the Court will review the motion as one for summary judgment.

         Rule 56(a) requires the Court to “grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The moving party bears the burden “to demonstrate the absence of any genuine dispute of material fact.” Jones v. Hoffberger Moving Servs. LLC, 92 F.Supp.3d 405, 409 (D. Md. 2015) (internal citations omitted). A nonmoving party “opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings,' but rather must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003). The court is “required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to” the nonmoving party, Iko v. Shreve, 535 F.3d 225, 230 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 377 (2007)), but must do so while also balancing the “affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial.” Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendant primarily argues that summary judgment is appropriate because Plaintiff was exempt from the FLSA overtime mandates under the Motor Carrier Act. (ECF No. 14-1 at 4). The FLSA generally “requires employers to pay employees one-and-a-half times their regular pay rate for time worked in excess of 40 hours during a week.” Hill v. B. Frank Joy, LLC, CV TDC-15-1120, 2016 WL 4194189, at *2 (D. Md. Aug. 9, 2016). There are, however, exceptions. Id. One such exception is the Motor Carrier Act exception which applies to “any employee with respect to whom the Secretary of Transportation has the power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service pursuant to the provisions of section 31502 of Title 49[.]” Id. (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(1)). Under 49 U.S.C. § 31502, “the Secretary of Transportation's authority to set qualifications and maximum hours extends to employees of ‘motor carriers' and ‘motor private carriers' operating in interstate commerce whose work affects the safety of operation of those carriers.” Id. at *3 (citing 49 U.S.C. § 31502(b)).

         The Defendant has met its burden in establishing that there is no dispute over whether the Motor Carrier Act exception applies. First, neither party dispute's Defendant's status as a motor private carrier. (See ECF Nos. 14-1 at 5-6, 17 at 4-5). Second, neither party disputes that the operation constituted interstate commerce. (See Id.); see also Buckner v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 2012 WL 1596726 at *5 (E.D. N.C. May 7, 2012), aff'd, 489 Fed.Appx. 709 (4th Cir. 2012) (finding that intrastate commerce within a larger interstate operation satisfies the interstate requirement under the Motor Carrier Act exception). And lastly, neither party disputes that the Plaintiff's work affects the safe operation of the carriers. (See ECF Nos. 14-1 at 6-7, 17 at 4-5); see also Levinson v. Spector Motor Serv., 330 U.S. 649, 678 (1947) (A “driver's work more obviously and dramatically affects the safety of operation of the carrier during every moment that he is driving . . . .”).

         But our analysis does not end here because there is an exception to the Motor Carrier Act exception. The SAFTEA-LU Technical Corrections Act of 2008 (“Technical Corrections Act”), Pub. L. 110-244 § 306, 122 Stat. 1572, 1620 (2008), “relaxed the strict separation between the Secretary of Transportation's jurisdiction and the ambit of the Fair Labor Standards Act overtime guarantee by establishing that the FLSA overtime pay requirement applies to any covered employee.” Hill, 2016 WL 4194189, at *3 (internal citations omitted). A “covered employee” is defined as an individual:

(1) who is employed by a motor carrier or motor private carrier . . .;
(2) whose work, in whole or in part, is defined -
(A) as that of a driver, driver's helper, loader, or ...

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