Western Express has asserted that the latest class action lawsuit filed against the company alleging wage and rest break violations should be dismissed for failure by plaintiffs to prove their case.
The lawsuit, filed in September by a truck driver based in Washington state, asserts that the Nashville, Tennessee-based truckload carrier failed to pay him and other drivers minimum wage as required under federal law, as well as failed to pay for rest breaks and other non-driving work time as required by state law.
The class amount at issue exceeds $5 million, according to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.
“Plaintiffs and class members were not paid for rest breaks because defendant’s ‘piece rate’ or per-mile pay plan failed to compensate for rest breaks and failed to treat rest breaks as ‘on the employer’s time,’” the lawsuit contends. “Because plaintiffs and class members are primarily paid on a per-mile basis, they are for the large part only paid for driving time and are not compensated for non-driving time work performed by plaintiffs and class members.”
Richard Sanders, the driver filing the lawsuit, alleged that the non-driving time that the carrier failed to pay them for included pre- and post-trip inspections, meetings, waiting for loading or unloading, training, deadhead miles driven and while on the road and away from home for over 24 hours.
In a motion to dismiss the case filed this week, Western Express stated that Sanders failed to allege a specific workweek in which he or other drivers were paid less than federal or state minimum wages.
In addition, Sanders’ claim that he and the class were entitled to be paid for a full 24 hours as on-duty time also fails “because guidance from the [Department of Labor’s] Wage and Hour Division clearly states that the time drivers are relieved of all duties and permitted to sleep in a sleeper berth is nonworking time that is not compensable,” the carrier stated.
In a separate filing, Western Express is looking to transfer the case to the Middle District of Tennessee. “Western Express sets and implements all policies affecting drivers liked Sanders from its headquarters,” it said, noting that nearly 75% of the class action members Sanders is representing live east of the Mississippi River and less than 1% live in Washington.
The company also noted that it is “currently battling an identical” collective action in the Middle District, “the composition of which encompasses the entire time frame of this lawsuit,” another reason for granting the venue change, it stated.
Plaintiff victories in class action claims against Western Express and other carriers alleging underpayment of wages have increased over the last several years. Western Express lost a similar lawsuit earlier this year in California (the initial $1.1 million settlement agreement is under review) and settled a $3.8 million lawsuit last year.
In January a federal appeals court ordered Walmart Inc. [NYSE: WMT] to pay a $60.8 million judgment to approximately 800 drivers for wages owed in a case involving time spent in the sleeper berth. Other settlements this year involved Pennsylvania-based Evans Delivery and P.A.M. Transportation Services.
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