A California federal court jury found that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. intentionally violated state wage laws by failing to pay a certified class of truckers for time spent on work-related on-duty tasks. The jurors awarded class members more than $54 million in damages. The jury found the 839 truckers were entitled to back pay for some of the unpaid tasks named in the lawsuit, awarding damages for pre-trip and post-trip inspections and California-required rest breaks. However, the jury rejected claims for washing trucks, fueling, weighing the trucks’ load, waiting at vendor and store locations, performing adjustments, complying with U.S. Department of Transportation inspections, and meeting with driver coordinators.
The jurors also found that drivers were under Wal-Mart’s control during federally mandated 10-hour layover breaks, during which the truckers were required to stay with their trucks. The drivers had been paid $42 for the time, not the $67 to $90 they would have earned had they been paid minimum wage during the class period. The jury awarded approximately $44.7 million to make up the difference.
At press time, liquidated damages and penalties had not been determined. In the event the trial judge finds Wal-Mart’s defense was not carried out in good faith, the jury’s award would be doubled. The jury found Wal-Mart intentionally failed to pay class members for more than 100,000 pay periods. Each unpaid period can carry a $250 fine, which would add approximately $25 million to the total verdict.
The suit was said to hinge on the pay codes drivers input for certain activities, such as arriving on-site and hooking a tractor to a trailer. The truckers had alleged that other required tasks like pre-inspections and post-trip inspections had no associated activity code or compensation. Wal-Mart argued that the duties the manual described were not exhaustive and that the allegedly unpaid tasks were included in other pay codes. Obviously, the jurors didn’t agree with that argument.
The class is represented by Daniel M. Kopfman, Lawrence M. Artenian, Russel Myrick and Angela E. Martinez of Wagner Jones Kopfman & Artenian; Jacob M. Weisberg of the Law Offices of Jacob M. Weisberg, and Stanley Saltzman of Marlin & Saltzman. The case is Ridgeway et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. et al. in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
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