AHMED v. HIGHWAY FREIGHT SYSTEMS, INC.
MEMORANDUM/OPINION THAT DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IS GRANTED AND THIS MATTER IS DISMISSED. SIGNED BY HONORABLE JEFFREY L. SCHMEHL ON 11/18/14. 11/19/14 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE' AND E-MAILED.(ky, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
HIGHWAY FREIGHT SYSTEMS, INC.,
November 18, 2014
Plaintiff, Sikander Ahmed, (“Ahmed”) brought this suit against Defendant,
Highway Freight Systems, Inc., (“Highway Freight”) alleging that Ahmed provided
driving services on behalf of Highway Freight, a trucking company. Ahmed contends that
Highway Freight violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), the Pennsylvania
Minimum Wage Act (“PMWA”) and the Wage Payment Collection Law (“WPCL”) by
failing to properly pay him straight time and overtime wages. Before the Court is the
Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendant, Highway Freight, Inc. (Docket No. 28)
Plaintiff has opposed the motion by filing a document entitled “Memorandum in Support
of Verified Complaint and Disciplinary Responsibility of Involved Parties and Plaintiff’s
Brief to Dismissed Defendant’s Request for Summary Judgment Against Plaintiff.”
(Docket No. 30.) For the following reasons, Defendants’ motion is granted and this
matter is dismissed.
Summary judgment should be granted if the record, including pleadings,
depositions, affidavits, and answers to interrogatories demonstrate “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. Proc. 56(c). In making that determination, the
“evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be
drawn in his favor.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505,
91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A fact is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law and “genuine” if a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving
party based on the evidence presented on that issue. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.
Although Ahmed’s Complaint in this matter alleges that he was hired by and began
working for Highway Freight in March 2012 (Compl, ¶ 6), an affidavit submitted by
Satreevan Singh, President of Highway Freight, reveals the following: On April 10,
2012, Highway Freight entered into a Master Lease Agreement with Kuljit Singh
(“Singh”) for Singh’s 2003 T600 Kenworth truck. (Docket No. 29, Exs. 1 and 2.) The
Master Lease Agreement provides that Singh as the lessee would provide a truck and
driver for transporting property in return for a per load fee. (See Ex. 2.) Pursuant to this
Master Lease Agreement, Ahmed was to be the driver. (Id.) Highway Freight delivers
cargo via tractor trailers throughout states within the United States. (See Ex. 1.)
According to Ahmed’s Drivers Logs, he drove Singh’s truck for Highway Freight
from April 10, 2012 through November 23, 2012. (See Exs. 2 and 3.) A review of the
daily Drivers Logs shows that from April 10, 2012 to November 23, 2012, Plaintiff had
1,281.75 driving hours and 127.75 on duty hours, for a total work time of 1,409.50 hours.
(Ex. 3.) A review of copies of the checks paid to Ahmed shows that he received
$27,861.02 in compensation for the time period of April 10, 2012 through November 23,
2012. (See Exs. 1 and 4.)
Count I of Ahmed’s Complaint sets forth a claim against Highway Freight for its
alleged failure to pay straight time and overtime wages pursuant to the Fair Labor
Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (Compl., ¶¶ 26-30.) In Count II, Ahmed presents a
claim against Highway Freight for violations of the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act,
43 P.S. § 333.01 et seq, due to Highway Freight’s alleged failure to pay straight time and
overtime wages. (Compl, ¶¶ 31-35.) Count III of Ahmed’s Complaint alleges Highway
Freight violated the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, 43 P.S. ¶¶ 36-40,
by failing to pay straight time and overtime. Highway Freight argues that Ahmed’s
claims are insufficient under the FLSA, the PMWA and the WPCL because his claim for
overtime is barred by the motor carrier exemption to the FLSA and Ahmed’s failure to
allege a contractual obligation to pay overtime as required by the WPCL. Further,
Highway Freight argues that Ahmed’s claims for straight pay must also fail because the
compensation he actually received from Highway Freight was greater than minimum
wage for every hour that he worked. 1
A. OVERTIME CLAIMS
The FLSA was enacted to “protect covered workers from substandard wages and
There is some dispute as to whether Ahmed was an employee of Highway Freight or an independent
contractor. The Complaint alleges that he was an employee of Highway Freight for purposes of FLSA,
PMWA and WPCL. (See Compl., ¶ 7.) However, according to the affidavit of the President of Highway
Freight, Highway Freight entered into a Lease Agreement with Kuljit Singh for Singh’s truck, and the
Lease Agreement provided that Ahmed was to be the driver of this truck. If Ahmed is in fact an
independent contractor and not an employee, he cannot recover under the FLSA, PMWA or WPCL, as
those acts are limited to employees. Therefore, for purposes of this motion, I will give Ahmed the benefit of
the doubt, assume that he is an employee of Highway Freight and analyze his entitlement to recovery under
the FLSA, PMWA and WPCL.
oppressive working hours.” Friedrich v U.S. Computer Servs., 974 F.2d 409. 412 (3d Cir.
