A federal jury in San Francisco last month awarded truck drivers for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. more than $54 million in damages because the retailer didn’t properly pay them for time worked.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston could add $80 million to the award as punishment because Wal-Mart’s actions were considered intentional, which could make it the highest judgment in California this year, said one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Nicholas “Butch” Wagner of Wagner Jones Kopfman & Artenian LLP of Fresno, California.
Illston is expected to decide the damage amount by the end of the year, Wagner said. Wagner said he also will ask for attorney’s fees and costs for the case, which was filed in 2008.
The lawsuit involved Wal-Mart’s truck drivers in California, who weren’t paid for tasks involving pre- and post-trip inspections of the trucks, which each take about 15 minutes, Wagner said. The claim period is between 2005 and 2015 and covers 839 truck drivers.
Wal-Mart used a “piece rate” to pay its drivers, which meant they were paid per mile instead of per hour and were paid for certain activities such as dropping off a trailer, he said. Wagner said that as a result the drivers also weren’t paid for their 10-minute break that is required after four hours of work.
In addition, the drivers weren’t properly paid for layovers that they were required to take. For every 11 hours a truck driver drives in a day or 14 hours worked during a day, drivers are forced to take a 10-hour break.