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Terrell v. First Student Management LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

November 14, 2016

ESSIE TERRELL, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
FIRST STUDENT MANAGEMENT LLC and FIRST STUDENT, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs are 236 school bus drivers and assistants who bring this action on behalf of themselves and a similarly situated class of plaintiffs against their employer, First Student Management LLC and its parent corporation, First Student, Inc. (collectively “First Student”). Plaintiffs allege that defendant First Student violated provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), et seq. (“FLSA”) and the Missouri Minimum Wage Law, § 290.500 RSMo, et seq.. Defendants have moved to dismiss, and the matter has now been fully briefed.

         I. Background

         According to the complaint, defendant employed the plaintiff school bus drivers and driver assistants during and before 2013. Plaintiffs transported students to local municipal schools and to extracurricular activities. Defendant owns and operates 27 “bus yards” in Missouri. Plaintiffs' four counts include the following:

         A. Count I: FLSA - Claim for Unpaid Time at Regular Rate of Pay

         Plaintiffs allege that drivers arrive at the bus yard at 7:30 a.m. for morning runs and 1:30 p.m. for afternoon runs. Drivers and their assistants receive their route assignment and keys and proceed to their busses. Drivers log into the “EVIR” system with their employee badge, and at this time the employee begins receiving compensation. Plaintiffs estimate that six minutes elapse on average between reporting for work and logging into the EVIR system, and plaintiffs are not paid for the “preliminary activities” that occur during those six minutes. When drivers return to the lot after their bus runs, they are required to log into the EVIR system to go “off the clock” and then perform a post-trip inspection of their vehicle, clean out the bus, perform a “sleeping child” inspection, report any issues or problems, and return their equipment. Plaintiffs estimate that six minutes of uncompensated “postliminary activities” occur before they may leave. In addition, plaintiffs allege they are not paid for their time actually worked if the time it takes for them to perform their bus route exceeds a given threshold. Plaintiffs further allege they were not paid for “dead time, ” or the gap between the end of a regular run and a charter run. Plaintiffs state they would sometimes be paid for a charter run on a later pay period to avoid overtime payments. They claim that plaintiffs are entitled to be paid for all “straight time” worked during weeks their hours exceeded 40 hours and that First Student refused to do so in violation of the FLSA.

         B. Count II: FLSA - Overtime Claims

         Plaintiffs allege that, in an effort to avoid paying overtime, defendant under-reports the time actually worked by employees. Defendant achieves this by dividing plaintiffs' time worked into “Regular” and “Charter Rate” categories as explained above and pays overtime only if more than 40 hours are worked in a particular category. Plaintiffs claim defendant fails to pay proper overtime amounts for weeks in which employees worked more than 40 hours in violation of the FLSA.

         C. Count III: MMWL - Straight Time Claim

         Plaintiffs' allegations in Count III merely state that they are entitled to the protections of the MMWL, § 290.500 RSMo, et seq., that First Student meets the definition of an “employer, ” that the plaintiffs were not exempt from the MMWL overtime wage and other obligations, that First Student failed to keep accurate records of hours worked, and First Student willfully violated the statute. They allege defendant failed to pay plaintiffs for time spent working, including preliminary activities, postliminary activities, and “dead time.” Further, they allege defendant failed to pay for all straight time worked.

         D. Count IV: MMWL - Overtime Claim

         Plaintiffs allege that they worked more than 40 hours in a workweek without being compensated at overtime rates required by § 290.505 RSMo. Plaintiff further allege they were not exempt from those overtime requirements. They claim defendant First Student violated the MMWL as a result.

         Defendants have moved to dismiss all of ...


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