United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
RICKY DARDEN; CAROLYN HAYES; ANGELA LAFAYETTE; and JARVIS YOUNG PLAINTIFFS
SOUTHWEST ARKANSAS DEVELOPMENT, INC., d/b/a SOUTHWEST ARKANSAS DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL DEFENDANT
O. Hickey United States District Judge.
the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF
No. 50. Plaintiffs have filed a response. ECF No. 53.
Defendant has filed a reply. ECF No. 55. The Court finds this
matter ripe for consideration.
action was originally filed by Plaintiff Ricky Darden in the
United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Arkansas on January 28, 2015, alleging violations of the Fair
Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and Arkansas Minimum
Wage Act (“AMWA”). ECF No. 1. Plaintiff Darden
subsequently filed a Motion for Rule 23 Class Certification
on November 13, 2015, seeking class certification in regard
to his AMWA claims. ECF No. 11. The case was later
transferred to the United States District Court for the
Western District of Arkansas on March 16, 2016. ECF No. 27.
This Court subsequently refused to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over Plaintiff Darden's AMWA class claims
and dismissed those claims without prejudice on August 3,
2016. ECF No. 30. On that same day, the Court, accordingly,
denied Plaintiff Darden's Motion for Rule 23 Class
Certification as moot. ECF No. 31.
light of these rulings, the Court gave Plaintiff Darden leave
to file a Second Amended and Substituted Complaint, adding
three additional plaintiffs. ECF No. 40. Plaintiffs filed
their Second Amended and Substituted Complaint on December
21, 2016. ECF No. 43. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant failed
to provide proper overtime compensation in violation of the
FLSA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 207, et seq., and the
AMWA, Ark. Code Ann. §§ 11-4-211, et seq.
ECF No. 43, ¶ 2. Plaintiffs also contend that they are
entitled to punitive damages under the Arkansas Civil Justice
Reform Act (“ACJRA”), Ark. Code Ann. §
16-55-206. Defendant subsequently filed the instant Motion
for Summary Judgment and argues that summary judgment is
proper as, based on the record, there is no genuine issue of
material fact. ECF No. 50.
are former employees of Defendant who were employed as
Non-emergency Medicaid Transportation (“NEMT”)
Drivers. ECF No. 51, ¶ 4; ECF No. 54, ¶ 4. In that
role, “Plaintiffs were required to pick up clients from
their place of residence, drop clients off at their medical
appointments, wait or pick up additional clients who were on
their driver's manifest and drop them at their
appointments, pick up clients from their appointments upon
completion of their appointment and transport them back to
their place of residence.” ECF No. 51, ¶ 14; ECF
No. 54, ¶ 14. Defendant paid each Plaintiff an hourly
rate. ECF No. 43, ¶ 21. Defendant provided each
Plaintiff with a cell phone that they were required to carry
for the purpose of receiving dispatches from Defendant and
communicating with dispatchers and clients. ECF No. 51,
¶ 10; ECF No. 54, ¶ 10.
end of each day, Defendant gave each Plaintiff a
“Driver's Manifest” (hereinafter
“manifest”) detailing the next day's
schedule. ECF No. 51, ¶¶ 11, 12, 13; ECF No. 54,
¶¶ 11, 12, 13. “The driver's manifest
contained the name of the Defendant's clients to be
transported, the client's address, the location of the
client's appointment, the time for their appointment,
requested pick up times, actual pick up and drop off times,
driver's run start, first pick up[, ] driver's run
end, stop time, break periods, odometer readings, last
drop-off, date, and signature and initial of driver.”
ECF No. 51, ¶ 12; ECF No. 54, ¶ 12. Upon receiving
the manifest, each Plaintiff was required to contact the
clients listed to confirm their appointment and
transportation needs for the following day. ECF No. 51,
¶ 13; ECF No. 54, ¶ 13.
had a policy that Plaintiffs, as NEMT drivers, “were
allotted a one hour lunch when [they] worked more than seven
hours a day;  were allotted a thirty-minute lunch when
[they] worked between six and six and one-half hours a day;
and,  were allotted a break of fifteen minutes when [they]
worked five hours or less a day.” ECF No. 51, ¶
17; ECF No. 54, ¶ 17. Plaintiffs were required to submit
an hourly time sheet on a bi-weekly basis, and each time
sheet reflected the same clock-in and clock-out information
that was recorded by Plaintiffs on their individual
manifests, and included time taken for lunch, sick leave,
administrative time, holiday time, and vacation time. ECF No.
51, ¶¶ 18, 19; ECF No. 54, ¶¶ 18, 19.
