9th Circuit Rules on Labor Laws for Trucking Company

Kevin Anderson Employment and Labor, Transportation

Former employees of an Oregon Trucking company sued the company over disputes about their pay. The employees tried to get three issues certified as class action lawsuits based on federal and Oregon state employment law. The case made its way to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals where it more or less came to an end.

The case was based on three claims that the trucking company did not abide by federal and state employment laws. The company in question, May Trucking, had three of their policies come under attack:

  • Their policy of not paying job applicants for their time during a three day orientation program;
  • Initial term pay policies for recently hired employees;
  • A company policy deducting money from a paycheck for increased idling while on the job.

None of these policies are very controversial, and seem to be standard in many parts of the industry.

Job Application

The court ruled that the first claim was invalid because the applicants were not yet employees of the company. True, the Fair Labor Standards Act and Oregon law require companies to pay their employees a minimum wage, but that protection does not extend to applicants. The court ruled in this case that the during orientation the drivers were not yet employees and so did not fall under the protections of either law.

Initial Pay Policy

Once the application period was over, the company required their newly hired drivers to ride along with experienced drivers to learn the ropes. The former employees complained that they should have been paid while on the road, including during the times they were in a sleeper cabin. The court disagreed on this point as well. Under former regulations and precedents, an employee is not entitled to pay while they can do what they want with their time, including sleeping in a sleeping cabin of a truck.

Deductions From Pay

The complaint filed by the former drivers was because of a company policy which deducted pay from drivers who idled their trucks when they should have had it shut off. Again, Oregon does not allow a company to deduct pay unless it can be shown that the deduction was for actions that benefited the employee. At trial it was ruled that idling a truck can benefit the driver, and so it was allowed, and the 9th Circuit affirmed.

Of course it is clear how idling a truck when it should be turned off could benefit a driver. And of course that is why the company had a policy of encouraging their drivers to have the truck off as much as possible. Fuel costs are one of the biggest factors that go into whether a trucking company is in the black or not.

Avoiding Costly Litigation

No company wants to be embroiled in a costly, class action lawsuit. That is why it is so important to ensure that company policies comply with federal, state, and local laws. At Anderson and Yamada, we have decades of experiences representing and counseling trucking companies on these and other issues. Contact us today so we can be of service to you and your company.