Judge decertifies class in J.B. Hunt wage case

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line associate editor | 8/13/2018

A federal judge has decertified a class of more than 11,000 truck drivers who accuse J.B. Hunt Transport of failing to pay them minimum wage and for meals and rest breaks.

Judge R. Gary Klausner granted J.B. Hunt’s motion to decertify the class on Aug. 7 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

J.B. Hunt, which is headquartered in Lowell, Ark., argued that the drivers who comprised the class were paid through 190 different pay plans and that because of the variations in pay plans, individual inquiries will predominate over any common questions on each claim.

“Plaintiffs have proposed no manageable way to narrow the class or determine which class members were subject to the unlawful activity-based pay plan without looking at each class members’ individual activity logs and payroll documents,” the court wrote. “The court therefore finds individual issues would overwhelm the common questions presented in plaintiffs’ wage claims.”

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2007 and includes truck drivers Gerardo Ortega and Michael D. Patton as lead plaintiffs.

In July, the court granted partial summary judgment to the truck drivers over compensation for meal and rest breaks. 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.’”

In reference to Patton specifically, J.B. Hunt argued that Patton’s reason for not taking breaks wasn’t because the company didn’t allow breaks but because he wanted to earn more money.

“But in making this argument, defendant tacitly admits that drivers who took rest breaks made less money than those who skipped rest breaks,” the court wrote. “As a result, drivers suffered a ‘deduction from wages’ if they chose to take rest breaks. This violates the wage order.”

A trial is scheduled for September.



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