Limo drivers entitled to overtime, says US DOL and some lawsuits!

Limousine drivers, …

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are frequently not paid overtime premiums when they work more than 40 hours in a week. They are usually paid a fixed rate for certain trips or a percentage of the fee charged to the client.  Recently, lawsuits have been filed challenging this practice and asserting that limo drivers are entitled to overtime premiums – one and a half times the regular rate – when they work past 40 hours in a week.

Most people know that overtime laws require that workers should be paid “time and a half” when they work more than 40 hours in a week.  There are exceptions to these laws, however, and they are called “exemptions.”  Exempt employees include managers, outside salespersons, administrators and professionals, among others.  There is also an exemption for taxi drivers and for motor carriers (people who drive big trucks across state lines).  Sometimes, limousine companies claim that their drivers fall under one of these exemptions.  The U.S. Department of Labor disagrees.

First, it wrote an “opinion letter” in April 1998.  Opinion letters are letters by the Department of Labor in response to legal questions.  In this letter, the company asked if its drivers could be considered exempt under the taxi driver exemption.  It provided passenger transportation services for mobility – limited passengers.  The drivers pick up the passengers at their homes and take them places such as relatives homes, shopping, doctor’s offices, etc…  The Department of Labor wrote:

                “While your client’s vehicles might be involved in a number of activities associated with taxicab operations, we believe that, overall, your client’s vehicles do not service the same transportation needs as taxicabs.  The ordinary meaning of that term contemplates vehicles that are offered for hire to the general public on city streets.  While it is not necessary that all the transportation be provided to persons who “flag down” the vehicles, that is an important aspect of the common meaning of “taxicab” which your client’s vehicles do not possess.”

More recently, the U.S. Department of Labor has brought a lawsuit seeking to enforce this rule.  The defendant is Premier Limousine.   The Department’s press release can be viewed here.

This excerpt sums it up:

“This employer has refused, and continues to refuse, to pay employees the proper wages they are clearly due under federal law,” said Neil Patrick, the division’s district director in Hartford, Conn. “The defendants have also refused to make the necessary records available for inspection. The department is taking this legal action to ensure that these working people receive full and just compensation for their many hours of labor.”

Additionally, private individuals have brought lawsuits asserting entitlement to unpaid overtime wages.  Roger Lassen, through his attorneys Anthony Pantuso of the Quinn Law Firm, in Milford, Connecticut and Richard Hayber of Hayber Law Firm in Hartford, Connecticut have sued Hoyt Livery for similar violations.  Attorneys Pantuso and Hayber are reportedly about to file additional suits against new defendants as more and more limousine drivers learn of their rights and come forward.