CRST reaches $12.5M settlement in trainee wage lawsuit

December 23, 2020

Tyson Fisher

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A nearly five-year-old wage lawsuit against CRST is nearing the homestretch with a proposed settlement agreement, but a former CRST driver in a separate lawsuit wants the federal court to oppose it.

On Dec. 15, Juan Carlos Montoya, on behalf of a class of thousands of other former CRST driver trainees, reached a preliminary settlement agreement with the mega carrier for a total of $12.5 million. The case is being heard by a Massachusetts federal court.

Filed in January 2016, the lawsuit accuses CRST of not compensating drivers in its training program for hours worked while in training. According to the complaint, the training program is conducted in four phases:

  1. Driver training school (at least one week).
  2. Orientation (3.5 days).
  3. Over-the-road training while paired with a lead driver (28 days).
  4. Continuation training (six months or more).

Montoya alleges that trainees were not paid for the mandatory training in Phases 1 or 2. Rather, “they accumulate alleged debts owed to (CRST) based on (CRST’s) advances for tuition, lodging, drug tests and other fees.”

During the last two phases, CRST trainees are paid a rate per mile for on-duty driving time. However, they are not paid for loading or unloading time, or any other time when the truck is not moving. Accounting for those discrepancies, the calculated wage per hour is less than minimum wage, the lawsuit claims.

After completing one week of the final phase, Montoya claims CRST begins to deduct $40 a week from wages for advances during the first two phases plus interest of 1.5% each month. Deductions are made until all debts are fulfilled. However, the lawsuit claims CRST never reveals the full amount of the debt to drivers.

Additionally, if a driver’s contract is terminated before 10 months of employment is completed, CRST will charge that driver $6,500 in addition to the above debt obligations.

Montoya’s lawsuit and settlement is being combined with two similar lawsuit in other courts. If approved by the court, the settlement will also resolve claims in a pending lawsuit in a Florida state court and another in a Massachusetts federal court. The preliminary agreement includes claims on federal wage laws and state wage laws in Iowa and Florida.

In addition to the $12.5 million, another $2.5 million is being set aside for potential unpaid sleeper berth claims. Earlier in litigation, the district court allowed sleeper berth claims to be included. However, CRST has the right to appeal that decision. If CRST loses that appeal, the $2.5 million will be added to funds for the federal wage claims class.

Former CRST driver opposes settlement

One day after the preliminary settlement agreement was filed, a former CRST driver involved in a separate lawsuit in a California federal court filed an objection to the settlement.

Plaintiffs in the Markson v. CRST lawsuit are claiming the agreement is overbroad. Specifically, the settlement agreement requires plaintiffs in Montoya’s case to not bring further action against the company. However, Markson attorneys claim this will disqualify class members in their case with overlapping claims.

Markson attorneys filed a similar objection in the settlement between Western Express and a class of its former trainees. In May, a California federal court judge in that case denied the proposed settlement, partly due to Markson attorney’s objection. Western Express had to submit another proposed settlement agreement that amends language in the release section to exclude plaintiffs in the Markson case. LL

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Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.