United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
CLAYTON LILES; PERRY Y; and GREGORY HALLEY, all individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, PLAINTIFFS
ROCK FARMS OF ARKANSAS LLC; and ROCKY HARRELL, individually and d/b/a Rock Farms of Arkansas, DEFENDANTS
Marshall Jr. United States District Judge
Casey, and Halley drove dump trucks for Rock Farms, an
Arkansas limited liability company. They hauled mostly sand
and gravel from quarries to Rock Farm's customers. Rocky
Harrell ran the show -he organized, owned, and managed this
business. The former drivers contend they weren't paid
minimum wage or overtime. Rock Farms paid them 25% on each
delivered load. The case began as a possible collective
action for ail similarly situated drivers, but the deadline
to pursue that possibility has passed, Nq 7 at 2,
and the Court dismisses the group claims without prejudice.
These three former drivers seek partial summary judgment:
Were they employees or independent contractors for purposes
of the wage laws? Apart from their relationship with this
company, did Harrell, individually, employ them too? Are they
entitled to double damages? In the few instances where there
is some dispute in the material facts, the Court has
considered things most favorably to Rock Farms and Harrell.
Grage v. Northern States Power Co. - Minnesota, 813
F.3d 1051, 1054 (8th Cir. 2015).
purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Arkansas
Minimum Wage Act, these former drivers were employees.
It's true that each driver had his own CDL license and
that the number of loads hauled varied among the drivers. But
Harrell, on behalf of Rock Farms, controlled every other
important part of the work. He hired the drivers and
explained the terms of their work. He got the customers and
negotiated the price per load with each customer. This price
setting determined drivers' pay. A driver could take time
off or a vacation with prior notice to Harrell. When the
drivers worked, which seems to have been most of the time, he
told them when and where to haul loads. He told them what
quarries to get the sand and gravel from. Rock Farms paid for
the material. The company owned and maintained the dump
trucks. Harrell paid the insurance on the trucks himself.
Rock Farms issued 1099s to drivers; but, at some point after
an audit, the company started making unemployment payments to
the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services.
was fuzzy on deposition about whether these drivers were
independent contractors or employees for wage-law purposes.
He's not a lawyer, of course, and it is a famously murky
issue anyway. Thornton v. Mainline Communications, LLC,
___ F.Supp.3d___, 2016 WL 228897 at*3 (E.D. Mo. 19
January 2016). It is clear, though, that, while the drivers
could do other work, as Harrell said, "if they're in
my truck, they work for me." No 8-1 at 48. Each
of the drivers testified that he didn't do much of
anything for anyone else while he was working as a Rock Farms
driver. And these were relatively permanent positions. On
this record, a jury could come out only one way on the
economic realities of this relationship: these drivers were
employees for wage-law purposes. Blair v. Wills, 420
F.3d 823, 829 (8th Cir. 2005); Thornton,
___F.Supp.3d at___, 2016 WL 228897 at *5.
Farms of Arkansas employed these former drivers, and the next
question is whether Harrell did too. At first glance,
"no" seems like the right answer. All corporate
formalities were observed - Harrell registered his LLC when
he created it, and the entity was in good standing. Except
for the insurance, the paperwork was Rock Farms all the way.
But Harrell was the one handling everything for his business:
hiring and firing folks, getting customers, arranging the
drivers' deliveries to those customers, and signing
paychecks. If someone acts "directly or indirectly in
the interest of an employer in relation to an employee ...[,
]" then the actor is an employer for FLSA purposes. 29
U.S.C. § 203(d). Arkansas law echos this rule. ARK. CODE
Ann. § 11-4-203(4)(A). Unlike the fellow who owned
corporate stock and periodically visited the ice plant in
Wirtz v. Pure Ice Company, 322 F.2d 259, 262-63 (8th
Cir. 1963), Harrell ran this hauling business day to day. He
acted directly and indirectly in Rock Farms LLC's
interest with these former drivers. Harrell was, for purposes
of federal and state wage laws, the drivers' employer
Farms and Harrell are right, however, on liquidated damages.
Whether he and the company failed to pay minimum wages or
overtime or both remain disputed fact questions. Contrary to
the former drivers' argument on reply, these issues were
not adequately ventilated in their motion and initial
supporting papers. It's therefore too soon to address
liquidated damages, which must stand on actual damages.
No 8, granted in part and denied in part. An Amended
Final Scheduling Order with pretrial deadlines will issue. If
the parties don't resolve their ...