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Interstate Vs. Intrastate: State Supreme Court Weighs Meaning of Overtime Law for Truckers




Did Colorado’s wage regulations entitle four truck drivers to overtime pay because they worked almost exclusively within state lines? Or did Colorado actually mimic federal rules for interstate truckers and render the four men ineligible?

Last week, JP Trucking, Inc., which is based in Gypsum, told the Colorado Supreme Court that the state’s minimum wage order at the time of the plaintiffs’ hiring was patterned after the federal “motor carrier exemption” that prevents drivers involved in interstate commerce from earning overtime pay. Moreover, plaintiffs Leonel Gomez, Francisco Gonzalez, Ebarardo Sanchez and Nathan Abbott all reportedly applied to JP Trucking with the understanding that they would drive in interstate commerce.

On the other hand, the plaintiffs argued that the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, which issues minimum wage orders, wanted to provide protections to workers beyond the motor carrier exemption. They pointed to a 2020 clarification from CDLE stating the department’s “original intent” was to exempt drivers from overtime pay only if their work took them across state lines.

“The only reason they needed new language was because courts were getting it wrong,” attorney Brianne Power argued to the justices on March 8.

Current state regulations have since incorporated the federal overtime standards for drivers and their helpers. But in 2016, when the plaintiffs filed suit against their employer, it is disputed whether the state’s minimum wage order barred the four truckers — who had taken two out-of-state trips in total — from receiving overtime pay.

Under JP Trucking’s interpretation, “interstate drivers” would include those truckers who are authorized to cross state lines and could do so if an assignment required it, even if they ultimately never drive out of state. Multiple industry groups weighed in to the Supreme Court on behalf of the company, arguing that it would be burdensome for companies to track which employees cross state lines and when, so as to comply with a patchwork of state overtime requirements.

The National Armored Car Association pointed out that federal law exempted interstate drivers from overtime pay in order to remove the incentive for drivers to spend more time behind the wheel than is safe. The Colorado Motor Carriers Association reported that 32 states have overtime pay laws, and 23 of those closely track the federal exemption for interstate drivers.

Of the states that have written their own rules for drivers, “has anything bad happened there?” asked Justice Melissa Hart.

“Not that I’m aware of,” responded Jared Ellis, the attorney for JP Trucking.

Power argued that it was erroneous to interpret Colorado’s overtime pay exemption in light of federal law. Her clients worked solely inside Colorado or, in the case of two plaintiffs who took one trip apiece out of state, predominantly in Colorado.

“The phrase ‘interstate drivers’ is the way the occupation or work is defined,” she said. “So driving once (out of state) for 30 minutes would not be enough to make ‘interstate’ a defining characteristic of that driver’s work throughout the rest of their employment.”

“What would?” asked Justice William W. Hood III.

“We know one line crossing is not enough,” Power began to respond.

“Why not?” interjected Hart.

Power replied that an employer could send a driver on an interstate trip during their first week of work and forever make that employee ineligible to collect overtime pay. That maneuver, Power argued, would undermine the intent of Colorado’s wage regulations.

Originally, the plaintiffs alleged in their lawsuit that JP Trucking failed to comply with the Federal Labor Standards Act as well as Colorado’s wage laws in denying them time-and-a-half pay for overtime work. An Eagle County judge sided with the truckers, but the state’s Court of Appeals ordered a further review of the case.

In December 2019, District Court Judge Russell H. Granger determined the truckers were not entitled to overtime pay under federal law after all, but upheld the award of overtime pay pursuant to state law. The two plaintiffs who never traveled out of state were not “interstate drivers,” and the two who did cross state lines once did not qualify as working interstate. Granger awarded the plaintiffs approximately $68,000.

The following year, a three-judge panel for the Court of Appeals reversed that ruling. The panel believed that the state exemptions were patterned after federal law, and CDLE had not clearly stated it wanted to exclude only drivers who cross state lines from receiving overtime pay.

In reaching its conclusion, the panel disagreed with a different set of Court of Appeals judges who had recently ruled that a shuttle driver working out of Denver International Airport was not involved in interstate commerce because he never crossed state lines. The appellate panel in that case, Brunson v. Colorado Cab Company, noted that a decade-old advisory bulletin from CDLE defined interstate drivers to mean only those who work took them across state lines.

Now, the Supreme Court is faced with determining who interpreted the law correctly: the Brunson panel, as the plaintiffs argue, or the panel in the JP Trucking case, as the company contends.

Ellis attempted to downplay the significance of the advisory bulletin, arguing the text of the CDLE document stated that it was not meant to provide legal advice or be an “official record of action or law.”

“If that’s the point, that they really mean nothing,” asked Chief Justice Brian D. Boatright, “why issue them?”

To back up the plaintiffs’ argument that Colorado’s overtime rules covered truckers whose work occurred predominantly in-state, Power pointed to a 2020 publication from CDLE indicating the department believed the Brunson panel had reached the correct decision. The “original intent with this exemption,” CDLE elaborated, was to exempt only those drivers who crossed state lines from overtime pay.

And yet, Hart observed, CDLE had also defined intrastate drivers as those whose work occurred “entirely within” Colorado.

Ultimately, the disagreement in the case extended not just to what Colorado’s wage order meant for intrastate truckers, but whether the plaintiffs fell into that category to begin with.

“Didn’t all four of them go to work expecting they were gonna drive interstate? And is it just random who happened to get assigned to drive intrastate this time?” wondered Justice Richard L. Gabriel. “Why isn’t it true that all four of these gentlemen were hired understanding they were interstate drivers?”

The case is Gomez et al. v. JP Trucking, Inc.

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Fire Under Control Near Fountain Creek Park




Update 11:12 a.m.

Firefighters put out a wildland fire early Thursday in the Fountain area, officials said.

The blaze was reported about 3:45 a.m. on the east side of Fountain Creek and south of Duckwood Park, Fountain police said in news release. Crews from fire departments in Security, Stratmoor Hills, Fort Carson and Hanover responded to heavy smoke and flames.

The fire was about a mile west of Colorado 85.

“The mild weather conditions this morning made it easier for fire crews to get this fire under control quickly,” police said.

The fire burned less than an acre before it was fully contained, officials said. As of Thursday morning, officials said the area is being monitored and might take several hours before the scene is cleared.

The cause of the fire is under investigation but officials said a lightning strike Wednesday afternoon might have ignited it.

Update 11 a.m.: The fire is 100% contained and burned less than one acre. No structures were threatened and no reported injuries.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, however, officials think it possibly started from a lightning strike due to later afternoon storms on Wednesday.

Fountain fire department battled a wildland fire near Fountain Creek Regional Park Thursday morning, Fountain police said.

The fire ignited around 3:30 a.m. between Hwy 85 and Comanche Village Drive and crews managed to get the fire under control, police said.

Containment was 50% as of 7 a.m. but police did not give any estimates of the fire’s size.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, police said.

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911 Lines Down in Fremont and Custer Counties, Officials Say




Fremont and Custer counties have been without 911 services since Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

According to the Fremont County Emergency Management, the lines have been down since 5:15 p.m. Wednesday. The public is asked to not call 911 “to test or check your phone.”

Calls will be be routed to the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, officials said. From there, they will be transferred back to Fremont County dispatchers.

This is a developing story. Check with for updates.

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Alaska Rep. Don Young to Lie in State at US Capitol




Rep. Don Young, the longest-serving Republican in U.S. House history, will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol on March 29.Read More

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