J.B. Hunt has been fighting back against a class action lawsuit against it for over ten years. It went through appeals and was even petitioned to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, finally, the megacarrier agreed to settle the lawsuit concerning driver pay for $15 million.
The lawsuit was first brought against them in 2007. It alleged that J.B. Hunt had been failing to pay its drivers correctly under California state labor laws. California has some of the strictest labor laws in the country. Those laws require some of workers’ meal and rest breaks to be paid, and require drivers to be paid for required activities like detention time, filling out paperwork, and performing pre- and post-trip inspections.
Large carriers have been pushing back against these laws for years now, arguing that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act prevents individual states from regulating interstate trucking. In fact, the so-called Denham Amendment has been offered up multiple times in the past few years. That amendment would change the FAA language to prevent states including California from giving interstate truck drivers the same protections as all other workers receive under state law.
Both the American Trucking Association and the Truckload Carrier’s Association support the Denham amendment. Pro-trucker groups including OOIDA oppose the amendment, and it was removed from the final FAA re-authorization bill again this year. Find addition coverage on the Denham Amendment here.
Initially, a district court ruled in favor of J.B. Hunt. Later an appeals court sided with the drivers. At the urging of the ATA, J.B. Hunt appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, but they declined to hear the case. The carrier caught a lucky break when a federal judge decertified the class of around 11,000 current and former J.B. Hunt drivers back in August… just six weeks before the case was set to go to trial.
As a result, J.B. Hunt was able to settle for just $15 million out of court. The settlement still must be approved by a judge before being finalized.