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Helderman v. Renee's Trucking

May 29, 2008

CHESTER HELDERMAN, ON BEHALF OF HIMSELF AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RENEE'S TRUCKING, DENNIS MIDGETT, AND JOYCE RENEE MIDGETT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants's Motion to Dismiss or Strike (Doc. 22) to which Plaintiff has Responded (Doc. 25). For the following reasons, the Court DENIES the Motion.

BACKGROUND

For purposes of this motion, the Court accepts as true all allegations in the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (per curiam ) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007)).From 2005 to 2007, Plaintiff Chester Helderman*fn1 (Helderman) worked as a truck driver for Defendant Renee's Trucking, an unincorporated business owned by Defendants Dennis Midgett and Joyce Renee Midgett.Defendants are employers engaged in interstate commerce within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and have at all times had gross operating revenues in excess of five hundred thousand dollars.

As a truck driver for Renee's Trucking, Helderman routinely began his work day before his designated shift time and routinely continued working after his designated shift time had ended. This work time outside of his designated shift time was performed at the direction of or with the awareness of the management personnel of Renee's Trucking. Helderman was not compensated for the work he performed for Renee's Trucking outside of his designated shift times.Additionally, Helderman sometimes worked for Renee's Trucking in excess of forty hours a week. The total hours were comprised of a combination of designated shift times and work outside of designated work time.Sometimes Helderman's designated shift times alone constituted more than forty hours a week. Defendants did not compensate Helderman for his overtime work at the statutory overtime rate of time-and-a-half.

In addition, Defendants promised to pay Helderman twenty-five percent of the revenue per hour generated by his truck. Defendants did not pay Helderman the agreed upon bonuses.Helderman brought suit against Defendants alleging violations of the FLSA, the Illinois MinimumWage Law, the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, and for breach of contract. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss contending that truck drivers for Renee's Trucking fall within the Motor Carrier exemption to the FLSA. Therefore, Defendants contend, Helderman's FLSA claim should be dismissed for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. Defendants urge the Court, upon dismissing the only federal claim, to dismiss the pendant state claims as well. Finally, Defendants contend that Helderman's breach of contract claim is barred by the Illinois Statute of Frauds and should be dismissed on that ground as well.

ANALYSIS

For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of the plaintiff. Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (per curiam ) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007)); Tricontinental Indus., Ltd. v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 475 F.3d 824, 833 (7th Cir.2007). The federal system of notice pleading requires only that the plaintiff provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Therefore, the complaint need not allege detailed facts. Pisciotta v. Old Nat'l Bancorp, 499 F.3d 629, 633 (7th Cir.2007).

However, in order to provide fair notice of the grounds for his claim, the plaintiff must allege sufficient facts "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. (quoting Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (2007)) (internal quotations omitted). The complaint must offer "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do." Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965. The plaintiff's pleading obligation is to avoid factual allegations "so sketchy that the complaint does not provide the type of notice of the claim to which the defendant is entitled under Rule 8." Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT & T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir.2007). However, "when a complaint adequately states a claim, it may not be dismissed based on a district court's assessment that the plaintiff will fail to find evidentiary support for his allegations or prove his claim to the satisfaction of the factfinder." Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1969 n.8.

I. Employees Exempt from FLSA

Defendants contend that the fact that all parties agree that Helderman was a truck driver and that Defendants are employers "engaged in interstate commerce" within the meaning of the FLSA constitutes an admission that Helderman is an employee exempt from the strictures of the FLSA under the Motor Carrier Exception to the FLSA.

The FLSA exempts from its overtime pay requirement "any employee with respect to whom the Secretary of Transportation has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service pursuant to the provisions of section 31502 of Title 49" (the Motor Carrier Act). 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(1). The Secretary has the power to establish qualifications of service and maximum hours of service over employees who are engaged in transportation in interstate or foreign commerce as defined in 49 U.S.C. §§ 13501 and 13502. "What constitutes such transportation in interstate or foreign commerce . . . is determined by definitions contained in the Motor Carrier Act. These definitions are, however, not identical with the definitions in the Fair Labor Standards Act which determine whether an employee is within the general coverage of the wage and hours provisions as an employee 'engaged in (interstate or foreign) commerce.'" 29 C.F.R. § 782.7(a).

Therefore, an employer trucking company may be engaged in interstate commerce as defined by the FLSA, but its drivers may not be engaged in transportation in interstate commerce as defined by the Motor Carrier Act such that they would fall within the Motor Carrier Exemption to the FLSA. Accordingly, the mere concession of all parties that Helderman is a driver and that Defendants engage in interstate commerce within the meaning of the FLSA is not equivalent to an admission by Helderman that, as a driver for Defendants, he engages in interstate commerce under the Motor Carrier Act.

Instead, whether Helderman, and drivers like him, fall under the Motor Carrier Exemption to the FLSA will be decided only on a showing by Defendants that the work performed by their drivers subjects the drivers to the Secretary of Transportation's power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service. Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, 417 U.S. 188, 196-97 (1974) (stating "the general rule [is] that the application of an exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act is a matter of affirmative defense on which the employer has the burden of proof."); Pyramid Motor Freight Corp. v. Ispass, 330 U.S. 695, 706 (1947) (directing district courts to determine whether the activities of the employees consisted of the kind of work defined in the Motor Carrier Act). At this early stage in the litigation, there is no evidence before the Court from which it could make a determination as to whether the ...


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