Western Express wage lawsuit settlement denied second time
November 23, 2020
A federal court has denied a second attempt at a settlement in a wage lawsuit against Western Express.
On Nov. 20, a California federal district court denied preliminary approval of a class action settlement between Western Express and more than 2,000 of its drivers. The parties will have to go back to the drawing board for a third time.
Issues with the second settlement attempt deal with class members’ ability to challenge calculated hours worked. After the first settlement was denied, the court ordered the parties to make changes that give class members more information regarding their right to dispute the hours Western Express claims each member worked. However, that information is “inexplicably” missing in the second attempt, the court stated.
“Nowhere in the motion, the agreement, or any of the attachments did plaintiffs include any information for class members who believe their work hours have been misattributed,” the court said. “This is troublesome. Prospective class members who receive a notice they believe is incorrect seem to have two choices: do nothing or opt-out. Both choices are unsatisfactory.”
However, the Western Express settlement did satisfy another condition that led to the denial of the first settlement.
The first settlement included a release of claims provision that would bar further litigation in separate lawsuits. However, plaintiffs in a different pending lawsuit where Western Express is a co-defendant objected to that provision, claiming it would be detrimental to their case. The court agreed and ordered the parties to fix that section of the settlement.
The second settlement added a single sentence to the release of claims section that excludes claims in the pending lawsuit. Although the court is concerned about the scope of the release agreement, it ultimately found it to be “much narrower” than the initial settlement.
All other aspects of the settlement were satisfactory. If Western Express drivers can fix issues with challenging work-hour calculations, a third settlement may be approved.
Western Express drivers filed their first preliminary settlement in February. With a gross settlement amount of $1.1 million, the court denied the settlement for the two issues mentioned above. A second settlement agreement was filed in October. In addition to revisions to the release section, the gross settlement amount was increased to $1.4 million to adjust for the added dates to the timeline. LL