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Bus drivers sue MTA, claiming agency has denied them overtime pay since October 2015

Six bus drivers are suing the Maryland Transit Administration in federal court, claiming they have been denied overtime pay since October 2015.
Six bus drivers are suing the Maryland Transit Administration in federal court, claiming they have been denied overtime pay since October 2015. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

Six bus drivers are suing the Maryland Transit Administration in federal court, claiming they have been denied overtime pay since October 2015.

The drivers say their class-action suit, initially filed in in Baltimore City Circuit Court late last month, could apply to as many as 200 current drivers. The state moved the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on Monday.

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Each driver is seeking more than $75,000, and they are collectively seeking a court order to require the MTA to pay overtime as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“The MTA has repeatedly failed to pay overtime to its operators and continues to pay hours in excess of forty (40) hours at an operator/s regular straight time,” the lawsuit says. “The MTA’s failure to pay overtime earned by the Plaintiffs and the members of the class was in bad faith and was not the result of a bona fide dispute.”

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On its first anniversary, Gov. Larry Hogan’s $135 million BaltimoreLink bus system’s LocalLink and ExpressLink buses are on time about 68 percent of the time, an improvement from the previous year, but still well short of the Maryland Transit Administration’s 80 percent goal.

The MTA said Monday it cannot comment on matters in litigation.

David McClure, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1300, which represents the MTA’s bus, metro and light rail drivers, said Monday that the union was not part of the lawsuit.

“We have no knowledge of the lawsuit,” he said. “We’re looking into it.”

The six drivers are Joseph Johnson, John C. Poteat, Lynette Everett, Lamont D. Jackson, Marshall E. Gwynn and Erika Bannister.

Their attorney, James M. Ray II of the Baltimore firm Mallon & McCool, said the union’s collective bargaining agreement with the MTA only requires the agency to pay drivers “straight time” beyond 40 hours, not the federally required time-and-a-half.

“You can’t contract around federal law, or state law for that matter,” Ray said. “The [Fair Labor Standards Act] is pretty clear on what it requires and what it doesn’t.”

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake.

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