Williams v. Central Transport International, Inc.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants motions for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) [Doc. ## 48, 92] are granted. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all other pending motions are moot. A separate Judgment in accordance with this Memorandum and Order will be entered. Signed by District Judge Carol E. Jackson on 5/13/2015. (KMS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
GLENN WILLIAMS, on behalf of himself
and all others similarly situated,
INTERNATIONAL, INC., and
CENTRAL TRANSPORT LLC,
Case No. 4:13-CV-2009 (CEJ)
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on defendants’ motions for summary
judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Plaintiff has responded in opposition,
and the issues are fully briefed.
Defendant Central Transport LLC, the successor entity to defendant Central
Transport International, Inc. (collectively “Central Transport”), is a motor carrier
manufacturing areas in North America, and that engages in the shipment of freight
in interstate commerce. From October 2012 to August 2013, plaintiff Glen Williams
worked as a loader and spotter for Central Transport.
His job duties and
responsibilities included loading and unloading line-haul trailers used in interstate
Plaintiff filed this action on behalf of himself and others similarly situated,
alleging that defendant willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29
Plaintiff alleges that defendant had a uniform policy of
providing overtime compensation for hours worked in excess of fifty-five hours per
week, instead of the required forty hours per week, and that its electronic
timekeeping system did not record all hours actually worked.
Defendants filed the instant motions for summary judgment, asserting that
undisputed material facts establish that plaintiff is exempt from the FLSA’s overtime
In the alternative, defendants assert that Central Transport did not
willfully violate the FLSA, but instead acted in good faith and upon reasonable
grounds for believing that it was not in violation of the FLSA.
Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary
judgment shall be entered if the moving party shows “that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court is required to view
the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, giving that party the
benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts. AgriStor
Leasing v. Farrow, 826 F.2d 732, 734 (8th Cir. 1987). The moving party bears the
burden of showing both the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and its
entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 252 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S.
574, 586-87 (1986). If the moving party meets its burden, the non-moving party
may not rest on the allegations of its pleadings, but must set forth specific facts, by
affidavit or other evidence, showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists.
Gannon Intern., Ltd. v. Blocker, 684 F.3d 785, 792 (8th Cir. 2012); Gibson v.
American Greetings Corp., 670 F.3d 844, 853 (8th Cir. 2012). “Where the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving
party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586
(2009) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co.., 475 U.S. at 587).
A. The Motor Carrier Act Exemption
Under the FLSA, an employee who works in excess of 40 hours per week
generally is entitled to compensation for the excess hours at the rate of one-and-ahalf times his regular pay.
29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1).
This FLSA provision is
inapplicable, however, to “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.” 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(1).
Under 49 U.S.C. § 31502(b), the Secretary of Transportation may prescribe
requirements for the qualifications and maximum hours of service for employees
and for the safe operation and equipment of motor carriers and private motor
carriers. This exemption is commonly referred to as the “Motor Carrier Act” (MCA)
exemption. McCall v. Disabled Amer. Veterans, 723 F.3d 962, 964 (8th Cir. 2013).
Central Transport argues that plaintiff is exempt from the FLSA’s overtime
provisions pursuant to the MCA exemption, and thus defendants are entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.
Department of Labor regulations apply the MCA exemption depending “both
on the class to which [the employee’s] employer belongs and on the class of work
involved in the employee’s job.” Graham v. Town & Country Disposal of W. Mo.,
Inc., 865 F. Supp. 2d 952, 956 (W.D. Mo. 2011) (quoting 29 C.F.R. § 782.2(a)).
An employee is subject to the MCA exemption only if: (1) the employer is a motor
carrier whose transportation activities are subject to the jurisdiction of the
Secretary of Transportation; (2) the employee is a driver, driver’s helper, loader or
mechanic; and (3) the employee engages “in activities of a character directly
affecting the safety of operation of motor vehicles in the transportation on the
public highways of passengers or property in interstate or foreign commerce.” Id.;
29 C.F.R. § 782.2(a)-(b).
Employers relying on an exemption to avoid the minimum wage and
overtime requirements of the FLSA bear the burden of proving that an exemption
applies. Fast v. Applebee’s Intern., Inc., 638 F.3d 872, 882 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing
Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, 417 U.S. 188, 196-97 (1974)). Because the FLSA
is remedial in nature, exemptions to the general provisions of the FLSA are
construed narrowly against the employer.
