C.R. England settles Premier training school lawsuit for $19M
March 11, 2020
C.R. England has agreed to a settlement worth nearly $19 million in a lawsuit that alleges the company misled thousands of trainees into believing that enrolling in its for-profit training school would guarantee employment.
On Feb. 24, C.R. England and plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed a motion for preliminary approval of a settlement. According to the settlement document, C.R. England has agreed to pay $18.6 million, including $3.6 million for a cash settlement payout and $15 million for debt forgiveness.
The settlement will put an end to a lawsuit that accuses C.R. England of luring approximately 12,600 trucker trainees into its for-profit training school, Premier Truck Driving School, with the false hope of employment upon completion of training.
In May 2016, a class action lawsuit was filed in a federal district court in Utah.
In addition to a standard wage lawsuit typical in trucking, former trainees accuse the carrier of falsely advertising its for-profit training school Premier.
According to the complaint, C.R. England failed to pay for rest breaks and all hours worked under California state law, which is defined as “the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer, and includes all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.” Drivers were also deprived of the required 30-minute meal period.
The lawsuit also accuses the company of inducing applicants to relocate to Fontana, Calif., and other locations to attend its Premier Truck Driving School. According to the lawsuit, C.R. England told applicants that by attending Premier they would get a “guaranteed job” as a well-paid, full-time truck driver. Premier costs thousands of dollars for the 17-day program.
Once hired, C.R. England required drivers to enter into an agreement that would force them to pay the company $2,500 for leaving. The megacarrier also required drivers to agree to pay back Premier expenses. However, the promissory note did not include the annual percentage rate and finance charge. Allegedly, drivers were charged 18% interest, which was compounded daily. This rate exceeds California’s maximum rate allowed, which is 10% per annum. The promissory note also falsely indicated that the debt would be satisfied if the drivers were able to complete the term of their employment.
“The business objective of the training program was not to prepare drivers for long-term employment with C.R. England,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, the training program was designed and run as an independent profit-making enterprise. C.R. England’s profit in the transaction was generated not by its continued employment of its own trainees, but rather by the volume of aspiring drivers, which it could charge for its training program.”
The lawsuit accuses C.R. England of churning out more students than it could employ. Consequently, a revolving door was created that led to drivers from the training school being fired within a year to make room for the new batch of drivers.
Drivers also accuse the company of having them sign “a series of unconscionable legal documents, which they had little or no opportunity to read or comprehend.” In addition to the promissory note and $2,500 fine for leaving the company, drivers also signed an illegal agreement that prohibited them from working for anyone else for at least nine months.
The case was put on hold for more than two years starting January 2017 through November 2019. During that time, the court was awaiting the conclusion of a similar lawsuit against C.R. England before moving forward.
Attorneys relied on a different case filed in 2008 and closed in 2014, Jasper v. C.R. England in a California federal district court, to determine the settlement amount. In Jasper, the court approved a $4.5 million cash payment for 16,600 drivers.