A recent lawsuit filed in Palm Beach County, Florida, reminds us that school bus drivers are generally not exempt from federal overtime rules. Despite very clear case law, many school districts and bus companies throughout the country still unknowingly shortchange their drivers.
Since the Great Depression, Congress has made it clear that hourly workers should get paid time and one half for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours during a seven-day period. Over the years, Congress has added several exemptions to the overtime rules, but school bus drivers generally do not fit in any of these exemptions.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that most workers be paid “at a rate not less than one and one-half times the [employee’s] regular rate” of pay for work in excess of 40 hours in any workweek.
Over the years, Congress has added some broad exceptions for certain types of salaried workers. Those include professionals, administrative, executive, certain IT workers, and outside sales representatives. None of those exceptions apply to school bus drivers.
A few school districts believe that the professional services exemption applies because school bus drivers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to drive a bus. The confusion exists in school districts because the professional services exemption often applies to teachers.
School bus drivers are not “professionals” as that term is defined under the FLSA. That means unlike many teachers, school bus drivers are entitled to overtime pay. Yet many school districts and bus companies think bus drivers are exempt.
Because the FLSA requires the employer to pay a worker’s legal fees if the worker wins a lawsuit, it becomes even more important for school districts and bus drivers to understand their rights and obligations under the Fair Labor Standards Act.