Wells v. Fedex Ground Package Sys.,
Inc., 979 F. Supp. 2d 1006, 1034 (E.D. Mo. 2013); see also Arnold v. Ben
Kanowsky, Inc., 361 U.S. 388, 392 (1960) (stating that employers must establish
that the employee falls “plainly and unmistakably within the term and spirit” of the
exemption). “The question of how [plaintiff spent his time working for defendants]
is a question of fact.
The question of whether [his] particular activities excluded
[him] from the overtime benefits of the FLSA is a question of law.” Icicle Seafoods,
Inc. v. Worthington, 475 U.S. 709, 714 (1986).
With respect to the elements of the MCA exemption set forth above, the
transportation activities are subject to the Secretary of Transportation’s jurisdiction.
Thus, the first element is met. Central Transport has the burden of proving that
the second and third elements of the MCA exemption are met in this case:
specifically, that plaintiff was a “loader” as defined by the MCA and that he engaged
in activities directly affecting the safety of operations of motor vehicles within
29 C.F.R. § 782.2(b)(2); see also Pyramid Motor Freight
Corp. v. Ispass, 330 U.S. 695, 706, 707-08 (1947) (noting that only “loaders”
involved in the safe operation of the vehicle being loaded are covered by the MCA
exemption). In dispute here is whether plaintiff’s actual job duties directly affected
the safety of Central Transport’s vehicles in transportation in interstate commerce.
In determining whether a specific employee falls within the MCA exemption,
“neither the name given to his position nor that given to the work that he does is
controlling; what is controlling is the character of the activities involved in the
performance of his job.”
Furthermore, “the determination of
whether or not an individual employee is within any such classification is to be
determined by judicial process.” Id.
For purposes of the MCA exemption, the Department of Labor regulations
define a “loader” as an employee “whose duties include, among other things, the
proper loading of his employer’s motor vehicles so that they may be safely operated
on the highways of the country.” 29 C.F.R. § 782.5(a). A “loader” engages in work
directly affecting “‘safety of operation’ so long as he has responsibility when such
motor vehicles are being loaded, for exercising judgment and discretion in planning
and building a balanced load or in placing, distributing, or securing the pieces of
freight in such a manner that the safe operation of the vehicles on the highways in
interstate or foreign commerce will not be jeopardized.” Id.
An employee is not exempt as a loader when his handling of freight is “so
trivial, casual, or occasional” that his activities do not directly affect “safety of
operation.” § 782.5(c). For example, the following activities provide no basis for
exemption: unloading, placing freight in convenient places in the terminal, loading
vehicles for trips that do not involve transportation in interstate commerce, and
activities relating to the preservation of the freight as distinguished from the safety
of operation of the motor vehicles carrying such freight. Id. As such, “an employee
who has no responsibility for the proper loading of a motor vehicle is not within the
exemption of a ‘loader’ merely because he furnishes physical assistance when
necessary in loading heavy pieces of freight, or because he deposits pieces of
freight in the vehicle for someone else to distribute and secure in place, or even
because he does the physical work of arranging pieces of freight in the vehicle
where another employee tells him exactly what to do in each instance and he is
given no share in the exercise of discretion as to the manner in which loading is
The parties disagree as to whether plaintiff’s job duties required him to
exercise the degree of judgment and discretion necessary to be considered a
In his response to the instant motion, plaintiff states that he was
responsible for loading freight on trucks pursuant to specific instructions from his
supervisor and a handheld computerized device called a “scanner.” For line-haul
trailers destined for interstate delivery, plaintiff states that he would use the
scanner to scan the freight, and then place freight wherever there was room in a
trailer without regard to any other variables. After plaintiff filled the trailer using
the “first-space-available” method, dock supervisors reviewed the placement of
freight to determine if it could be reworked to hold more freight or if it was unsafely
loaded. Dock supervisors would then either instruct plaintiff to rework the freight
or rework the freight themselves. Plaintiff argues that he merely rendered physical
assistance to pre-ordained directives, placing freight in a convenient place and
Plaintiff claims that dock supervisors were solely in charge of
balancing the distributing the freight so that the trailers would operate safely in
To the extent he had any effect on the safety of the trailers he loaded,
plaintiff states that he made “common sense” decisions, such as not loading heavy
freight on just one side of the trailer or loading heavy liquids on top of other freight.
