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Local 589 v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 31, 2015

LOCAL 589, AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION, PATRICK F. HOGAN, TIMOTHY C. BROWN, HERIBERTO CORA, ANDREW HUNTER, DAVID JORDAN, STEVEN MAHER, DENNIS PERRY, ALLEN R. LEE, TRACEY SPENCER, JEFFREY WILLIAMS, and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
MASSACHUSETTS BAY TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, Defendant

For Local 589, Amalgamated Transit Union, And all others similarly situated, Patrick F. Hogan, And all others similarly situated, Timothy C. Brown, And all others similarly situated, Heriberto Cora, And all others similarly situated, Andrew Hunter, And all others similarly situated, David Jordan, And all others similarly situated, Stephen Maher, And all others similarly situated, Dennis Perry, And all others similarly situated, Allen R. Lee, And all others similarly situated, Tracey Spencer, And all others similarly situated, Jeffrey Williams, And all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs: Brian J. Rogal, LEAD ATTORNEY, Angoff, Goldman, mannig, Hynes & Dunlap, P.C., Norwood, MA; Douglas Taylor, LEAD ATTORNEY, Gromfine, Taylor & Tyler, P.C., Alexandria, VA; Paul T. Hynes, Angoff, Goldman, Manning & Hynes, Boston, MA.

For Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Defendant: Mark W. Batten, LEAD ATTORNEY, Alison M. Langlais, Laura E. Deck, Proskauer Rose, LLP, Boston, MA.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

DOUGLAS P. WOODLOCK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiffs, ten named Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (" MBTA" ) employees and their union, claim that they are owed payment by defendant MBTA for travel time under Federal and State wage and hour laws. Before me are cross-motions for summary judgment on liability.[1]

I. BACKGROUND

This action was filed by ten named MBTA employees and their union, Local 589, Amalgamated Transit Union (" Local 589" ), as a putative class action on behalf of more than 1,500 MBTA employees. Local 589 represents part-time and full-time MBTA operating employees such as bus operators, rapid transit operators, light rail operators, and customer service agents. The named plaintiffs are all members of Local 589, and all currently or formerly worked as operators of MBTA buses, light rail, or rapid transit equipment.

MBTA operating employees select their daily schedules on a quarterly basis, with selections made in order of bargaining unit seniority. An employee's schedule can consist of one repeated route or several different routes. Employees work either a " straight shift" or a " split shift." A straight shift occurs when an employee works and is paid for a continual period of time during the day, such as from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A split shift occurs when an employee works two separate shifts with an unpaid break between shifts, such as from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The MBTA and Local 589 are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (" CBA" ) that controls various aspects of employee compensation. Pursuant to the CBA, all breaks lasting less than a half hour are paid, whereas breaks lasting thirty-one minutes or more are unpaid as " meal relief" breaks unless an employee is working a straight shift, in which case all breaks are paid. Full-time employees are guaranteed to receive eight hours of pay each day, and part-time employees may work up to thirty hours per week.

Employees are free to do whatever they want during breaks between shifts so long as they report to work on time after the break is over. Sometimes an employee's second route during a split shift starts in a different place from where the first route ended, which requires the employee to travel between the two locations during the break. If a full-time employee works a split shift in which the second route starts in a different place from where the first shift ended, the employee receives twenty minutes of pay in the form of what is called a " swing-on allowance." Part-time employees are not paid for any of the break time within the split shift.

Some of the daily schedules available start and end at the same location, and others start and end in different locations. Once employees complete their last route of the day, their workday is over and they are free to go home. Employees do not need to sign out or report back to the location where they began work or to any other location. The MBTA does not pay for any time after the end of the workday, even for employees that have to return to their starting point to retrieve their cars or belongings before heading home. Employees occasionally use their mid-day breaks to move their cars to the location where their day will end, while others take public transportation, walk, or carpool to reach their vehicles, their homes, or wherever their next destination is located.

The Plaintiffs contend that they are owed payment under the Federal Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ), Pub. L. 75-718, 52 Stat. 1060 (codified as amended at 29 U.S.C. § § 201 et seq. ), the Portal-to-Portal Act, Pub. L. No. 80-49, 61 Stat. 84 (codified at 29 U.S.C. § § 251 et seq. ), which amended the FLSA, and the Massachusetts Wage and Hour Law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151 § 1, for the time that they spend traveling (1) after their last route of the day to return to where they started work (" start-end travel time" ) and (2) during mid-day breaks when the second part of a split shift requires starting at a location different from where the first part ended (" split-shift travel time" ).

II. ANALYSIS

Under Rule 56, I may only grant summary judgment if there is no genuine dispute of material fact and if the undisputed facts demonstrate that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Carmona v. Toledo, 215 F.3d 124, 132 (1st Cir. 2000). The parties are essentially in agreement as to the facts that support these motions.

A. Start-End Travel Time

The FLSA requires employers to pay employees a minimum wage, 29 U.S.C. § 206, and to pay overtime for time worked per week that exceeds forty hours. Id. § 207. " Work" is " 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." Tenn. Coal, Iron & R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321 U.S. 590, 598, 64 S.Ct. 698, 88 L.Ed. 949 (1944). See also Armour & Co. v. Wantock, 323 U.S. 126, 133, 65 S.Ct. 165, 89 L.Ed. 118 (1944)(noting that even active exertion is not required, because a person can be hired to do nothing). This includes work " done at least in part for the benefit of the employer, even though it may also be beneficial to the employee. 'The crucial question is not whether the work was voluntary but rather whether the (employee) was in fact performing services for the benefit of the employer with the knowledge and approval of the employer.'" Secretary of Labor, U.S. Dep't of Labor v. E. R. Field, Inc., 495 F.2d 749, 751 (1st Cir. 1974)(quoting Republican Publishing Co. v. American Newspaper Guild, 172 F.2d 943, 945 (1st Cir. 1949)). The Massachusetts Wage and Hour Law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151, § 1, was " intended to be 'essentially identical'" to the FLSA. Mullally v. Waste Management of Mass., Inc., 452 Mass. 526, 895 N.E.2d 1277, 1281 (Mass. 2008).

The Portal-to-Portal Act amended the FLSA, establishing that regular commuting activities are not compensable. The Act states that an employer need not pay for an employee's " walking, riding, or traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities which such employee is employed to perform" or " activities which are preliminary to or postliminary to said principal activity or activities" if that travel " occur[s] either prior to the time on any particular workday at which such employee commences, or subsequent to the time on any particular workday at which he ceases, such principal activity or activities." 29 U.S.C. § 254(a). Department of Labor regulations further clarify that " ordinary home to work travel" is not compensable work time, regardless whether an employee " works at a fixed location or at different job sites." 29 C.F.R. § 785.35.

Plaintiffs argue that when their shifts begin in one location and end in another, they should be compensated for the time that it takes them to travel from the end of their assigned route back to where they began. The fact that routes are designed with different start and end points is undisputedly for the convenience of the MBTA, not of its employees. It is also undisputed that once an employee ends the last scheduled route of a workday, the employee is not required to do any work for the MBTA and is not required to report back to the starting point to clock out or for any other reason.

The Plaintiffs contend that the time spent traveling from the end of a route back to the start cannot be considered work-to-home travel, because employees often have to return to the starting point to retrieve their cars before heading home. They point out that MBTA employees often report for work before or finish work after the times that the MBTA is running and therefore cannot rely entirely on public transportation. The MBTA counters that it does not require employees to drive to or from work, and that once an employee's final route ends, the employee is free to go wherever and do whatever she wishes with her time. The MBTA argues that there is ...


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