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Alexander v. Tutle and Tutle Trucking, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 22, 2016

Richard Alexander; Bennie Collum; Don Davis; Duane Grimes; John Houpt; John Howland; Jason Phillips; Dwayne Pritchard; Randy Schroeder; Kylan Utley; Robert McNeil, Plaintiffs - Appellants,
v.
Tutle and Tutle Trucking, Inc.; Tommy Paul Tutle, Individually and as Officer and Director of Tutle and Tutle Trucking, Inc.; Gary Tutle, Individually and as Officer and Director of Tutle and Tutle Trucking, Inc.; Schlumberger Limited, (Schlumberger NV); Schlumberger Technology Corporation; Schlumberger Technologies Inc., Defendants-Appellees.

          Submitted: April 13, 2016

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Little Rock

          Before COLLOTON and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges, and BOUGH, [1] District Judge.

          COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.

         Richard Alexander and ten other plaintiffs brought suit against Tutle and Tutle Trucking, Inc. and its directors and officers (collectively, "Tutle"), and three entities with the Schlumberger name that owned a fleet of trucks operated by Tutle (collectively, "Schlumberger"). Tutle employed the plaintiffs as truck drivers, and the drivers contend that Tutle and Schlumberger failed to pay them overtime compensation in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1), and the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act ("AMWA"), Ark. Code Ann. § 11-4-211(a). The district court[2] determined that no overtime wages were due, because an exemption under the federal Motor Carrier Act applied to the drivers. The court thus granted summary judgment for the defendants, and the drivers appeal. We affirm.

         I.

         Tutle provides trucking services for hydraulic fracturing companies. During the relevant period, Tutle owned and operated its own fleet of trucks. Schlumberger supplies a range of services to customers in the oil and gas industry. In March 2011, Tutle entered into an agreement with Schlumberger to operate a fleet of Schlumberger trucks using Tutle employees as drivers.

         Tutle employed Alexander and the other plaintiffs as truck drivers based in Arkansas. The drivers understood that Tutle could assign them to drive routes outside of Arkansas as part of their employment. Each plaintiff driver was designated to drive Schlumberger trucks at some point in 2012 or 2013. The drivers contend that when Tutle recruited them to the Schlumberger assignment, the company told each driver that he would drive Schlumberger trucks only within Arkansas. The drivers assert that their primary responsibility when driving the Schlumberger trucks was to haul within Arkansas loads of "frac sand, " a specialized type of sand that is added to fracking fluids that are injected into wells during hydraulic fracturing.

         In practice, however, each driver traveled outside Arkansas in a Schlumberger truck at least once, and up to five times, while designated as a Schlumberger driver. These trips involved vehicle inspections or equipment relocation. On some occasions, the drivers hauled sand into Arkansas when returning from an out-of-state trip in a Schlumberger truck. Five drivers operated Schlumberger trucks in Oklahoma and Texas for approximately one month in July and August 2013. These month-long trips out of Arkansas were to haul frac sand to wells in Oklahoma and Texas.

         While designated as Schlumberger drivers, several of the drivers also operated Tutle trucks when Tutle required it. Although the drivers were assigned primarily to the Schlumberger trucks, Tutle asserts that it retained authority to require the drivers to drive a Tutle truck or to drive out of state as needed. Even when driving Schlumberger trucks, the drivers continued to receive trip instructions from Tutle dispatchers.

         The drivers contend that as operators of Schlumberger trucks, they were subject to a different set of policies than other drivers whom Tutle employed. Drivers assigned to Schlumberger trucks were paid a flat daily or weekly rate, while drivers assigned to Tutle trucks received a commission and "demerge pay" for waiting to load or unload cargo. The drivers also assert that they worked different hours than other Tutle drivers. The drivers complied with a safe driving program and used an E-Journey software system to log their trips when driving Schlumberger trucks.

         This dispute concerns whether the drivers were entitled to overtime compensation. Both federal law and Arkansas state law require employers to pay employees overtime compensation for hours worked in excess of forty hours per workweek. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1); Ark. Code Ann. § 11-4-211(a). One exception to this general rule is the Motor Carrier Act exemption, which excepts from overtime requirements "any employee with respect to whom the Secretary of Transportation has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service." 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(1); see also Ark. Code Ann. § 11-4-211(d).

         The drivers sued Tutle and Schlumberger, alleging that the companies had violated the FLSA and the AMWA by failing to pay overtime compensation. The drivers also sought punitive damages based on the alleged violations of state law, pursuant to the Arkansas Civil Justice Reform Act. Ark. Code Ann. § 16-55-206.

         On competing motions for summary judgment, the district court concluded that the Motor Carrier Act exemption applied to the drivers, because there was a reasonable expectation that the drivers would travel in interstate commerce, and such activity was not de minimis. The court therefore granted summary judgment for Tutle and Schlumberger. We review the district court's ruling de novo, viewing the record in the light most favorable to the drivers. Thomas v. Heartland Emp't Servs. LLC, 797 F.3d 527, 529 (8th Cir. 2015). Summary judgment is ...


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