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Clark v. Royal Transportation Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

September 6, 2017

Debra Clark, Brooksey Irvine, Reginald Morrissette, Melba Pearson, and Ezell Williams, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
Royal Transportation Co., ET AL., Defendants.

          AMENDED OPINION & ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF DEFENDANTS

          SEAN F. COX UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is an employment case. Plaintiffs Debra Clark, Brooksey Irvine, Reginald Morrissette, Melba Pearson, and Ezell Williams (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) are all former employees of Defendants Royal Transportation Company, Donald Fitzsimmons, Debra Fitzsimmons, and Shannon Fitzsimmons (collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiffs filed this collective action, on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated employees, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Plaintiffs claim that Defendants have violated the FLSA by failing to pay such employees overtime for actual overtime hours worked.

         This matter is currently before the Court on Defendants' “Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.” (Doc. # 26, Defs.' Mo.). Although titled a motion for “partial” summary judgment, the body of Defendants' motion asserts that Plaintiffs and members of the collective class are exempt from overtime coverage under the FLSA and, therefore, seeks summary judgment in Defendants' favor. (Id. at Pg ID 376 & 400). This motion has been fully briefed by the parties. The Court heard oral argument as to this motion on August 3, 2017.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs had a reasonable expectation of travel in interstate commerce and are therefore exempt from overtime coverage. As such, Defendants are entitled to summary judgment in their favor.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background[1]

         Defendant Royal Transportation Company (“Royal”) is engaged in the business of providing charter passenger transportation services to businesses and individuals. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 1; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 1). Defendant Donald Fitzsimmons is the president and owner of Royal. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 2; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 2). Defendant Debra Fitzsimmons is the vice president of Royal and is responsible for payroll, accounting, receivables and booking/arranging charter orders. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 4; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 4). Defendant Shannon Fitzsimmons is the Operations Manager of Royal and is responsible for scheduling Royal's drivers and arranging charter services for various customers. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 6; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 6).

         Royal markets itself as a full service, tri-state operator serving Michigan, Ohio, and northern Indiana. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 20; Pls.' Stmt. ¶ 20). Royal currently maintains a fleet of approximately 75 passenger bus vehicles including: three full-size motor coaches, that seat 55-57 passengers; eight mid-size bus vehicles, that seat between 35-44 passengers; and approximately 60 mini-buses, that seat between 20 and 25 passengers. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 14; Pls.' Stmt. ¶ 14).

         Royal provides both charter and shuttle passenger services. Royal's charter routes provide service to locations outside of Michigan and to and from airports in the Detroit area. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 18, ; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 18, ). The parties agree that Royal's charter services constitute travel in interstate commerce.

         In addition to its charter service, Royal offers an “employee shuttle service” to various businesses located in the Detroit area, including Quicken Loans, General Motors, and Volkswagen. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 22; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 22). This service involves the transportation of a client's employees from nearby parking lots to the client's place of business. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 23; Pls.' Stmt. ¶ 23). The employee shuttle portion of Royal's business typically involves routes in the metropolitan Detroit area. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 24; Pls.' Stmt. ¶ 24).

         The large majority of Royal's services consist of intra-state shuttle trips. In 2012, Royal made a total of 4, 818 trips, 28 of which were out-of-state or airport assignments. (Defs.' Ex. 29). In 2013, Royal assigned a total of 18, 080 trips, 95 of which were out-of-state or airport assignments. (Id.). In 2014, Royal made 17, 889 trip assignments, 53 of which were out-of-state or airport assignments. (Id.). And in 2015, Royal assigned a total of 21, 005 total trips, 44 of which were out-of-state or airport assignments. (Id.).

         Because Royal is a “common carrier by motor vehicle” authorized to engage in interstate commerce, it is undisputed that it is subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) regulations. Accordingly, Royal possess a Department of Transportation (“DOT”) registration number and requires its drivers to possess a Commercial Drivers License (“CDL”), with at least a Passenger (“P”) endorsement. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 25; Pls.' Stmt. ¶ 25).

         Royal drivers are also required to possess a valid United States Department of Transportation Interstate Medical Card, which requires that they successfully complete a physical examination and drug test. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 29; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 29). These requirements are consistent with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 27, 29; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 27, 29).

         Over the years, the FMCSA has periodically conducted compliance reviews of Royal's operations, the latest occurring in May 2016. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 46; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 46). The May 2016 compliance review resulted in a proposed Safety Fitness Rating of “Unsatisfactory.” (Id.). Donald Fitzsimmons subsequently petitioned the FMCSA requesting that the rating be changed based upon certain remedial efforts undertaken by Royal. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 47; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 47). As a result of Royal's petition for review, the FMCSA upgraded Royal's fitness ...


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