Michael LaCurtis, Kris Daniels, and Gerald Young, each on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated Plaintiffs - Appellees
Express Medical Transporters, Inc. and Hospital Shuttle Service, Inc. Defendants-Appellants
Submitted: April 5, 2017
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Missouri - St. Louis
WOLLMAN and LOKEN, Circuit Judges, and ROSSITER,  District
ROSSITER, District Judge.
consolidated putative class- and collective-action case,
Express Medical Transporters, Inc. and Hospital Shuttle
Service, Inc. (collectively, "EMT") appeal from an
order of the district court denying EMT's motion for
summary judgment and granting partial summary judgment for
Michael LaCurtis ("LaCurtis") on the issue of
EMT's liability to pay him for unpaid overtime. With
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), we affirm.
a licensed interstate motor carrier regulated by the Federal
Motor Carrier Safety Administration ("FMCSA"), a
division of the U.S. Department of Transportation
("DOT"). See 49 U.S.C. §§
13102(14), 31501(2). EMT provides non-emergency medical and
student transportation in Missouri and Arkansas and is
engaged in interstate commerce. To provide those services,
EMT operates a fleet of vehicles, including several
wheelchair-equipped paralift vans. The paralift vans are
full-size Ford E-250 and E-350 vans originally designed and
manufactured to carry up to twelve and fifteen passengers,
respectively. The vans have a gross vehicle weight rating of
10, 000 pounds or less.
being placed into service at EMT, these new Ford E-250 and
E-350 vans are redesigned and converted by a third-party
company, New England Wheels, Inc. ("New England
Wheels"), into paralift vans by permanently removing
some of the seats to allow the installation of up to two
wheelchair positions. New England Wheels also alters the
doors and roof and installs wheelchair ramps and lifts. After
converting a van, New England Wheels places a new placard on
the driver's side door pillar to comply with the National
Highway Transportation Safety Administration's
("NHTSA") manufacturer labeling requirements for
tire and loading information. See 49 C.F.R. §
photographs of the new placards in two EMT paralift vans
configured "similarly" to the vans at issue in this
case indicate maximum seating capacities, as modified, of
five and six passengers, respectively. As the district court
noted, it is unclear how those maximum seating capacities
were calculated. EMT agrees one of the modified paralift vans
pictured can transport two passengers in wheelchairs and up
to three additional passengers and the other modified
paralift van pictured can transport two passengers in
wheelchairs and up to five additional passengers.
has been employed by EMT to drive paralift vans since January
10, 2012. LaCurtis and similarly situated drivers operate
EMT's paralift vans in interstate commerce as members of
a pool of employee drivers. Although the drivers routinely
work more than forty hours a week, EMT does not pay them
overtime as generally required by the Fair Labor Standards
Act of 1938 ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et
seq., and the Missouri Minimum Wage Law, Mo. Rev. Stat.
§ 290.500 et seq., which is
interpreted in accordance with the FLSA. See Mo.
Rev. Stat. § 290.505.
29, section 207(a)(1) generally requires employers to
compensate overtime hours "at a rate not less than one
and one-half times the [employee's] regular rate" of
pay. EMT maintains the drivers are not eligible for overtime
because the overtime provision does not apply to "any
employee with respect to whom the Secretary of Transportation
[("Transportation Secretary")] has power to
establish qualifications and maximum hours of service
pursuant to the provisions of section 31502 of Title
49." See 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(1). Section
§ 31502(b) gives authority to the Transportation
Secretary to set the "qualifications and maximum hours
of service of employees of, and safety of operation and
equipment of, a motor carrier." Commonly known as the
Motor Carrier Act ("MCA") exemption, this exemption
is designed "to avoid potentially overlapping
jurisdictions" between the Transportation Secretary, who
now administers the MCA, and the Secretary of Labor
("Labor Secretary"), who administers the FLSA.
Williams v. Cent. Transp. Int'l, Inc., 830 F.3d
773, 775 (8th Cir. 2016).
2008, Congress passed the SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections
Act of 2008 ("TCA"), which narrowed the scope of
the MCA exemption. Under the TCA, the FLSA overtime
provisions "apply to a covered employee notwithstanding
the [MCA exemption]." Pub. L. No. 110-244, Title III,
§ 306(a) (2008). As relevant here, "the term
'covered employee' means" an EMT driver or
helper "whose work, in whole or in part, " affects
"the safety of operation of motor vehicles weighing 10,
000 pounds or less, " unless the vehicle is
"designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers
(including the driver) for compensation." Id.
at § 306(c). The district court referred to this as the
"small vehicle exception" to the MCA.
March 19, 2015, LaCurtis filed a putative collective and
class action against EMT seeking to recover overtime pay he
believes he and similarly situated drivers were entitled
under the FLSA and Missouri law. See 29 U.S.C.
§ 216(b); Fed.R.Civ.P. 23. LaCurtis amended the
Complaint on August 31, 2015. LaCurtis seeks, among other
things, class designation for both claims, back wages,
liquidated damages, injunctive relief, and attorney fees and
costs. EMT answered, asserting several affirmative defenses.
discovery limited to liability issues, LaCurtis and EMT filed
cross-motions for summary judgment. LaCurtis moved for
partial summary judgment only on the issue of liability.
According to the district court, LaCurtis acknowledged during
oral argument that his "motion applie[d] only to his
individual claims" because "no class or collective
action ha[d] been certified in this case."
sought dismissal of the First Amended Complaint in its
entirety. The pivotal issue presented by the summary-judgment
motions was whether the paralift vans at issue in this case
were "designed or used to transport more than 8
passengers" for purposes of § 306 of the TCA.
urged the district court to defer to U.S. Department of Labor
("DOL") Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2010-2
("FAB 2010-2"), in which the Deputy Administrator
of the Wage and Hour Division ("WHD") of the DOL
announced that, for enforcement purposes, the WHD will
determine whether a vehicle is "designed or used to
transport more than 8 passengers" "based on the
vehicle's current design and the vehicle capacity as
found on the door jamb plate." The WHD stated that if
the seating capacity was reduced "to accommodate a
wheelchair, [the WHD] will count the resulting capacity plus
add 1 for each wheelchair placement."
argued the paralift vans LaCurtis drove were "designed
or used to transport more than 8
passengers" based on their original design and as
modified to accommodate two wheelchairs. EMT urged the
district court to follow NHTSA regulation 49 C.F.R. §
571.3(b)(1) and conclude that a wheelchair placement counted
as four seating positions. EMT alternatively argued it should not
be liable for overtime because it had relied in good faith on
the results of a 2010 FLSA compliance examination conducted