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A federal appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling and held there is not enough evidence to establish that a relocation company was exempt from paying its workers overtime under an exception to the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Juan Amaya worked as a furniture installer for Houston-based NOYPI Movers L.L.C., a subcontractor to Houston-based Pioneer Contract Services, a relocation company, according to Wednesday’s ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans in Juan Amaya v. NOYPI Movers L.L.C.; Pioneer Contract Services Inc.; Susan Sususco; Raul Sususco; BLUGGI L.L.C.
He filed suit in U.S. District Court in Houston on behalf of himself and other workers stating he should have been paid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, stating the overtime claim should be dismissed under the FLSA’s Motor Carrier Act exemption, which exempts from overtime employees involved in interstate commerce who are primarily engaged in driving and driving-related activities, according to the ruling.
About 15 of the 545 jobs the two firms carried out between 2012 to 2014 were required deliveries across state lines, according to the ruling.
The District Court granted the defendants summary judgment, which was unanimously overturned by a three-judge appeals court panel.
When “evaluating the nature of work from a class-wide perspective, we do not require a particularly high concentration of qualifying work in order to meet the (Motor Carrier Act) exception,” said the ruling.
“Yet, we cannot merely rubber-stamp an employer’s assertion” that the exemption applies, it said. After weighing various standards and reviewing the record, “we cannot agree with the district court that the defendants have met their burden.
“For one, the record evidence indicates Amaya and the class of employees for which he brings this action are hired for the purpose of installing office cubicles ordered by the defendants’ clients,” the ruling said, adding Mr. Amaya had testified he was “hardly ever” involved in loading commercial trucks and insuring the load’s safe transit.
“Furthermore, the record lacks a sufficient evidentiary basis” to tie these workers’ loading work to interstate commerce, the ruling said, in reversing the District Court’s judgment and remanding the case for further proceedings.
In an issue that has created a split among federal appeals courts, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned a lower court ruling and held Wednesday that mortgage underwriters are entitled to overtime.