Abel v. Southern Shuttle Services, Inc.
This case was before the Eleventh Circuit for the second time. Plaintiff, a former driver of Defendant Southern Shuttle Services, Inc.’s airport shuttle vans, filed the action under the FLSA seeking unpaid overtime pay. In the first appeal, the Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s entry of summary judgment in Southern Shuttle’s favor because Southern Shuttle’s airport shuttle service did not fall within the “taxicab exemption” to the FLSA’s overtime provisions. See Abel v. S. Shuttle Servs., Inc., 301 F. App’x 856 (11th Cir.2008). After remand, Southern Shuttle filed a second motion for summary judgment, arguing that its airport shuttle van drivers fall under the Motor Carrier Act exemption in 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(1). The district court agreed and granted Southern Shuttle summary judgment. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed.
The Court outlined the following facts pertinent to its inquiry:
“Southern Shuttle operates a shared-ride airport shuttle, known as “SuperShuttle,” that transports passengers to and from three South Florida airports (Miami International Airport, Palm Beach International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport). From December 19, 2005 to June 24, 2007, Abel worked for Defendant Southern Shuttle as a shuttle driver, driving passengers to and from airports. Abel, like all shuttle drivers, was paid commission and tips, but not overtime compensation. Abel’s employment ended after he refused to transport a passenger with a payment voucher and made the passenger exit the shuttle van, in violation of Southern Shuttle’s policy.
The shuttles are large nine- and ten-person passenger vans. The shuttles pick up passengers at one of the airports and take them to any location in the area (such as a residence, office or hotel), or pick them up at any location in the area and take them to one of the airports. Shuttle drivers do not transport passengers to or from locations outside of Florida. Some shuttle passengers are transported to the airports so they can travel via air carrier to other states or countries. Other shuttle passengers are transported from the airports after having flown from other states or countries.
Many shuttle passengers arrange for shuttle transportation by contacting Southern Shuttle directly. Passengers traveling to the airport make reservations ahead of time and schedule a trip to the airport. Similarly, passengers traveling from the airport check in at a SuperShuttle airport kiosk or counter or with a curbside representative to be assigned to the next available shuttle.
Southern Shuttle’s president, Mark Levitt averred that: (1) “[a] large portion of the reservations made with Southern Shuttle are through internet package deals wherein a traveler buys a package deal from a third party company that includes airfare, hotel accommodations and transportation to and from the airport”; (2) “the traveler receives a voucher for free transportation to and from the airport and provides the voucher to Southern Shuttle in lieu of payment”; and (3) “Southern Shuttle then prepares an invoice to the third party company for payment.” These third party companies include internet travel web sites such as Expedia.com, Travelocity, Orbitz, CheapTickets, a German company called Viator, a company in the United Kingdom called Get a Bed, and American Express, among others.”
Affirming the lower court’s decision, the Eleventh Circuit reasoned:
“[T]he Supreme Court’s Morris decision involved a general cartage business that primarily transported steel around the Detroit area either within local steel plants or to and from local steel plants. 332 U.S. at 427, 68 S.Ct. at 133. A small percentage of the employer’s trips, roughly four percent, involved transporting miscellaneous freight to and from Detroit boat docks, railroad depots and freight terminals. Id. at 427 & n. 7, 68 S.Ct. at 133 & n. 7. Although these trips did not cross state lines, they nonetheless met the de minimus interstate commerce requirement because they transported freight “in interstate commerce, either as part of continuous interstate movements or of interstate movements begun or terminated in metropolitan Detroit.” Id. at 427, 432-33, 68 S.Ct. at 133, 136.
Other cases make clear that trips within a single state are made in interstate commerce when they are part of “a practical continuity of movement of the goods” in interstate commerce. Walling v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 317 U.S. at 568, 63 S.Ct. at 335 (involving wholesale distributor of paper products made outside the state but transported only to customers within the state); see also Baez, 938 F.2d at 181-82 (involving armored trucks delivering to Florida banks checks and other instruments bound for banks outside Florida); Galbreath v. Gulf Oil Corp., 413 F.2d 941 (5th Cir.1969) (involving oil company’s transport within Georgia of petroleum products originating from refineries in Texas and Mississippi); Opelika Royal Crown Bottling Co. v. Goldberg, 299 F.2d 37 (5th Cir.1962) (involving wholesale soft drink distributor transporting drinks bottled in Georgia from Alabama warehouse to Alabama customers and returning empty bottles to Alabama warehouse, where other trucks took them back to Georgia).
