MBJ Client Victory: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules That School Bus Drivers Are Not Eligible for Overtime Compensation

Morgan, Brown & Joy scored a significant victory February 8, 2018, on behalf of Eastern Bus Company, a Massachusetts bus and transportation business that provides both municipal school and charter bus services.  The case centered on whether an exemption to eligibility for overtime compensation contained in the Massachusetts statutes created a blanket overtime exemption for employees of Eastern Bus.  In Casseus v. Eastern Bus Co., Inc., ___ Mass. ___, Case No. SJC-12315 (Feb. 8, 2018), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court agreed with the arguments made by Morgan, Brown & Joy and concluded that the statutory exemption applied to the bus drivers employed at Eastern Bus.  In this matter, Morgan, Brown & Joy attorneys Damien M. DiGiovanni and Joseph P. McConnell represented Eastern Bus at the Supreme Judicial Court and in all lower proceedings.

The case was brought and certified as a class action, encompassing all bus drivers working for Eastern Bus.  They alleged that each week they worked a combination of hours driving school children to and from school, as well as a number of “charter” bus runs unrelated to the school transportation.   The drivers claimed that, pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 151, § 1A, they were eligible for overtime compensation (i.e., time and one-half) for any hours totaling over 40 hours per week that they worked.

Eastern Bus defended the case on the grounds that the Massachusetts overtime statute exempted from overtime compensation any employee of an employer that is “licensed and regulated pursuant to [Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 159A].”  Chapter 159A is the so-called “common carrier” statute, under which the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) regulates and governs all motor vehicle common carriers, including charter bus services.

“The plain language of the overtime statute, however, exempts any employee whose employer is licensed and regulated pursuant to the common carrier statute, rather than any employee who performs a service for which a license is required under the common carrier statute.”  Casseus, slip op. at 3.  Accordingly, the Court concluded that where the plaintiff-bus drivers were employed by Eastern Bus, which had maintained its DPU license pursuant to Chapter 159A since 1998, those drivers were not entitled to receive overtime compensation under the State statute.

This decision saved all DPU-licensed bus companies in Massachusetts, and the taxpayers of the municipalities that hire them, millions of dollars in potential backpay exposure and attorneys’ fees, both retroactively and in the future.  The case can be found at Casseus v. Eastern Bus Co., Inc.