Wal-Mart again finds itself on the wrong side of the labour debate after a federal judge ruled that the retail behemoth has not paid truckers for all the tasks they do. The company could end up having to pay up to $150 million.
US District Court Judge Susan Illston said that Wal-Mart violated California’s minimum wage law for failing to pay hundreds of truckers for tasks such as waiting in line to load or unload cargo, filling out mandatory forms, or fuelling their trucks, the Fresno Bee reported.
Federal judge: Wal-Mart violated state minimum wage laws http://t.co/XHqlTBv10Vhyphen; Consumer Rights (@ConsumerRights) June 11, 2015
“Under California law, the drivers must be paid for all the time that they were subject to Wal-Mart’s control,” Judge Illston wrote in her ruling. “Here, certain required tasks are specifically designated unpaid activities.”
To counter the claim that drivers should be paid for each individual task, lawyers compared truckers’ tasks to that of housekeepers, who get paid per house cleaned, not each task done in each house.
If a Wal-Mart were to lose this case, it’s lawyers say it would set an absurd precedent for labour code. The example given in court filings was that housekeepers would have to be paid for wringing a mop and for each sweep of a broom.
Wal-Mart could end up owing between $100 million and $150 million in back pay, interest and penalties, said Butch Wagner, the attorney representing 720 past and present Wal-Mart truckers.
But Wal-Mart, which is the largest private employer in the US, says the company has violated no labour laws.
“There has been no finding that any Wal-Mart driver has not been paid minimum wage for each hour worked,” spokesman Randy Hargrove said. “We intend to continue to defend the company against the claim.”
The truckers also have accused Wal-Mart of violating other labour laws, including not providing meals or rest breaks. The lawsuit also questions whether the drivers are adequately paid for sleeping in their trucks during layovers.
Wal-Mart pays drivers $42 to stay in the cab during 10-hour layovers, according to court documents. Mr Wagner has claimed that pay is a violation of minimum wage, while Wal-Mart says that pay is a bonus and sleeping in the cab is not required.
The case is expected to go to full trial next year.
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