Nashville, Tenn., trucking company Western Express has agreed to pay thousands of drivers a total of nearly $4 million in a settlement for a class action lawsuit. The lawsuit accuses the company of intentionally failing to compensate drivers for hours worked.
On Jan. 11, Western Express reached an agreement with the drivers for $3.825 million five years after the lawsuit was filed. The trucking company agreed to the amount while denying liability and disputing damages.
On Jan. 13, 2014, drivers for Western Express filed the lawsuit, claiming the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. More specifically, the lawsuit claims drivers were not paid the federal minimum wage as a result of Western Express:
- Failing to compensate newly hired drivers for time spend during its initial orientation program.
- Failing to compensate drivers for travel time spent traveling during normal business hours.
- Failing to compensate newly hired drivers for all compensable time worked during its over-the-road training program.
- Failing to compensate drivers for all compensable hours.
Newly hired drivers were required to attend a multiple-day orientation program in locations throughout the United States, according to the lawsuit. Classes ran nine or 10 hours per day for approximately one week. Plaintiffs in the case were not paid for the orientation period.
After orientation, certain drivers were required to participate in an over-the-road training program that lasted for at least 30 days. Plaintiffs in the case were paid a flat salary of $375 per workweek for all work performed during the training program. During the training program, drivers were required to remain on the road or in the general proximity of their truck more than 24 consecutive hours.
According to the lawsuit, the maximum amount of time an employer may dock an employee who is on assignment for more than 24 hours for sleeping and meal periods is eight hours per day. The remaining 16 hours per day is work time and must be paid. Due to various duties that rendered drivers continually on assignment, plaintiffs argued they should have been paid 16 hours a day, or $116 per day at the federal minimum wage.
The $375 weekly salary is the equivalent of 51.72 hours of minimum wage work. However, plaintiffs claim that they worked significantly more than 52 hours per workweek.
Veteran drivers or drivers who have completed the training program were paid a per-mileage rate. Western Express paid one driver 14-22 cents per mile, another 18 cents per mile and a third driver 14 cents per mile. Calculated by averaging number of hours worked per week, per-mile drivers were paid less than minimum wage.
Using the same formula and logic as the trainee drivers, plaintiffs argued that per-mile drivers should earn $116 per day. However, at least one driver was paid only $181.72 in gross earnings for the week after driving 1,300 miles during a seven-day period, the equivalent of 25.06 hours at minimum wage.
Eventually, more than 4,000 drivers and former drivers joined the lawsuit. Each class member will receive a flat $50 payment plus an additional pro-rated amount for each week worked. The settlement will provide an average of $450 per driver, after fees, costs and administrative expenses are paid, but before taxes. The money includes approximately 30 percent of potential damages on sleeper berth and per diem claims. Attorney fees will account for one-third of the settlement.
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