Walmart was ordered to pay $54 million by a California court in a driver wage lawsuit alleging that the company was not paying drivers for all required time and work.
The suit involved more than 800 drivers who worked for the company between October 2005 and 2015. It argued that drivers were not being properly compensated for activities such as vehicle inspections, vehicle washing, or layovers, according to an L.A. Times report. The suit originally sought damages of up to $72 million.
Walmart argued that drivers shouldn’t be paid for layovers because their pay is based on mileage, not hours, and drivers were not working during that time. The company also said that it was unreasonable to break down pay by every individual activity, some of which only took a few minutes to accomplish.
Walmart pays its drivers $42 for a 10-hour layover, according to the report, and the company says drivers are free to do what they want during that period. Attorneys representing the drivers argued that drivers should be paid minimum wage for the layover time because they were required to stay with their trucks.
Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs and communications for the Western States Trucking Association, told HDT the ruling was a case of overreach by the state.
“We think the decision is exactly why Congress needs to pass Denham amendment-styled language that prohibits states from involving themselves in payment methods to drivers and forcing compliance with unique state meal and rest break requirements,” said Rajkovacz.
He also contended that Walmart was being scapegoated because of its size and familiarity, but he indicated that similar lawsuits often affect smaller trucking companies.
“Many of those on the opposite side of this issue to us like to use Walmart as their example of a large company needing to be brought to task,” Rajkovacz explained. “The reporting tries to portray Walmart in an unsympathetic way because they are so large. We have many small business trucking company owners who have been 'shook down' by lawyers who troll among the driver community for alleged ‘victims’ with these type of suits.”
A Walmart spokesman said the company "strongly believe[s]... our truck drivers are paid in compliance with California law and often in excess of what California law requires,” noting that its drivers’ average earnings range from $80,000 to more than $100,000 per year. The company is likely to appeal the verdict.