Truck drivers granted partial summary judgment in J.B. Hunt wage case

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line associate editor | Monday, July 30, 2018

A class of truck drivers for J.B. Hunt Transport were granted partial summary judgment in a case that alleged the trucking company’s compensation system violates California law by failing to pay drivers for meal and rest breaks.

U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner granted on July 23 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California partial summary judgment over compensation for meal and rest breaks but denied summary judgment in other areas.

In a lawsuit that dates back to 2007, truck driver Gerardo Ortega and about 11,000 others allege that J.B. Hunt, which is headquartered in Lowell, Ark., failed to pay them at least minimum wage for certain job-related activities.

The plaintiffs made a motion for partial summary judgment for several claims. To prevail on a summary judgment motion, the party must show there are no triable issues of material fact as to matters upon which has the burden of proof at trial.

The court concluded that J.B. Hunt’s piece-rate formula violated California law as it “fails to separately compensate drivers for meal and rest breaks and other nonproductive time.”

“Instead of separately compensating drivers for these tasks, defendant argues that it builds pay for these tasks into the mileage and activity pay rates that drivers receive,” the court wrote. “But it is no defense to argue that the (activity-based pay) formula is designed to ‘build-in’ compensation for these tasks because California law requires employers to separately compensate employees for nonproductive tasks that are not explicitly included within the piece-rate pay formula. In other words, ‘when employees are required to perform a task that precludes them from earning piece-rate compensation, they must be directly compensated for that time.’”

According to court documents, J.B. Hunt’s drivers were asked to perform tasks like fueling vehicles and filling out paperwork.

“But defendant’s (activity-based pay) formula – based on miles driven and deliveries made – precludes drivers from earning piece-rate compensation,” the court wrote.

The court declined to issue summary judgment on whether or not J.B. Hunt is liable for failing to pay drivers minimum or agreed-upon wages. The court wrote that it remains the plaintiffs’ burden to prove that at trial.

Summary judgment was declined on the truck drivers’ motions on whether J.B. Hunt acted in good faith and whether J.B. Hunt’s wage statements violate California law.

The case is set for trial in September.

 

 

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