1992) citing Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight Sys., Inc., 450 U.S. 728, 739 (1981).
The FLSA provides that:
Except as otherwise provided in this section, no employer shall employ
any of his employees who in any workweek is engaged in commerce or in
the production of goods for commerce, for a workweek longer than forty
hours unless such employee receives compensation for his employment in
excess of the hours above specified at a rate not less than one and one-half
times the regular rate at which he is employed.
29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). Therefore, employers covered by the FLSA must pay overtime to
employees who work for more than forty hours a week “unless one or another of certain
exemptions applies.” Packard v. Pittsburgh Transp. Cp., 418 F.3d 246, 250 (3d Cir.
Similarly, the PMWA provides that employees shall receive overtime wages of
“not less than one and a half times” their regular wage for any hours worked after forty in
a work week. 43 P.S. § 333.104(c). Pennsylvania courts have looked to federal law
regarding the FLSA when addressing the PMWA. Baum v. Astrazeneca LP, 372 F.App’x
246, 248, n. 4 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Commonwealth of Pa. Dept. of Labor and Indus.,
Bureau of Labor Law Compliance v. Stuber, 822 A.2d 870, 873 (Pa. Commw. 2003),
aff’d, 580 Pa. 66, 859 A.2d 1253 (2004)). It has been found that “it is proper to give
deference to federal interpretation of a federal statute when the state statute substantially
parallels it.” Id.
In this matter, Highway Freight relies upon the “motor carrier exemption” to
support its position that it does not owe Ahmed overtime pursuant to the FLSA and the
PMWA. The motor carrier exemption applies to “any employees to whom the Secretary
of Transportation has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service
pursuant to the provisions of section 32502 of Title 49.” 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(1). The
motor carrier exemption in the PMWA is nearly identical to that contained in the FLSA.
43 P.S. § 333.105(b)(7). 2
The “fundamental test” for determining whether the Secretary of Transportation
has jurisdiction to regulate a motor carrier employee is if “the employee's activities affect
safety of operation.” Levinson v. Spector Motor Serv., 330 U.S. 649, 671 (1947). “If this
test is satisfied, the Secretary may regulate an employee's qualifications and maximum
hours of service . . . When an employee falls under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of
Transportation, and is thus subject to the exemption, the Secretary of Labor is prohibited
from enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime requirements as to that
employee.” Mayan v. Rydbom Exp., Inc., No. 07-2658, 2009 WL 3152136 (E.D. Pa.
Sept. 30, 2009) (Stengel, J.). The duties of drivers affect safety of operation. Id., citing
Levinson, 330 U.S. at 664–65. In addition, the Motor Carrier Act exemption only
exempts employees from the FLSA who operate a “commercial motor vehicle,” which is
defined as a vehicle that “has a [GVWR] or gross vehicle weight of at least 10,001
pounds, whichever is greater.” McCall v. Disabled Am. Veterans, 723 F.3d 962, 964 (8th
Cir. 2013), quoting 49 U.S.C. § 31132(1)(A).
Here, a review of Ahmed’s daily Driver Logs shows that he worked as a driver for
Highway Freight, a motor carrier, transporting cargo out of Pennsylvania and into other
states almost daily. (See Ex. 3.) Further, Ahmed drove a vehicle that weighed more than
The exemption of an employee from the hours provision of the FLSA under section 13(b)(1) also depends
upon the class to which his employer belongs, as the employer must qualify as a “motor carrier.” 29 C.F.R.
§ 782.2. The Motor Carrier Act defines a “motor carrier” as a “person providing motor vehicle
transportation for compensation.” 49 U.S.C. § 13102(14). Highway Freight is a motor carrier, as it
provides tractor-trailer cargo related services for clients and makes trips between states within the U.S. (See
10,000 pounds, (See Ex. 1) and as a driver, his duties affected the safety of operation.
Therefore, the motor carrier exemption for the FLSA applies to Ahmed and he is not
entitled to receive overtime for the hours that he drove for Highway Freight. There is no
genuine issue of material fact to be decided by a finder of fact regarding Ahmed’s
overtime claim. Accordingly, Highway Freight is entitled to summary judgment on
Ahmed’s overtime claim under both the FLSA and PMWA, as the PMWA is applied the
same way as the FLSA with respect to overtime claims. See Mayan, 2009 WL 3152136.
Ahmed also seeks payment of overtime under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment
and Collection Law. The WPCL “does not create a right to compensation…[r]ather, it
provides a statutory remedy when the employer breaches a contractual obligation to pay
earned wages. The contract between the parties governs in determining whether specific
wages are earned.” DeAsencio v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 342 F.3d 301, 209 (3d Cir. 2003).