Defendants contend that when plaintiff initially started loading line-haul
trailers, he would simply place the freight on the trailer and a more experienced
dockworker would properly load the freight on the trailer for safe transport in
interstate commerce. However, as plaintiff became more experienced, he learned
to load and place freight where it was supposed to be located on the trailer for safe
Defendants note that plaintiff was trained as to proper techniques for
loading line-haul trailers, such as placing or distributing containers of liquid and the
proper building and installation of decking systems.
understood that improper weight distribution could impact a tractor-trailer’s braking
ability or potentially cause a tractor-trailer to jackknife.
After reviewing plaintiff’s deposition transcripts, the Court finds no genuine
dispute of material fact as to plaintiff’s status as a “loader” and the direct effect his
job duties had on the safety of Central Transport’s vehicles in transportation in
The parties do not dispute that when plaintiff first started working at Central
Transport, he initially placed freight designated for a particular line-haul trailer
wherever it fit on that trailer, and more experienced lead workers would rework the
trailer to fit it properly. Williams’ 7/1/14 Dep., at 82:3-83:25, 85:13-86:11 [Doc.
#48-1-4] (hereinafter “July Dep.”); Williams’ 10/9/14 Dep., at 121:15-122:5 [Doc.
#48-5-7] (hereinafter “Oct. Dep.”).
At that time, plaintiff did not know how to
arrange decks. Oct. Dep., at 122:12-15. However, plaintiff “learned . . . as [he]
would go” from supervisors helping him and telling him what was correct and
incorrect loading. Id. at 123:2-12. Once he became experienced, he learned how
to install a decking system on a trailer.
July Dep., at 96:7-24.
loaded freight incorrectly, a supervisor would tell him what he did wrong and he
avoided making the same mistake again by using the proper loading technique the
next time he was in a similar situation.
Id. at 82:20-83:11.
If plaintiff had a
question about whether something could be stacked or loaded safely or securely, he
would ask a supervisor. Oct. Dep., at 144:3-13. After receiving instruction from a
supervisor, he “knew enough not to throw [the freight] on any kind of way.” Id. at
123:13-21. Plaintiff was expected to learn the proper loading techniques and load
the freight where it was supposed to be on the truck. Id. at 125:18-126:1. The
first few months plaintiff worked at Central Transport, the ratio of leads to
dockworkers was one to five or seven. Id. at 113:15-25. After February 2013, the
disparity increased to one lead on the floor for every 12 or more dockworkers. Id.
Additionally, it is undisputed that plaintiff was not assigned to work on a
team and unloaded and loaded freight by himself.
Id. at 118:7-25, 129:10-24.
Supervisors did not follow him around and watch him unload and reload freight. Id.
at 120:4-12. Plaintiff loaded different kinds of freight that was not uniform in terms
of size, weight, or shape.
Id. at 139:17-140:1.
He also loaded hazardous
materials, including corrosives, flammables, and gases.
Id. at 144:15-146:17.
Freight loaded on line-haul trailers, in contrast to freight loaded on city trailers for
local transportation, did not have a predestined order or designated place on the
trailer. July Dep., at 84:6-85:25, 88:1-12, 89:11-23; Oct. Dep., at 45:24-49:16.
Line-haul trailers were loaded high and tight while city trailers were floor-loaded in
order of delivery.
July Dep., at 88:1-90:24.
