A judge has sided with a group of truck drivers who claimed that Werner Enterprises used unfair meal break and rest policies to pay them less than minimum wage.

Court Sides With Truck Drivers in Labor Laws Suit

The lawsuit was spearheaded by Philip Petrone, who told CDLLife that court’s ruling was a “landmark decision for the betterment of hundreds of thousands of truck drivers.”

The court found that Werner’s Student Driver Program was in violation of Nebraska labor laws, depriving drivers of over $5 million in lost wages.

Student Driver Program Paid Drivers Less Than Minimum Wage

The Student Driver Program paid drivers a flat weekly but forced drivers to count breaks as short as fifteen minutes and they docked drivers pay when they took rest breaks longer than 8 hours, meaning that drivers had to cut their breaks short to receive their full week’s pay. Werner’s policy also meant that drivers were earning less than minimum wage for all of the hours that they worked.

According to the legal team representing the drivers:

“We are pleased to in announce that we have obtained a major victory earlier this week, when the federal judge overseeing the case held that, as a matter of law, sleeper berth time (beyond 8 hours per day) and short rest breaks are compensable working time for truck drivers. Werner failed to pay its drivers for such time.  Consequently, Werner’s conduct violated the law.”

Petrone explained the significance of the court’s decision, stating, “we have repeatedly seen examples where trucking companies simply fail to recognize their obligations under the FLSA with respect to minimum wage. Over the road truck drivers are frequently denied minimum wage. Truck drivers are entitled to minimum wage for all hours worked, and that includes all time spent which benefits the employer, including time spent waiting for cargo, time spent in breaks where are not for bonafide meal periods, and even some sleeper berth time.

Drivers Encouraged to Attend Trial

The law firm representing the drivers, Swartz Swidler, has invited drivers who will be in the Omaha area to the trial which will determine the amount of money to be awarded. If the court determines that Werner did not act in good faith, they could have to pay double damages. The trial will begin September 9, 2015 and should last about a week.

The Omaha courthouse is located at:

111 South 18th Plaza
Suite 1152
Omaha, NE 68102

You can read the full court documents below.