Walmart ordered to pay truck drivers $54m in minimum wage suit

From The Guardian:

by the Associated Press

Walmart intentionally failed to pay hundreds of truck drivers in California the minimum wage, a federal jury decided on Wednesday, awarding the drivers $54m in damages and opening up the retail giant to penalties.

The seven jurors returned the verdict in a lawsuit accusing the company of not properly paying drivers in accordance with California law for activities that included inspecting and washing their trucks and for layovers. Civil penalties will be determined by a judge.

The company argued that the drivers were paid for activities that include those tasks and that they were not working during layovers. A lawyer for Walmart did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the verdict.

Attorneys for the more than 800 drivers who worked for Walmart between October 2005 and October 2015 were seeking $72m in damages, the bulk of it for layovers. They said during the trial that additional damages and penalties could push the total amount Walmart owed to more than $150m.

Arkansas-based Walmart Stores Inc, the nation’s largest private employer, has faced other criticism over its pay and treatment of US employees.

The company announced last year that it was giving a raise to about a half-million US workers. The raises were part of a $1bn investment that the retailer said was also intended to give workers more opportunities to advance and more consistent schedules.

Walmart drivers are not paid by the hour. Wages are based on mileage and specified activities.

The drivers’ attorneys pointed to a ruling in their favor from US district judge Susan Illston, who said last year that Walmart would be in violation of California law if it enforced its driver pay manuals because they say no pay is earned for certain tasks.

“There’s nothing in any of those three manuals that covered 10 years of time that show the drivers were paid for any of these tasks that are on your verdict form,” attorney Butch Wagner said during closing arguments.

Drivers were also not paid minimum wage for layovers even though Walmart controlled their time by requiring them to stay with their trucks, the plaintiffs’ attorneys said.

Read more from The Guardian.