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Armored Vehicle Drivers and Couriers: Due Diligence Required

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Camden, NJIf labor laws are anything, they are complicated. To that end, an employee could be forgiven for not having a good, working and fundamental knowledge of labor laws that govern their own particular jobs. And even then, the employee tends to trust management with the finer points of keeping everything sorted out. However, that is not always the case. And using Armored Car Drivers Unpaid Overtime as an example, it’s easy to see how things can go off the rails quickly, leaving employees with less pay than they might otherwise deserve.

For years, truck and commercial vehicle drivers have been tussling with their employers over when an employee is a true employee v. when an employee is properly classed as an independent contractor. Contractors don’t usually get overtime for working extra hours. Employees, for the most part, do - unless they earn such a high wage or remain employed in a job that is exempt from overtime under tenets observed under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and other labor laws.

That said, the dividing lines and definitions governing employees v. contractors are fairly black and white. Compare that, with the grey areas that comprise FLSA guidelines governing commercial vehicles and trucks that cross state lines.

In most cases, a large commercial hauler that crosses state lines in the normal pursuit and conduct of business is a job where the driver is exempt from overtime pay. There are always exceptions, of course, but generally speaking that’s the accepted standard. On the other hand, drivers of non-commercial vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds that do not cross state lines generally qualify for overtime pay if they are driving for more than 40 hours per week. What’s more, if drivers are required to eat their lunch in the truck, that’s considered a paid lunch break.

But what of armored car drivers and operators of other armored vehicles? What of courier drivers, and those employees who have experienced Courier Unpaid Overtme? Here’s where things can get a bit complicated, and this is when an employee needs to consider whether or not the employer is treating the employee properly and within the letter of the law.

This lawsuit has been mentioned elsewhere, but it bears repeating because of its significance. Ashley McMaster is a former hourly employee of Eastern Armored Services Inc. McMaster regularly toiled over and above 40 hours per week, but did not receive overtime pay. Part of the confusion lay with the SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Act of 2008, a revision to the FLSA Motor Carrier Act Exemption that holds an employee who operates a non-commercial vehicle under 10,000 pounds for part of the time may be eligible for overtime pay.

In McMaster’s case, she operated a non-commercial vehicle for slightly less than half of her week: 49 percent v. about 51 percent piloting a commercial vehicle while she was employed at Eastern from March 2010 through June 2011. Judge Julio Fuentes of the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit noted in a decision brought down in March of this year that the plaintiff fell within the “carveout” of the 2008 Corrections Act.

The Third Circuit also held that it remains acceptable for both the Motor Carrier Act and the FLSA to have simultaneous jurisdiction. The case now goes back to the district court for assignment of unpaid wages owed to McMaster, together with additional proceedings involving other members of the unpaid wages class-action lawsuit.

The message for armored vehicle and courier drivers is to know your rights. If you are not paid overtime for additional hours worked, it’s best to undertake due diligence with a qualified attorney to ascertain that your employer is correct in denying you overtime. Otherwise, you could be missing out on significant dollars by letting an incorrect circumstance continue needlessly.

The case is Ashley McMaster v. Eastern Armored Services Inc., Case No. 11-5100(MAS)(TJB) in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey.

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