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Paratransit Drivers are Entitled to Overtime Pay

December 14th, 2019 Christopher Davis

ParatransitMuch to contrary belief, most paratransit drivers are entitled to overtime pay according to the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Paratransit drivers transport disabled and elderly passengers on buses.  They pick up and drop off people with mobility problems, help them board and exit vehicles, and secure equipment like wheelchairs before driving.  Time and time again, bus companies unknowingly or deliberately misclassify paratransit drivers to circumvent overtime compensation laws. 

Paratransit Drivers Routinely Misclassified 

One way that bus companies make paratransit drivers overtime-exempt is through the FLSA’s Motor Carrier Exemption.  The Motor Carrier exemption only applies to (a) those involved in “safety-affecting activities on a motor vehicle” (b) “used in transportation on public highways in interstate or foreign commerce.”  In other words, only drivers who cross state borders during their routes qualify for the Motor Carrier exemption. Unlike commercial truck drivers who travel 2,000 to 3,000 miles a week, paratransit drivers are typically never asked to make interstate trips.  They transport mobility-impaired people to doctor’s appointments, grocery stores, shops, and other local destinations. Nevertheless, bus companies continue to deny them time-and-one-half for hours worked over 40 to save money. 

Other transportation companies have misclassified their paratransit drivers as independent contractors rather than employees to avoid paying overtime compensation.  Independent contractors do not qualify for many of the FLSA’s protections such as overtime, family and medical leave, safe working environments, and unemployment insurance.  The Department of Labor outlines provides a helpful outline of what makes you an employee here, to help you discern if you are misclassified as an independent contractor. 

Paratransit Drivers Sue for Unpaid Wages

Paratransit drivers have filed countless lawsuits against their employers to demand their rightful overtime compensation.  One critical case involving a transportation company’s inappropriate use of the Motor Carrier exemption is Dauphin v. Chestnut Ridge Transportation., Inc.  In this case, the judge states that whether or not an employee qualifies for Motor Carrier exemption depends on whether their “interstate travel constitutes a ‘natural, integral and . . . inseparable part’ of the employees’ duties, such that any employee is likely to be called on to perform interstate travel.”  If cross-state trips are a “regular and expected” part of a driver’s position, they are immediately overtime-exempt regardless of the frequency of out of state travel. In contrast, If interstate travel is not a natural or significant part of the job, drivers are entitled to overtime pay. In 2018, five paratransit drivers received $160,000 in a settlement with Transdev services transportation for similar claims.  The drivers worked 15-hour shifts but were not paid overtime because they were classified as contractors.  The judge ultimately found that this was a misclassification due to the “permanence in their working relationship” with Transdev.  These cases show that it is possible for paratransit drivers to hold their employers accountable for overtime theft. 

Seek Legal Assistance Today

If you are a paratransit driver that has been denied your rightful overtime wages, seek legal assistance today. The Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City, can assist you. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.