Western Express settles for $1.1M in California driver wage lawsuit
March 4, 2020
Western Express has reached a settlement agreement of more than $1 million in a class action lawsuit that alleged the company underpaid California drivers by violating rest and meal break wage laws.
On Feb. 26, plaintiffs asked a California federal judge to grant preliminary approval of a settlement with Nashville, Tenn.-based Western Express. The agreement estimates about 2,000 drivers who worked an estimated 20,000 weeks are entitled to their share of $1.1 million.
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.
“After initial investigation, plaintiff alleges that Western Express paid drivers solely by mileage and did not pay for pre- and post-trip inspection work duties and waiting time subject to employer control, and other nondriving time performing work duties in violation of California law,” the lawsuit states. “Further, plaintiff alleges that the employer did not separately pay for compliant 10-minute rest periods in violation of California law.”
Essentially, Western Express is accused of requiring truckers to remain under its control without paying for all hours worked, resulting in unlawfully low wages.
Truckers are required to remain on assignment continually for more than 24 hours. Additionally, they were confined to the general vicinity of their assigned truck for more than 24 consecutive hours.
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 following:
- Failing to compensate newly hired drivers for time spent during its initial orientation program.
- Failure to compensate drivers for travel time during normal business hours.
- Failing to compensate newly hired drivers for all compensable time worked during its over-the-road training program.
- Failing to compensate 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.
In the latest settlement, about $636,000 of the $1.1 million settlement will be distributed to class members. Attorneys will pocket up to 30%. Additionally, the Labor Workforce and Development Agency will receive a $37,500 payment. Settlement administrator expenses total $30,000. Each of the named plaintiffs will receive an additional $10,000.
A preliminary approval hearing is scheduled for March 30.