Walmart touts driver wages despite court rejecting back-pay rehearing

Walmart is confident in what it says is above-average pay it offers its drivers and takes issue with a decision Thursday by a federal appeals court denying the company’s bid for a rehearing on a class-action lawsuit over back wages.

“We continue to believe that our truck drivers are paid in compliance with California law and often in excess of what California law requires,” the company said in a statement to FreightWaves. “We are proud that our drivers are among the best paid in the industry, earning, on average, between $80,000 to over $100,000 per year. We disagree with the decision.”

Walmart (NYSE: WMT) in January petitioned the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to reconsider an appellate panel ruling that the company had to abide by a lower-court decision in which the jury awarded $54.6 million to a group of California-based drivers compensating them for 10-hour end-of-shift layovers, sleeper-berth rest breaks, and inspections.

The three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit found that the drivers were entitled to compensation under California law because Walmart had exercised control over their schedules during mandated layovers and other breaks. State law requires that employees be paid a minimum wage covering the entire time they are under an employer’s control. Cases such as these hinge on the magnitude of an employer’s control rather than whether an employee is required to work.

But the drivers argued that they should be paid the additional wages, which would be equal to the difference between Walmart’s “layover fee” and the minimum wage they would be entitled to under state law. The ruling covers employees who drove for Walmart from 2004 to 2015 and is the latest action in a case that stretches back over a decade.

The panel dismissed Walmart’s claims that its already well-paid drivers should have the disputed wages effectively rolled into their salaries.

Walmart told FreightWaves that “it is early since we just received the ruling and no decisions have been made as to next steps.”

The American Trucking Associations, which along with the California Trucking Association, CRST Expedited Inc. and U.S. Xpress Inc. [NYSE: USX] filed a petition in support of Walmart, was not immediately available to comment.