Ahmed does not allege that Highway Freight was contractually obligated to pay him
overtime, and as discussed above, he is clearly ineligible to receive overtime.
Accordingly, there is no genuine issue of material fact as to Ahmed’s overtime claim
under the WPCL and it is therefore dismissed. See Drummond v. Herr Foods, Inc., 2014
WL 80729 (E.D. Pa. 2014) (Schiller, J.) (holding that a plaintiff must establish a
contractual obligation to compensation to state a claim under the WPCL).
B. STRAIGHT TIME CLAIMS
A review of Ahmed’s Complaint shows that he is also claiming an entitlement
to straight time for the hours he worked over forty hours per week under the FLSA, the
PMWA and the WPCL. Ahmed’s Complaint alleges that he was to receive thirty-six
cents per mile while loaded and thirty cents per mile while unloaded, and that he was not
be paid according to an hourly rate of pay or to be paid overtime compensation for the
hours for which he worked. (Compl., ¶¶ 17-18.) Ahmed does not appear to be claiming
that he did not receive the contracted-for mileage rates of pay. Rather, it seems Ahmed is
claiming that he was not paid at least minimum wage for hours that he worked over forty
hours per week.
A review of Ahmed’s Daily Drivers Logs shows that he had 1,281.75 driving
hours and 127.75 on duty hours while driving for Highway Freight from April to
November of 2012, for total work time of 1,409.50 hours. (See Ex. 3.) For the time he
drove for Highway Freight, Ahmed received $27,861.02 in total compensation. (See Exs.
1 and 4.) When Ahmed’s total dollars paid is divided by the total hours he worked, his
compensation rate is $19.77 per hour. (Ex. 1.) Courts have found that the FLSA requires
only that the amount an employee is paid for a given week be equal to or greater than the
number of hours the employee worked times the statutory minimum wage. Badgett v.
Rent-Way, Inc., 350 F.Supp.2d 643, 658 (W.D. Pa. 2004). The current minimum wage is
$7.25 per hour. 29 U.S.C. §206(a)(1)(C). Ahmed’s rate of pay while driving for Highway
Freight, $19.77 per hour, is clearly well above the current minimum wage. In other
words, the law required Highway Freight to pay Ahmed at least $10,218.88 for the
1,409.50 hours he worked. By paying Ahmed $27,861.02 for those hours, Highway
Freight clearly met all minimum wage requirements and Ahmed was properly
compensated for all hours that he worked for Highway Freight. Therefore, there is no
genuine issue of material fact that Ahmed’s claim for straight time pursuant to the FLSA
must fail, as all hours that he worked over and above forty hours per week were properly
compensated by Highway Freight.
Ahmed’s claim for straight time under the PMWA also must fail. The regulations
issued under the PMWA allow for the payment of wages in various ways in addition to
payment by the hour. The Pennsylvania Code states that “[t]he minimum wage shall be
paid for hours worked, regardless of the frequency of payment and regardless of whether
the wage is paid on an hourly, salaried, commissioned, piece rate, or any other basis.” 34
Pa. Code § 231(b). This regulation makes it clear that individuals such as Ahmed may be
paid in non-traditional fashion. Performing a similar calculation to the one performed
under the FLSA to determine if Ahmed received sufficient payment for all hours worked
shows that Ahmed was properly compensated at $19.77 per hour, as he made more than
minimum wage for all 1,409.50 hours worked. 3 Therefore, there is no straight time
violation under the PMWA and Ahmed’s claim for straight time under this act must be
Lastly, Ahmed made no claim for straight time based upon a breach of contract,
which is necessary to succeed on a WPCL claim, as discussed above. Therefore,
Ahmed’s WPCL straight time claim must also fail. 4 See Drummond, 2014 WL WL
Minimum wage in Pennsylvania is set at the same minimum wage that is contained in the FLSA. 43
Pa.C.S.A. § 333.104(a.1).
In his response to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Ahmed alleges that his signature was
forged on the Master Lease Agreement entered into between Highway Freight and Singh. (Ex. 2.) This
Master Lease Agreement lists Ahmed as the driver, and contains a signature line for him in that capacity.
The Master Lease Agreement is executed by someone purporting to be Sikander Ahmed. (See Ex. 2.) I find
Ahmed’s unproven allegation of forgery to be irrelevant to the analysis of whether Highway Freight is
entitled to summary judgment on Ahmed’s claims under the FLSA, PMWA and WPCL. It is undisputed
that Ahmed drove for Highway Freight from April to November of 2012, whether his signature is contained
on the Master Lease Agreement or not. It is also undisputed that he received appropriate compensation
from Highway Freight for those driving services. Therefore, the legitimacy of Ahmed’s signature on a
contract entered into by Highway Freight and Singh is not relevant to the instant analysis.
For the reasons set forth above, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment is
granted and this matter is dismissed with prejudice. An appropriate order follows.
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