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TURK v. BUFFETS

September 20, 1996

ANTHONY TURK, individually and on behalf of a class of employees similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
BUFFETS, INC., and OLD COUNTRY BUFFET, INC., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GETTLEMAN

 Plaintiffs Anthony Turk, Jeffrey Reed and Steven Mercer, individually and on behalf of a class of employees similarly situated, filed a complaint against defendants Buffets, Inc. ("Buffets") and Old Country Buffet, Inc., alleging that by willfully not paying them overtime wages, defendants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1), the Illinois Minimum Wage Law ("IMWL"), 820 ILCS 105/1 et seq., and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act ("IWPCA"), 820 ILCS 115/1 et seq.1 Plaintiffs seek to recover back wages, prejudgment interest, and liquidated damages under section 216(b) of the FLSA, and a two percent punitive penalty under section 105/12 of the IMWL. Defendant Buffets has filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), asserting that plaintiffs were exempted from the overtime provisions under the FLSA's motor-carrier exemption in section 213(b)(1). *fn2" For the reasons set forth below, the court grants defendant's motion.

 FACTS

 Defendant owns and operates a chain of Old Country Buffet restaurants throughout the United States. Plaintiffs Anthony Turk, Jeffrey Reed, and Steven Mercer were employed by defendant as service technicians. Plaintiffs' primary job duties were to evaluate, service, and maintain equipment located at various restaurants owned by defendant. Plaintiffs were not paid any overtime wages while employed by defendant.

 Plaintiff Turk, employed by defendant from March 1992 to February 15, 1995, performed maintenance and service repairs for thirteen restaurants in Illinois and one restaurant in Indiana. Mr. Turk spent only five to ten percent of his time in Indiana. To perform his duties, Mr. Turk initially drove a GMC van owned by defendant which weighed less than 10,000 pounds when loaded with repair equipment. Later in his employment, Mr. Turk drove a Ford E-350 extended-bed van which weighed less than 12,000 pounds when loaded.

 Plaintiff Mercer, employed by defendant from May 1994 to January 17, 1996, performed maintenance and service repairs for thirteen restaurants in Colorado and one restaurant in Wyoming. Mr. Mercer spent less than five percent of his time in Wyoming. To perform his duties, Mr. Mercer also drove a Ford van owned by defendant which weighed less than 5,000 pounds when loaded with repair equipment. Mercer also worked overtime hours performing computer work at home.

 Plaintiffs carried their personal tool kits on the job, as required by defendant. Plaintiffs also carried repair equipment owned by defendant. Prior to 1995, defendant often, but not always, shipped replacement parts directly to the restaurants where needed.

 In 1995, another Buffets service technician filed a complaint with the United States Department of Labor ("DOL") charging that defendant had failed to pay him overtime wages as mandated by the FLSA. After performing a self-audit, defendant paid several of its service technicians retroactively for overtime hours worked between September 1993 and August 1995. Defendant did not pay plaintiffs retroactively for overtime hours worked during this period because defendant concluded that plaintiffs were exempted from the FLSA overtime provision under the motor-carrier exemption. The only difference between the job duties of plaintiffs and those service technicians that were paid retroactively for their overtime hours is that plaintiffs were required to drive across state lines. In 1995, defendant began shipping replacement parts to service technicians' homes and requiring the technicians to carry them to the restaurants in the vans.

 DISCUSSION

 Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), a court should grant a summary judgment motion if "there is no genuine issue of material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The burden is on the moving party to identify portions of the pleading, answers to interrogatories, and affidavits which demonstrate an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id.; Cheilitis Corp. v. Citrate, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986). The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). When reviewing a summary judgment motion, the court must read the facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2513, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). The court's role "is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence or to determine the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact." Doe v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 42 F.3d 439, 443 (7th Cir. 1994).

 Congress enacted the Motor Carrier Act ("MCA") in 1935 to promote efficiency, economy, and safety in the motor transportation industry. United States v. American Trucking Ass'ns, Inc., 310 U.S. 534, 538-39, 60 S. Ct. 1059, 1061, 84 L. Ed. 1345 (1940); Friedrich v. U.S. Computer Services, 974 F.2d 409, 412 (3rd Cir. 1992). Under the MCA, the Interstate Commerce Commission ("ICC") was granted regulatory power over the employees of motor carriers, *fn3" and motor private carriers. 49 U.S.C. § 304(a) (repealed). *fn4" In 1966, Congress transferred this regulatory power to the Department of Transportation ("DOT"). P.L. 89-670, § 6(e)(6)(C), 80 Stat. 939; 49 U.S.C. § 1655(e)(6)(C). Specifically, the relevant statute provides:

 
The Secretary of Transportation may prescribe requirements for --
 
(1) qualifications and maximum hours of service of employees of, and safety of operation and equipment ...

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