Lunch or meal periods were mandatory and Plaintiffs were
required to include their lunch or meal period and break time
taken on their manifest. ECF No. 51, ¶¶ 23, 24; ECF
No. 54, ¶ 23, 24.
present controversy regards two aspects of Plaintiffs'
employment as NEMT drivers. The first issue concerns the
compensability of Plaintiffs' lunch or break period.
Plaintiffs argue that even though they were required to take
an un-compensated lunch or break period and reflect that time
on their time sheets, in reality they were not relieved of
their work duties during these periods. Therefore, Plaintiffs
argue, they are entitled to compensation. Defendant takes the
position that these periods were non-compensable because
Plaintiffs were free to utilize their breaks in any way they
chose. ECF No. 50, ¶ 26. Furthermore, Defendant states
that if Plaintiffs “did not have the opportunity to
take their lunch then they were to report the failed
opportunity to their Transportation Supervisor so that
management could ensure they received payment for their
time.” ECF No. 50, ¶ 25.
the second issue, Plaintiffs contend that
“Defendant's express policies or directions
required Plaintiffs to make contact with customers while at
home, off-the-clock” and that Plaintiffs should be
appropriately compensated for the time spent contacting
clients. ECF No. 53, p. 12. Defendant argues that “no
driver was ever instructed to contact clients off-the-clock
and the greater weight of the evidence in this case dictates
a finding that no such approved policy or practice
existed[.]” ECF No. 52, pp. 11-12. Further, Defendant
asserts that any off-the-clock phone calls would be
non-compensable as insignificant or de minimis,
based on Defendant's analysis of certain phone records.
ECF No. 52, p. 12.
Defendant argues that “the March 2015 FLSA
investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor
[“DOL”] demonstrates that no genuine issue of
material fact exists in this case and that Defendant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” ECF No. 52,
p. 14. Defendant notes that the DOL reviewed Defendant's
practices regarding regular and overtime pay and determined
that Defendant had not violated the FLSA payment provisions.
That being said, Defendant concedes that the DOL findings are
not binding on the Court, but urges the Court to consider the
DOL's investigation and conclusions.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that when a party
moves for summary judgment “[t]he court shall grant
summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The
Supreme Court has issued the following guidelines for trial
courts to determine whether this standard has been satisfied:
The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining
whether there is a need for trial-whether, in other words,
there are genuine factual issues that properly can be
resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably
be resolved in favor of either party.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250
(1986); see also Agristor Leasing v. Farrow, 826
F.2d 732 (8th Cir. 1987); Niagara of Wis. Paper Corp. v.
Paper Indus. Union-Mgmt. Pension Fund, 800 F.2d 742, 746
(8th Cir. 1986). A fact is material only when its resolution
affects the outcome of the case. Anderson, 477 U.S.
at 248. A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it
could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either
party. Id., at 252.
Court must view the evidence and the inferences that may be
reasonably drawn from the evidence in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. Enterprise Bank v.
Magna Bank, 92 F.3d 743, 747 (8th Cir. 1996).
The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no
genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Id. The nonmoving party
must then demonstrate the existence of specific facts in the
record that create a genuine issue for trial. Krenik v.
Cnty. of LeSueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995). A
party opposing a properly supported motion for summary
judgment may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but
must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256.
discussed above, the present matter concerns whether
Plaintiffs are entitled to compensation for lunch and break
periods and purported off-the-clock client phone calls under
either the FLSA or AMWA. In general, “[t]he FLSA and
the AMWA impose similar minimum wage and overtime
requirements on employers and, in cases involving claims
brought under both acts, the courts have concluded that their
parallel provisions should be interpreted in the same
manner.” Cummings v. Bost, Inc., 2016 WL
6514103, at *5 (W.D. Ark. Nov. 1, 2016) (quoting Carter
v. Primary Home Care of Hot Springs, Inc., 2015 WL
11120563, at *2 (W.D. Ark. May 14, 2015)). Therefore, the
Court will only refer to the FLSA in the proceeding
discussion but all conclusions apply with equal force to
Plaintiffs' AMWA claims. Further, the Court will briefly
address the effect of the DOL's investigation and
findings regarding Defendant's compensation practices.
FLSA and AMWA Claims
FLSA dictates the minimum wage that an employer must pay
employees who work up to forty hours per week. 29 U.S.C.
§ 206(a). Further, the FLSA requires employers to pay
overtime pay when an employee works more than forty hours in
a workweek. Specifically, the FLSA states that:
no employer shall employ any of his employees . . . 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). Although the FLSA “does not
define when an individual should be considered to be working
for purposes of the Act, ” the Supreme Court “has
defined work as ‘physical or mental exertion (whether
burdensome or not) controlled or required by the employer and
pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the
employer and his business.'” Hensonv.
Pulaski Cnty Sheriff Dep't, 6 F.3d 531, ...