Western Express reaches renewed $1.4M settlement in wage lawsuit
November 10, 2020
A second proposed settlement for a wage lawsuit against Western Express has been filed after the first attempt was denied by a federal court.
On Oct. 22, plaintiffs in a class action wage lawsuit against Nashville, Tenn.-based Western Express filed a renewed motion for preliminary approval of settlement. The settlement is for more than $1.4 million. More than 2,000 drivers working for Western Express from Oct. 26, 2016, to Oct. 31, 2020, are eligible class members.
In February, a preliminary settlement of $1.1 million was reached. However, U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal denied that motion for approval. Explaining the decision, Bernal pointed to the “Release” section of the settlement. Found in nearly all settlements, the release prevents plaintiffs from bringing a related claim against the defendant in the future. If the agreement were to release claims based on different facts, the court can deny the approval.
In a civil complaint filed in May 2018, a class of California trucker drivers for Western Express claim their per-mile rate was below the state and federal minimum wage. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges Western Express failed to provide drivers mandated meal and rest periods. Other allegations include failure to pay for other time spent working.
Shortly after the first preliminary settlement was filed, plaintiffs for a different class action lawsuit in California, Markson v. CRST, objected to the settlement.
Calling the release “overbroad,” Markson’s counsel filed the objection on behalf of absent class members in the Western Express lawsuit who are also members of the Markson case. Western Express is a named defendant in both cases.
The most recent preliminary settlement addresses those concerns. That section of the settlement revises the class release to specifically exclude the claims raised in the Markson case.
The additional amount of nearly $338,000 reflects the additional number of class members. Initially, the class period ended on Jan. 13. However, the denial of approval extends that end date to Oct. 31, potentially adding more class members and workweek calculations. The renewed settlement estimates a class size of more than 2,300 drivers working about 48,000 workweeks. Comparatively, the initial proposed settlement estimated 2,000 class members who worked about 20,000 weeks.
According to the settlement, each class remember receives a gross recovery of $29.77 per workweek. A driver working at Western Express for a year could get a gross payout of about $1,548. However, that is based on the full $1.4 million settlement. After attorney fees, administrative costs and other deductions, the gross settlement amount can be as low as just under $900,000. The net settlement is closer to $1,034 for a year’s worth of work or $19.88 per workweek, according to the settlement.
Other Western Express wage lawsuits
This is not the first time Western Express has settled a trucker wage lawsuit. In January 2019, the company agreed to a $4 million settlement in a lawsuit filed in a Tennessee federal court. Filed in January 2014, drivers in that lawsuit claimed the company failed to compensate for the following:
- Newly hired drivers for time spent during its initial orientation program.
- Drivers for travel time during normal business hours.
- Newly hired drivers for all compensable time worked during its over-the-road training program.
- Drivers for all compensable hours.
More than 4,000 drivers joined that lawsuit. Each class member received a flat $50 payment plus an additional prorated amount for each week worked. The settlement provided an average of $450 per driver, after fees, costs and administrative expenses are paid, but before taxes. The money includes approximately 30% of potential damages on sleeper berth and per diem claims. Attorney fees accounted for one-third of the settlement of the driver wage lawsuit.
The above mentioned Markson case accuses several mega carriers, including Western Express, of conspiring to a mutual agreement to not poach each other’s drivers, effectively eliminating competition and advancement opportunities for drivers. Details about that case can be found here. LL