Department of Labor Backs Truckers in Sleeper Berth Wage Dispute

The Department of Labor (DOL) submitted an amicus brief to the First District Appellate Court regarding trucker hourly wages. The DOL took the position truck drivers who are scheduled for more than eight hours in a sleeper berth deserve to be paid for all time above eight hours. The case in question involved truck drivers with a scheduled 10 hour sleep break in each 24 hour day.

Additionally, the DOL noted that for truck drivers to be not compensated for 8 hours of sleep time, they must be “completely relieved of all duties” and “permitted to leave the truck”.

CRST International Truck Driver Wage Lawsuit

Massachusetts federal court found in 2019 that CRST International, in requiring drivers to take 10 hours off as sleep time, needed to pay drivers for the 9th and 10th hour. Only the first eight hours could be unpaid as sleeping time.  The case was appealed, and the DOL has now weighed in defense of the ruling.

The DOL stated:

“Compensable hours worked includes time spent waiting if that waiting time is primarily for the benefit of the employer. Armour & Co. v. Wantock, 323 U.S. 126, 133 (1944) (“[A]n employer, if he chooses, may hire a man to do nothing, or to do nothing but wait for something to happen …. Whether time is spent predominantly for the employer’s benefit or for the employee’s is a question dependent upon all the circumstances of the case.”). When an employee is “engaged to wait,” the time is compensable.”

There are additional restrictions on trucker unpaid time, including when the break occurs for work periods of less than 24 hours:

“Time spent sleeping is compensable under certain conditions. 29 C.F.R. 785.20. When an employee is on duty for less than 24 hours and is permitted to sleep or engage in other personal activities when not busy, such time is compensable. Id. at 785.21. However, during duty periods of 24 hours or more, the employer and employee may agree to exclude from hours worked a bona fide regularly scheduled sleeping period of not more than 8 hours, provided the employer furnishes adequate sleeping facilities and the employee can usually enjoy an uninterrupted night’s sleep (i.e., at least 5 hours of sleep). Id. at 785.22. The compensability of travel time depends on whether the time spent in travel is primarily for the employer’s benefit. See generally 29 C.F.R. 785.35-.41. Where the travel is itself the work performed for the employer’s benefit, that travel time constitutes compensable hours worked, except for bona fide sleeping and meal periods.”

Working During Breaks, Working During Meals, Working Off-The-Clock

Unpaid breaks, unpaid lunch or meal periods, and eight hours of unpaid time for rest all require an employee be fully relieved of duty.  Examples of ways in which a truck driver can still be engaged in labor include:

  • Being required to remain in the truck, or with inventory, including during sleep breaks
  • Updating forms or paperwork during the unpaid period
  • Checking in with the company during the unpaid period
  • Sleep time for on duty periods of less than 24 hours
  • Unpaid time waiting at a destination, either for pickup or drop-off

Trucker Unpaid Wage Lawsuits

Truck drivers can frequently encounter wage and hour issues with their employers.  If they are paid by the load or drive, they can find themselves earning less than minimum wage. Paying less than minimum wage is illegal. Hourly wages that are not paid for work during a break, during a meal, or work performed during sleep breaks can be another common unpaid wage claim. Overtime is required in many states, and federal law requires overtime time and a half for hours above 40 per week. For truck drivers on the road, many of the missing payments for hours worked can be overtime hours, further increasing the loss of pay from unaccounted for work.

Truck Driver Unpaid Wage Law Firm

If you believe you are not being paid for all of the time you have worked, or are not being paid the overtime due to you, we invite you to schedule a consultation with our employment law attorneys. Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky LLP is a national law firm that represents employees in a wide range of employment law cases, including truck driver class action lawsuits involving the failure to pay wages, overtime pay and commissions.

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