When loading top-heavy freight,
plaintiff would brace it and block it with other freight or load bars to load it securely
to prevent it from falling over. Oct. Dep., at 141:17-142:22. Plaintiff would not
load a heavier piece of freight directly on top of a lighter piece of freight. Id. at
147:7-14. He knew that a container of liquid was too heavy to be placed on top of
a decking system and always placed such containers on the bottom. Id. at 156:2157:25; July Dep., at 82:3-83:25. When plaintiff saw safety defects in the trailers,
such as a broken door, flat tire, or defective brakes, he reported the safety hazard
to a supervisor.
July Dep., at 56:9-58:22, 211:18-23.
Unless he notified
management of defects he found in the trailers, they would be unaware of the
problem. Id. at 212:24-213:3.
The undisputed evidence demonstrates that plaintiff was “not told exactly
where to place every item on a trailer, but instead ‘exercised significant discretion
in performing [his] task of loading freight.’” Vaughn v. Watkins Motor Lines, Inc.,
291 F.3d 900, 905 (6th Cir. 2002) (quoting Blankenship v. Thurston Motor Lines,
Inc., 415 F.2d 1193, 1197 (4th Cir. 1969)). His job duties included loading freight
on line-haul trailers used in interstate commerce, and “the fact that he often loaded
the delivery trucks by himself indicates that he exercised the required judgment
and discretion in ‘placing, distributing, or securing the pieces of freight’ in a manner
meant to ensure the efficient and safe operation of the delivery trucks.” Rodriguez
v. Pan & Plus Baking, LLC, No. 12-23193-CIV (FAM), 2013 WL 1681839, at *6 (S.D.
Fla. Apr. 17, 2013).
Plaintiff engaged in more than mere physical assistance;
instead, he was responsible for using his discretion to build a balanced and safe
load by placing and distributing freight safely on line-haul trailers.
For example, plaintiff made discretionary decisions about whether to load
freight at the front or at the back of the trailer, which side of the trailer on which to
load freight based on its weight, and whether freight could or could not be stacked.
See Lucas v. NOYPI, Inc., No. H-11-1940 (SL), 2012 WL 4754729, at *7 (S.D. Tex.
Oct. 3, 2012) (contrasting plaintiffs’ discretionary loading activities to workers in
Wirtz v. C & P Shoe Corp., 336 F.2d 21, 29 (5th Cir. 1964), “who followed a simple
‘last out, first in’ method of loading and unloading,” and thus were “merely
furnishing physical assistance” and “were not acting as loaders because of the utter
lack of discretion involved in those activities”); Pravia v. Blasa Grp., Inc., No. 0622775-CIV (JLK), 2008 WL 821611, at *3 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 27, 2008) (finding that
plaintiffs merely provided physical labor since they did not make discretionary
decisions “that would obviously go into placement of a load from maneuverability
on the public highways”) (emphasis in original). The freight consisted of different
shapes, sizes and weight, and did not fit in designated slots on the trailer.
Williams v. R.W. Cannon, Inc., No. 08-60168-CIV (UU), 2008 WL 4097613, at *10
(S.D. Fla. Sept. 4, 2008) (finding plaintiff did not exercise discretion when he
“simply placed batteries on pallets and then moved the pallets with a forklift and
placed them in designated spaces on the trucks” where the pallets would fit).
Furthermore, his “decision as to when or whether he needed to find a supervisor
was plainly an act of discretion affecting the safety of the motor vehicle.” Wedel v.
Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., No. 97-C-8891 (MIS), 1998 WL 704347, at *2
(N.D. Ill. Sept. 24, 1998).
As in Vaughn and Blankenship, plaintiff argues that because he was closely
supervised and dock supervisors were ultimately responsible for the safety of the
vehicles, he had no independent responsibility for the safe operation of the trucks
onto which he loaded freight.
However, while “[it] is true that [plaintiff was]
supervised, that is, [he was] told which trucks to load and [his] work was checked,”
these factors “do not render inconsequential the initial discretion exercised by
[plaintiff].” Blankenship, 415 F.2d at 117; see also Rodriguez, 2013 WL 1681839,
at *6 (finding that occasional guidance and instruction from a supervisor did not
remove plaintiff’s ability to exercise judgment and discretion in carrying out his
freight loading duties). Even though a dock lead would take a picture of every load
before the trailer was sealed and sent off, the lead did not inspect the entire load.
