Case: Dwight.D.Mitchell v Federal Express Corp case number 8:16-cv03172 in U.S. District Court; District of Maryland.
FedEx must face a proposed collective class action with allegations from security workers claiming overtime wages were denied, according to a Maryland federal judge., who stated that it is too soon to evaluate whether FedEx is entitled to exemptions from overtime provisions subjected to Fair Labor Standards Acts (FLSA).
FedEx Motion was Denied
FedEx motion to dismiss Dwight D Mitchells’ suit has been denied by Senior U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow, who concluded that the litigation findings were too premature to be able to efficiently determine whether FLSA exemptions applied to the FedEx packaging company.
Judge Chasanow stated “Though the defendant has provided other case examples in which court findings have found that FedEx qualifies to be classed as an air carrier, it cannot meet the high burden placed on defendants relying on an affirmative defence in a motion to dismiss”
The judge explained that the question of how employees spend their working time is a question of fact, regardless of whether employees activities exclude them from overtime benefits of the FLSA. To be able to determine whether Mitchell’s claim is eligible for FLSA exemption would require individualised assessment of the actual work duties performed by that employee.
Judge Chasanow commented, “Without adequate detailed information to the defendant’s air transportation business and plaintiffs’ job duties, any determination made to the plaintiffs status would be inevitably premature.”
The judge allowed the notion in Mitchells claim that FedEx failed to pay overtime hours worked in excess of forty hours, which is in violation of FLSA overtime provisions. She also allowed that the failure to pay overtime by FedEx violated Maryland Wage and Hour Law.
Judge Chasanow stated that ‘ A determination of how MWHL’s wage and hour requirements relate to the defendant’s routes, services and prices necessitates the development of factual records. More information is required to assess how the defendant provides these services.”
FedEx is intending to continue defending the lawsuit and stated that “while they respectfully disagree with the court’s opinion, this is only a procedural ruling and does not yet address the allegations substance, which FedEx believes are without merit.
The Plaintiff’s job duties and allegations
Mitchell, who is a senior security specialist that has been employed with FedEx since 2006, alleged in his complaint made in September 2016 that FedEx misclassified him as an exempt salaried employee to avoid paying overtime wages, including excess travelling time resulting in additional overtime.
Employed as a security specialist, Mitchell’s job is described as investigating and implementing corrective action plans regarding workplace theft and violence, as well as investigating and resolving pilferages, vandalism acts, security policy violations, misconduct and other activities that negatively affect the FedEx company.
When Mitchell was promoted to his current role of senior security specialist in 2008, he undertook additional tasks such as negating customer complaints and investigating delivery problems and was required by FedEx to be on call on both weekends and weekdays after his shift had ended.
Mitchell alleges that while he was on-call, he was required to stay within geographical distance of FedEx facilities and was banned from alcohol consumption in case he was needed to handle urgent work issues. Mitchell claimed on average he received up to three calls per day after his shift had already ended, and each call could take anywhere from a couple of minutes to several hours for resolution.
Mitchell alleged he consistently works between fifty to sixty hours per week without overtime due to the multiple areas of work he was assigned to manage.
A major disagreement over the application of various laws between the parties
Mitchell hit back at FedEx’s motion to dismiss in January, stating his suit should be granted permission to proceed to determine whether FedEx is an ‘air carrier’ under federal law that may make FedEx exempt from the FLSA overtime provision.
“Plaintiff has clearly and concisely provided a cause of action under the FLSA which relief can be granted” Mitchell stated in his response brief. “Plaintiff alleges that he was employed by defendant, that he was paid as an exempt employee by the defendant, and that plaintiff worked overtime without compensation when he was a non-exempt employee entitled to overtime payments.”
FedEx responded and argued that its company is classified as an air carrier and official duties include engagement with interstate commerce, and it’s subject to the provisions of Title II of the Railway Labor Act therefore exempt from overtime requirements of FLSA. FedEx argued that all FedEx employees are subject to the RLA.
FedEx contested that Mitchell’s state law claim should be dismissed due to being pre-empted by the Airline Deregulation Act, which includes provisions that bar states from regulating airline industry in relation to routes, services and prices.
FedEx filed within their response that enforcing the state law in question here would have a forbidden significant effect on FedEx’s current services and pricings and that even an indirect impact requires pre-emption.
In Mitchell’s response, he countered that neither the RLA or FLSA define the term ‘common carrier by air’ and further investigation was required to determine whether FedEx fits the definition of an air carrier.