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Wal-Mart Loss: Employee Drivers Must Be Paid For All Time Working

In the United States under both state and federal laws, trucking companies generally cannot pay their employee drivers for only "bill of lading hours." Companies/employers must pay their employee drivers from the time the drivers report for duty until they are released from duty for the day-not just for "bill of lading hours."

JURY VERDICT IN CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT: In November 2016, a California federal jury found that Wal-Mart violated California's minimum wage law when Wal-Mart failed to pay its employee drivers for all of the tasks they do throughout the day. The jury awarded the class of employee drivers $54 million in damages! With additional damages and penalties, the total that Wal-Mart may have to pay could be as much $150 million.

In this well publicized class action lawsuit, there were nearly 840 past and present Wal-Mart drivers in the class. This case is called Ridgeway et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. et al., Case Number 3:08-cv-05221, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

FAILURE TO PAY DRIVERS FOR CERTAIN TASKS: Under California law, the employee drivers must be paid for all of the time they were subject to Wal-Mart's control. Wages are based on mileage and specified activities.

DRIVERS WERE PAID ONLY BY "MILES DRIVEN": Wal-Mart employee truck drivers were not paid by the hour. Employee truck drivers were paid only by "miles driven." The attorney for the class of truck drivers claimed that the drivers were essentially working for free during required non-driving tasks such as pre-trip inspections and mandatory breaks. Wal-Mart argued (unsuccessfully) that the per mile pay rate was enough to cover non-driving tasks.

REQUIRED LAYOVER PERIOD: One of the big issues that pushed the verdict to $54 million in damages is that Wal-Mart does not pay its employee drivers during the required 10 hour layover period. Employee drivers sleep in their cabs during layovers.

The attorney for the class of truck drivers argued successfully that the truck drivers should be paid at least minimum wage for the 10 hour layovers because Wal-Mart controlled their time by requiring the employee truck drivers to actually stay with their trucks during that layover.

Wal-Mart argued (unsuccessfully) that it should not have to pay the drivers for the 10 hour layover because the drivers were not under Wal-Mart's control during the 10 hour layover.

JURY FOUND IN FAVOR OF WAL-MART ON SOME ISSUES: The jury found in favor of Wal-Mart on some issues and in favor of the class of truck drivers on other issues. For example, the jury found in favor of Wal-Mart on not paying for time spent fueling, performing adjustments, washing trucks, etc.

The jury found against Wal-Mart on issues such as paying for federally mandated 10 hour layover breaks. The jury also found that Wal-Mart failed to pay the employee drivers for pre and post trip inspections and California required rest breaks.

WAL-MART LIKELY TO APPEAL: Wal-Mart spokesman Randy Hargrove said that Wal-Mart is likely to appeal this jury verdict. He said Wal-Mart officials do not believe the facts support the decision. Hargrove commented that the Wal-Mart drivers are among the highest paid in the trucking industry earning from $80,000 to over $100,000 per year. Hargrove said that Wal-Mart believes its drivers are paid in compliance with California law and often in excess of what California law requires.

QUESTIONS?: Contact Attorney Nancy E. Joerg who can be reached at Wessels Sherman's St. Charles, Illinois office: 630-377-1554 or email her at najoerg@wesselssherman.com.

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