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Harris v. Medical Transportation Management

In this combined class action and collective action lawsuit, our clients are drivers providing non-emergency medical transportation services in the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs allege that Medical Transportation Management, Inc. (MTM) failed to pay them legally required wages. Pursuant to contracts with the District, MTM is responsible for providing non-emergency medical transportation services to Medicaid recipients. As a contractor with the District, MTM is obligated to pay the drivers not only the minimum wage but also the D.C. living wage. Instead, MTM typically paid the drivers either flat weekly rates or trip rates that, when divided by the number of hours worked, resulted in an effective hourly wage falling below the required minimum wage and living wage rates and failed to include a premium rate for overtime.

After the case was filed, MTM moved to dismiss all of the claims in the lawsuit, arguing that the plaintiffs had failed to state a claim for relief. After briefing was completed, the district court held oral argument on the motion to dismiss on January 22, 2018. On March 5, 2018, the court denied MTM’s motion to dismiss as to all but one claim. First, the court held the plaintiffs had plausibly alleged that MTM was their joint employer under federal and D.C. wage laws. Second, the court held the plaintiffs had stated a claim under an alternative theory of liability that MTM was a general contractor under D.C. wage laws and, therefore, liable for the wage violations of its subcontractors. Third, the court rejected MTM’s argument that it was exempt from D.C. Living Wage Act as a provider of “direct care services.” Lastly, the court dismissed plaintiffs’ third-party beneficiary breach of contract claim.

On July 17, 2018, the Court certified a collective action under the FLSA of “all individuals who provided transportation services under the [non-emergency medical transportation] contracts between [MTM] and the District of Columbia at any time during the period from October 2, 2014, to the present,” and also tolled the limitations period for putative collective members from October 2, 2017, until 90 days after the notice issued. The Court held Plaintiffs had shown that the potential opt-in plaintiffs may be similarly situated to the named plaintiffs with regard to the alleged violations of the FLSA by demonstrating that they were subject to a common plan or policy that violated the law.

On September 10, 2018, the Court authorized a Notice to be sent to all current and former non-emergency medical transportation drivers who provided transportation services under the contracts between MTM and the District of Columbia at any time from October 2, 2014, through the present. The Notice provides that persons who provided non-emergency medical transportation services as a driver under MTM’s contracts with the District of Columbia, even if they worked directly for a transportation provider or another entity, and were not paid minimum or overtime wages any time between October 2, 2014, and the present were eligible to join the lawsuit. The Notice further states that drivers who wish to join the lawsuit can do so by completing, signing, and mailing the above “Consent to Join Collective Action” form to the following address: Harris v. MTM, c/o Settlement Services, Inc., P.O. Box 1568, Tallahassee, FL 32302-1568. The form must be returned by December 18, 2018; if the form is not returned in time, a driver may not be able to participate and may lose his or her right to any compensation for damages suffered.

In July 2019, MTM moved to compel arbitration as to certain claims of two of the three named plaintiffs based on purported “independent contractor agreements” between those two named plaintiffs and a subcontractor. On December 5, 2019, the court denied MTM’s motion to compel arbitration, holding that MTM had presumptively forfeited any right to compel arbitration and could not overcome that presumption because of the resulting prejudice to plaintiffs.

Also in July 2019, we moved for certification of a class consisting of drivers who have provided transportation services to MTM clients in the District of Columbia under any contract with the District of Columbia at any time from three years prior to the filing of this case through the date on which notice is issued affording the right to opt out. MTM opposed the motion for class certification and moved to strike an expert report filed in support of the class certification motion. On September 24, 2020, the Court issued a memorandum opinion and order denying class certification, holding that differences in the pay systems used by each of the sub-contractors would require individualized inquiries into the amount of compensable work each putative class member performed. The Court, however, held open the possibility of certifying a class on the issue of whether MTM is a joint employer or general contractor. On December 7, 2020, we filed a supplemental memorandum providing additional support for certifying a class under Rule 23(c)(4), so that issues common to members of the proposed class may be adjudicated together. At the same time, MTM filed a motion to decertify the FLSA collective action. On August 6, 2021, the Court issued an opinion denying MTM’s motion to decertify the collective and granting our motion for class certification on the issues of whether MTM is a joint employer or general contractor.

MTM then filed in the DC Circuit a Rule 23(f) petition for interlocutory review of the district court’s class certification decision under Rule 23(c)(4) and filed a motion in the district court seeking leave to appeal the certification of the FLSA collective action. The district court denied the motion, and the DC Circuit granted the petition. Our brief in the DC Circuit explains that the district court’s class certification decision was correct, that the DC Circuit should not exercise pendent appellate jurisdiction over the FLSA collective action decision, and that the district court’s FLSA collective action decision was correct.

On July 18, 2023, the DC Circuit issued an opinion remanding for further consideration the district court’s order certifying an issue class under Rule 23(c)(4), and declining to exercise pendent appellate jurisdiction over the district court’s denial of decertification of the FLSA collective. The parties then submitted additional briefing in the district court regarding class certification. On January 19, 2024, the district court reaffirmed its certification of an issue class under Rule 23(c)(4) to determine whether MTM is a joint employer and general contractor, and the court ordered the parties to submit a proposed notice to the class. Our motion for summary judgment on the joint employer and general contractor issues remains pending.