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Almy v. Kickert School Bus Line

September 11, 2009

ROBERT T. ALMY, ON BEHALF OF HIMSELF AND ALL OTHER PERSONS SIMILARLY SITUATED KNOWN AND UNKNOWN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
KICKERT SCHOOL BUS LINE, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case arises out of Defendant Kickert School Bus Line, Inc.' s ("Kickert") failure to pay Plaintiff bus driver Robert T. Almy ("Almy") and other similarly situated individuals (collectively "Plaintiffs") overtime wages for hours worked in excess of forty hours per work week. Plaintiffs allege that that failure violated both the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. ("FLSA"), and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law ("IMWL"), 820 ILCS 105/1, et seq. Currently before the Court are Defendant' s motion for summary judgment [55] and Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on Count I and Count II of Plaintiff's complaint as to liability only [59]. Defendant contends that Plaintiffs are exempt from the overtime provisions of both the FLSA and the IMWL pursuant to the motor carrier exemption because the United States Secretary of Transportation has the power to establish maximum hours of service for bus drivers, including Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs respond that the Secretary of Transportation lacks jurisdiction over them, and thus the FLSA and IMWL's overtime provisions apply to them.

As discussed below, and as indicated in the Court' s May 6, 2009 minute order [69], the Court will limit its consideration of the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment to the purely legal issue of whether the Secretary of Transportation has the power to regulate the hours of service of school bus drivers. Because the Court finds that the Secretary of Transportation does have regulatory power over school bus operations, Plaintiffs'motion for summary judgment on Count I and Count II of Plaintiff's complaint as to liability only [59] is denied, and Defendant' s motion for summary judgment [55] likewise is denied.

I. Background

A. Procedural Background

On May 19, 2008, Plaintiff Almy filed a three count Complaint [1] against Kickert. Count I is a collective action claim brought pursuant to § 207 of the FLSA, alleging that Kickert failed to pay Almy and other similarly situated individuals overtime wages for hours worked in excess of forty hours per week. Count II is also based on Kickert' s failure to pay overtime wages, and alleges violations of the IMWL, 820 ILCS 105/1, et seq. In Count III, Almy alleges that Kickert violated the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, 820 ILCS 115/1, et seq. by failing to pay him for all of the time that he worked for Kickert.

Including Almy, 109 bus drivers currently or formerly employed by Kickert have opted into the lawsuit. On January 12, 2009, pursuant to a joint summary judgment proposal, the parties filed stipulations of fact [54]. On February 27, 2009, Kickert filed its motion for summary judgment [55], a supporting memorandum of law [56], and a Rule 56.1 statement of undisputed facts [57]. Shortly thereafter, on March 2, 2009, Plaintiffs filed their summary judgment motion [59], a supporting memorandum of law [60], and a Rule 56.1 statement of undisputed facts [61].

On March 13, 2009, Plaintiffs filed a Rule 56(f) motion [63] seeking additional discovery to respond the statements in Defendant' s Rule 56.1 statement. The parties'briefing on the Rule 56(f) motion revealed the existence of a threshold issue of law that may be dispositive of Kickert' s liability under the FMLA and the IMWL -- namely, whether the Secretary of Transportation (the "Secretary") has regulatory power over school bus drivers'hours. At the summary judgment stage, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure give district courts the flexibility to move a case toward disposition by resolving some, but not all, of the issues raised in a motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d)(1). Therefore, in its May 6 minute order [69], the Court advised the parties that it would to limit its initial ruling on the parties'cross-motions for summary judgment to the issue of whether the Secretary of Transportation has the power to regulate the hours of service of school bus drivers. In light of that decision, the Court denied the Rule 56(f) motion [63] without prejudice, and held in abeyance further briefing on the other issues raised in the parties'cross-motions and responses to the parties'respective Rule 56.1 statements. The Court also directed the parties to limit their responses to the cross-motions for summary judgment to that legal issue.

B. Factual Background

In the ordinary case, on summary judgment, the Court takes the relevant facts from the parties' respective L.R. 56.1 statements. Because the Court' s consideration of the cross-motions for summary judgment is limited to a purely legal issue, the Court takes the relevant facts primarily from the parties' initial pleadings and stipulations [54].

Kickert is a school bus company. Each Plaintiff is a school bus driver who, at some point, has been a member of the bargaining unit at Kickert represented by Teamsters Local 142. [54, ¶¶ 1, 11]. Plaintiff Almy and some, but not all, of the other Plaintiffs have driven school buses on school bus routes and charters that travel from Kickert' s Illinois terminal to locations in other states. [54, ¶ 13]. Prior to February 3, 2008, Plaintiffs were paid their regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of forty hours per work week. [54, ¶ 2]. Since February 3, 2008, Plaintiffs have been paid time and one-half of their regular rate of pay for all compensated hours worked over forty hours per work week. [54, ¶ 3].

II. Legal Standard on Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is proper where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In determining whether there is a genuine issue of fact, the Court "must construe the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Foley v. City of Lafayette, 359 F.3d 925, 928 (7th Cir. 2004).

To avoid summary judgment, the opposing party must go beyond the pleadings and "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248. The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Summary judgment is proper against "a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. at 322. The non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 ...


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