Truck Drivers Win Pay Fight Against Wal-Martby Jana Ritter - Published: 11/26/2016
A group of truck drivers in California fought the mega giant Wal-Mart and won. On Wednesday, a federal jury determined that the company intentionally failed to pay hundreds of drivers the state minimum wage, and awarded the truck drivers in the suit $54 million in damages.
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More than 800 truck drivers who were employed by Wal-Mart between October 2005 and October 2015 were initially seeking $72 million in damages, mostly from unpaid time due to layovers. Their attorneys had also argued that additional damages and penalties could increase that total to more than $150 million. But Wal-Mart attorneys argued that like many employers in the trucking industry, Wal-Mart does not pay their drivers by the hour and instead bases the pay on mileage and specified activities on the job.
However, the truck drivers’ attorneys pointed to a ruling in their favor from U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, who said last year that Wal-Mart would be in violation of California law if it enforced its driver pay manuals, which clearly state there is no pay earned for certain tasks. They also argued that drivers weren’t being paid minimum wage for layover time, yet Wal-Mart treated it as time on the job by requiring drivers to stay with their trucks during layovers.
Wal-Mart attorneys pointed out that the company pays drivers $42 for 10-hour overnight layovers as an extra benefit, and also does not control their time during that period. They even stated to the jury that drivers are free to go to the movies, exercise or do other activities during layover periods. They also argued that the driver pay manual lists activities that the drivers are paid for and many of those categories include other, smaller tasks that do not have a separate payment designation or are simply tasks that take minutes to do. Attorney Scott Edelman chalked up the situation to a baker charging a flat fee for a cake, rather than all the individual separate tasks required to make the cake. “When you pay a baker $20 to bake a cake, what are you paying that baker to do? Is it just to put the cake in the oven for however long? Because that's essentially what the plaintiffs are arguing,” Edelman said during his closing argument.
Nevertheless, the seven jurors returned their verdict siding with the truck drivers that the company was not paying them in accordance to California law. A judge will rule on the final amount of civil penalties to be paid by Wal-Mart.