Werner asks court to dismiss sleeper berth claims

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | Friday, March 03, 2017

On Feb. 3, a Nebraska federal court ruled that Werner Enterprises wasn’t obligated to pay for sleeper berth time when truck drivers are required to be away from home for 24 hours or more. However, the court didn’t dismiss all of the plaintiffs’ sleeper berth claims and allowed the class action lawsuit to go forward.

Now, Werner is asking for the court to dismiss all sleeper berth claims and to decertify the class. Werner turned in its motion to the U.S. District Court in Nebraska on Feb. 28.

The lawsuit involves Werner’s Student Driver Program, where students were paid a flat weekly rate while training with an experienced driver for about eight weeks. Werner paid trainers the higher amount of $50 per day or $7.25 per “on-duty” hour. Philip Petrone and the other student drivers in the lawsuit allege that minimum wage laws were violated because Werner improperly designated significant amounts of legally compensable time as “off-duty” leading to under-compensation.

“Werner requests that the Court clarify its Feb. 3 order to hold that Werner is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ sleeper berth claims because the Court has rejected the only theory of sleeper berth liability certified by Judge Strom and because Plaintiffs did not produce any evidence of damages computed under a theory that drivers are only entitled to compensation for on-call sleeper berth time logged during continuous 24-hour shifts,” Werner’s attorneys wrote. “In the alternative, Werner requests an order decertifying Plaintiffs’ sleeper berth claims.”

The plaintiffs’ expert miscalculated, Werner contends.

“Plaintiffs’ expert admits he was told to assume all sleeper berth hours over eight in any 24-hour period were compensable and to calculate damages accordingly. Plaintiffs’ expert did not consider any off-duty breaks or otherwise take into account whether the driver was on duty for any particular period of time. Instead, he just added up all sleeper berth hours over eight in any 24-hour period and assessed damages at the minimum wage for every hour over eight per day.”

The plaintiffs and class members are current and former Werner truck drivers who participated in Werner’s student driver program.

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