The federal government will pay $7.95 million to end a collective action stating that they underpaid truck drivers employed by the U.S. Department of Defense. Attorneys brought the action on behalf of more than 180 plaintiffs under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The settlement will compensate plaintiffs for unpaid wages and overtime.
The Carlson Law Firm’s John Fabry, lead attorney on the case, represented truck drivers for the Army and Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES) in a lawsuit that stated the drivers were underpaid because of miscalculated rest breaks and hours.
The agreement between lead plaintiff Robert Adams and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service will result in a payout to 184 drivers. The parties notified the Court of Federal Claims on Thursday that the case was settled, however, settlement terms were not disclosed.
The lawsuit asserted that AAFES unlawfully calculated the drivers’ pay on a formula that included the rest breaks and hours of service based on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which limits on-duty time to a total of 14 hours a day. This resulted in driver pay that was not actually tied to the number of hours they worked.
“As a cost-saving measure, AAFES had required over-the-road truck drivers on continuous dispatch for several days to sleep in the sleeper berth of the truck, and prohibited the use of motels for sleep breaks,” said Fabry. “The drivers were restricted in where they could stop, and were responsible for the truck, trailer and load from the beginning of a run until they returned from the run and dropped off their trucks at their home location.”
In essence, the drivers were “unable to leave” during breaks and the DOD paid the drivers for each task that was completed, instead of hours worked. This resulted in the drivers’ pay not matching to the number of hours worked and deductions for breaks that they didn’t take.
The lawsuit was filed in February 2017, sought for unpaid wages and overtime.
The Transportation Department finalized rules in May that would relax restrictions to allow drivers to work longer periods without breaks.
Protecting the Rights of Workers
According to attorneys, AAFES had unlawfully adopted a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation that would serve as a pay limitation policy.
“The settlement agreement showed the importance to the commitment of protecting workers to unfair pay practices and work regulations,” Fabry said “The Fair Labor Standards Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt over 80 years ago to set national standards aimed at protecting workers against certain unfair pay practices and work regulations in our country. We are proud that our work, along with David Kern of the Kern Law Firm and Joel Shields of Scanes & Routh, was successful in resolving this matter.”
There was a separate settlement collective action by AAFES in 2017, which operates stores that sell consumer goods to uniformed service members and veterans, that collected 4 million and provided pay to 7,000 employees. The lawsuit claimed that overnight labor workers didn’t receive the full pay that they were entitled to in accordance with the government’s pay rule for nighttime work.
The Carlson Law Firm can help
If you believe that your company has underpaid you, contact our firm to speak with a qualified legal representative.