State Law Overtime Claim Revived

By Erin L. Winters April 17, 2018
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​The Colorado Court of Appeals revived a shuttle driver's claim that he was entitled to overtime compensation under state wage laws, despite his employer's argument that he was ineligible for the additional pay because he engaged in interstate commerce.

The plaintiff was a driver for a van service and transported passengers to and from Denver International Airport on behalf of Shamrock Charters Inc. He did not leave the state during his route. He claimed that Shamrock and Colorado Cab Company LLC failed to pay him overtime compensation, in violation of state law. The plaintiff's employer alleged that he was an interstate driver and exempt from overtime according to a state wage order issued by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Colorado's overtime laws do not provide a definition of "interstate driver," and a lower court concluded that the Motor Carrier Act exemption under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which includes an expansive definition of interstate drivers as employees whose work travel is entirely within the state, applied to the plaintiff.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Determining Overtime Eligibility in the United States]

The plaintiff appealed the decision and argued that state, not federal, law must apply. The Colorado Court of Appeals agreed and concluded that since Colorado has adopted laws that are protective of employees, the less protective federal definition of interstate drivers did not apply.

Without a definition of interstate drivers within Colorado's wage orders, the court looked to a Colorado Department of Labor and Employment's agency bulletin, which separately defined an interstate driver as a driver whose work takes him or her across state lines. The court held that the agency's interpretation was clear and persuasive guidance that supported the plaintiff's claim and referred the case back to the lower court for further consideration.

Brunson v. Colorado Cab Co. LLC, Colo. Ct. App., No. 16-CA-1864 (Feb. 8, 2018).

Professional Pointer: In order to be exempt from overtime compensation, employees must meet both federal and state wage laws. Employers should review both sets of exemptions prior to determining payment of overtime compensation. In general, state laws are more protective of employees, and employers must be familiar with those requirements.

Erin L. Winters is an attorney with Pacific Employment Law in San Francisco, Calif.

 

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