Former student drivers for Werner Enterprises may be entitled to a portion of the winnings from a class action suit alleging that the carrier failed to pay its student drivers at least minimum wage.
Earlier this month a federal judge ruled in favor of the student drivers in a suit that was filed all the way back in 2011. Driver Philip Petrone claimed that Werner had illegally withheld pay that he was owed for meal and rest breaks.
Werner refused to pay students drivers for their rest breaks or for any time over 8 hours spent in their sleepers. Instead they paid them a weekly wage which, when “unpaid time” was added to paid time, failed to exceed the federal minimum wage requirements.
“We are pleased to announce that we have obtained a major victory earlier this week, when the federal judge overseeing the case held that, as a matter of law, sleeper berth time (beyond eight hours per day) and short rest breaks are compensable working time for truck drivers,” said a spokesperson for the law firm representing the drivers.
As of right now, this ruling only applies to this specific case, but the precedent set here could have an impact on driver pay practices throughout the industry in the near future. As Petrone notes, drivers aren’t always paid for all of the hours they work:
“We have repeatedly seen examples where trucking companies simply fail to recognize their obligations under the FLSA with respect to minimum wage,” said Petrone. “Over-the-road truck drivers are frequently denied minimum wage.”
Now that the ruling has been issued, a trial will begin on September 9th to determine the damages that will be paid. Swartz Swindler, the law firm representing the former student drivers, is inviting truckers to be present at the trial. According to a spokesperson, the law firm will also be contacting additional drivers to let them know that they may be eligible to join the class action suit.