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Vehicle modifications could jeopardize Motor Carrier Act overtime exemption

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

If you employ drivers and rely on the Motor Carrier Act (MCA) to avoid paying those drivers overtime, be aware that any modification to vehicles that otherwise would fall under the law could so alter the vehicle that drivers are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act instead.

Recent case: A group of van drivers sued their employer, arguing that the vehicles they drove were not large enough or configured correctly to qualify as MCA-covered vehicles. They drove converted vans that were originally designed to carry 12 to 15 passengers. After modification, they held two passengers seated in wheelchairs and five other passengers in regular seats, for a total of seven.

The MCA covers vehicles that carry eight or more passengers.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that because of the modifications, the drivers were covered by the FLSA and entitled to overtime pay. (LaCurtis, et al., v. Express Medical Transportation, 8th Cir., 2017)

Final note: Now is a good time to review all your positions to make sure your employees are properly classified. Start by determining who may be covered by the FLSA and who might be exempt because the MCA applies. Make a preliminary list and double-check the details of each exemption.

In this case, an expensive lawsuit could have been prevented if the employer had looked at the vehicle the drivers were operating and compared it to the regulations that specified eight or more passengers as the minimum number for claiming the vehicle fit the MCA exemption.

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