The Third Circuit distinguished the transportation of passengers from goods. See Packard v. Pittsburgh Transp. Co., 418 F.3d 246 (3d Cir.2005). The employer in Packard provided transportation to the elderly and disabled in Allegheny County, which included trips to train and bus stations and to the airport. Id. at 248-49. The Third Circuit concluded that this transportation service did not fall within the Secretary’s jurisdiction because it was not “in practical continuity with a larger interstate journey.” Id. at 258. Because Morris involved transportation of goods not passengers, the Third Circuit looked at cases arising in other contexts that defined interstate transportation of passengers, including United States v. Yellow Cab Co., 332 U.S. 218, 67 S.Ct. 1560, 91 L.Ed. 2010 (1947), overruled on other grounds by Copperweld Corp. v. Independence Tube Corp., 467 U.S. 752, 104 S.Ct. 2731, 81 L.Ed.2d 628 (1984), a Sherman Act case.
In Yellow Cab, the Supreme Court described interstate commerce as “an intensely practical concept drawn from the normal and accepted course of business.” Id. at 231, 67 S.Ct. at 1567. Because “the limits of an interstate shipment of goods” may be different than “the commonly accepted limits of an individual’s interstate journey,” courts must “mark the beginning and end of a particular kind of interstate commerce by its own practical considerations.” Id. In light of these practical considerations, the Supreme Court concluded that, “in the absence of some special arrangement,” a taxi ride to or from a railroad station at the beginning or end of an interstate journey ordinarily is a local trip that is not within interstate commerce. Id. at 231-32, 67 S.Ct. at 1567. However, where the railroad “contract[s] with the passengers to supply between-station transportation in Chicago,” the taxi ride “is clearly a part of the stream of interstate commerce.” Id. at 228, 67 S.Ct. at 1565-66. The Supreme Court explained that “[w]hen persons or goods move from a point of origin in one state to a point of destination in another, the fact that a part of that journey consists of transportation by an independent agency solely within the boundaries of one state does not make that portion of the trip any less interstate in character.” Id. at 228, 67 S.Ct. at 1566.
Relying on the distinctions drawn in Yellow Cab, the Third Circuit noted that the transportation of the elderly and disabled in Packard “involves no joint fare or ticketing arrangement, and no prior arrangement of any kind, contractual or otherwise, with the railroads, airlines, or other companies.” Packard, 418 F.3d at 258. The Third Circuit cited “through ticketing” as “one example of a common arrangement involving both intra and interstate portions of passenger transport” but concluded that it was “not the only means of establishing that passenger transport operating intrastate is in practical continuity with a larger interstate journey.” Id. (emphasis omitted). Highlighting the “lack of coordination with other transportation,” such as through “a prepackaged tour,” the Third Circuit concluded that the transportation service in Packard was “purely intrastate.” Id.
4. Southern Shuttle
Guided by the interstate commerce principles in Walters, Morris and Yellow Cab, we conclude that the purely intrastate transport of passengers to and from an airport may, under certain circumstances, constitute interstate commerce and thus bring the transportation company within the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Transportation. Those circumstances are present here.
Many of Southern Shuttle’s passengers to and from the airport have either just flown from, or are about to fly to, places outside the state of Florida. A large portion of Southern Shuttle’s reservations are made via travel websites on the internet. Travelers buy package deals from these internet travel companies that include hotel accommodations and airfare in addition to transportation to and from the airport. The internet travel companies provide their package-deal customers with a voucher for free airport transportation, which the customers use to board Southern Shuttle’s airport shuttles. Southern Shuttle then uses the collected vouchers to invoice the internet travel company for payment. In other words, Southern Shuttle’s local transport of these package-deal travelers has a “practical continuity of movement” with the overall interstate journey.
Furthermore, Southern Shuttle’s arrangement with internet travel companies to provide airport shuttle service for their package-deal customers meets the “common arrangement” requirement discussed in Walters. Indeed, Southern Shuttle’s voucher system resembles in many respects the voucher system the bus company used for cruise ship passengers in Walters. In sum, we conclude that Southern Shuttle has shown that it is subject to the Secretary of Transportation’s jurisdiction under the MCA.
C. Secretary’s MCA Jurisdiction over Abel’s Work-Related Activities
We next address the second requirement: whether the Secretary’s jurisdiction extends to Abel’s work-related activities at Southern Shuttle. To satisfy this requirement, Southern Shuttle must show that Abel “engage[d] in activities of a character directly affecting the safety of operation of motor vehicles in the transportation on the public highways of passengers or property in interstate or foreign commerce within the meaning of the Motor Carrier Act.” 29 C.F.R. § 782.2(a). Abel does not dispute that, as an airport shuttle driver, he engaged in activities that directly affected the safety of operation of motor vehicles in the transportation of passengers on the public highways. Thus, the only issue presented is whether Abel’s activities as an airport shuttle driver constituted “interstate commerce” within the meaning of the MCA. Here, the issue is easily resolved because Abel performed Southern Shuttle’s core airport shuttle transport activity. Having already concluded that Southern Shuttle’s airport shuttle service was transportation of passengers in interstate commerce that subjected it to the Secretary’s jurisdiction, we conclude that Abel’s activities in driving the airport shuttle also constitute interstate commerce.”
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