July Dep., at 212:5-213:12. Instead, the lead would simply make sure the trailer
was ready for shipment in terms of the freight that was supposed to be on the
trailer. Id. at 213:4-12. “The significance of [plaintiff’s job duties and] activities is
not diminished by virtue of the fact that the supervisors . . . checked the trailers
before they were closed and on occasion told [plaintiff] how to load the freight.”
Vaughn, 291 F.3d at 905.
Rather, as noted in Mitchell v. Hill & Hill Truck Line,
Certainly every workman is responsible for doing his job well, even though
his labor may be supervised closely and checked for accuracy by his
supervisors. If safety depended upon the supervision and checking of the
‘boss,’ no one could depend upon the safety of trucks that were not so
checked. Rather, safety depends upon the efforts of loaders who know 
what they are doing, who do the job the way it is to be done, and who are
responsible for their actions.
183 F. Supp. 463, 466-67 (S.D. Tex. 1960); see also Wedel, 1998 WL 704347, at
*4 (“Although [plaintiff] surely received some supervision while loading and
although he was not the only person ensuring the safety of the motor carrier, it is
factually untenable for him to assert that he acted completely without discretion.
[Plaintiff] admits that he often worked without the aid of a supervisor and that he
made independent decisions regarding where to place freight and how to secure
it.”). Therefore, “at least where, as here, the employee retains some appreciable
discretion in conducting the loading operation in the first instance, his employer is
exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA.” Blankenship, 415 F.2d at 117.
B. Plaintiff’s Post-Deposition Declaration
Plaintiff attempts to create a dispute of material fact by attaching a postdeposition declaration to its response to defendant’s statement of uncontroverted
material facts. [Doc. #103-1]. In his declaration, plaintiff states “[i]n my actual
job duties loading freight for outbound or line-haul trailers, I was directed to place
freight anywhere that it fits.” Id. at ¶8. “I was not responsible for ensuring the
safety of the freight with respect to its placement, balance, or distribution on the
trailer. I did not exercise my own discretion or judgment in placing freight.” Id. at
¶9. In evaluating the merits of a summary judgment motion and opposition to it,
affidavits filed by the parties must meet the requirements of Rule 56(e) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
A court can “consider only admissible evidence
and [must] disregard portions of various affidavits and depositions that were made
without personal knowledge, consist of hearsay, or purport to state legal
conclusions as fact.” Howard v. Columbia Public School Dist., 363 F.3d 797, 801
(8th Cir. 2004).
It is well-established in the Eighth Circuit that an affidavit filed in opposition
to a summary judgment motion that directly contradicts earlier deposition
testimony is insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact. Camfield Tires,
Inc. v. Michelin Tire Corp., 719 F.2d 1361, 1365 (8th Cir. 1983) (“If a party who
has been examined at length on deposition could raise an issue of fact simply by
submitting an affidavit contradicting his own earlier testimony, this would greatly
diminish the utility of summary judgment as a procedure for screening out sham
issues of fact.”). “Post-deposition contradictory affidavits are admitted only when
the prior deposition testimony shows confusion, and the subsequent affidavit helps
to explain the contradiction.” Popoalii v. Corr. Med. Servs., 512 F.3d 488, 498 (8th
Plaintiff did not exhibit confusion in his prior deposition testimony, and his
declaration does not purport to clarify any confusion or contradiction in his
Rather, by filing an inconsistent declaration, plaintiff
attempts to create a disputed issue of fact regarding the degree of discretion or
judgment he exercised in loading freight on line-haul trailers. The Court does not
find this declaration to create genuine issues of fact since it directly contradicts
earlier, clear deposition testimony.
For the reasons discussed above, the Court concludes that that plaintiff is
exempt from the FLSA’s overtime provisions.
Therefore, the defendants are
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants’ motions for summary judgment
pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) [Doc. ## 48, 92] are granted.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all other pending motions are moot.
A separate Judgment in accordance with this Memorandum and Order will be
CAROL E. JACKSON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 13th day of May, 2015.
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