Truck drivers provide a vital service within the national economy. Not only do they deliver goods to various businesses around the country, but they also take them between various manufacturers, retails stores, and consumers. Without them, we may not be able to go to our local stores and buy whatever necessity we may need. More than this, these drivers put in long hours making sure that goods are delivered in a timely manner and to the right locations. However, it is an unfortunate reality that sometimes truck drivers may be unfairly paid for their work, or denied their wages. Despite the long hours that they put in on a daily basis, drivers may receive pay that does not add up or does not reflect certain tasks. Sometimes, this may be an employer neglecting their responsibilities or maneuvering so that these employees are not accurately paid.
If you are a truck driver who has not received the proper compensation for your labor or you have been unfairly denied wages, you can get assistance. At Stop Unpaid Wages, we are experienced in aiding California’s workers in situations where they are left with unpaid wages and more. If you are not properly compensated or denied your wages for any reason, your rights as a worker are being challenged. Our lawyers can review your case and help you in determining what steps you should take to recover your lost wages.
A Recent Truck Driver Unpaid Wages Case
In 2016, a group of truck drivers filed a lawsuit against their employer, Navajo Express. In the lawsuit, the drivers claimed that their employer owed them back wages under various federal and state laws. This included not being compensated for their labor before and after making their driving routes. Rather than being paid on an hourly basis, the lawsuit states that the drivers were paid on a piece rate basis. This simply means that the drivers were only compensated for completing each set task—no matter how much time it actually takes to complete. However, with this system, if the compensation were divided by the hours the drivers worked, it would equal less than the minimum wage rate. When adding in the tasks and duties which are not considered a job-related task, the drivers were far from being properly compensated.
Within the lawsuit, the drivers claimed that their employer did not have a proper system in place to keep track of all the hours they put in, including any time they worked before or after making their trips. With this, the drivers argued that they should have been compensated with minimum wage for time spent inspecting and for waiting for their loads. Also, the drivers alleged that their employers violated proper labor laws by not giving them an uninterrupted lunch break while on the job.
With this case, a couple of key points are presented that should be known by trucks drivers, especially in terms of violating wage laws. These include:
- The employer does not properly compensate for labor done
- The employer does not keep accurate records of an employee’s hours
- The employer does not give their employees a proper lunch break
This lawsuit provides some insight into just some of the issues that plague the truck driving industry today. The variety of issues brought up not only violate state laws but federal laws as well. For example, even though the piece rate system of pay is legal, the lawsuit describes a usage of it that does not allow for proper compensation. Through the example above, the workers are actually being paid less than minimum wage for their time. Also, as described in the above case, the employer forgoes proper responsibilities by not giving proper lunch breaks and not keeping proper records of their employees’ hours.
Sadly, it is common for truck drivers to receive unfair compensation or no compensation at all for their work. The case described above is just one incident of such occurrences in the industry. Below is a list of common issues revolving around unpaid wages for truck drivers, and also how you can get help should this occur to you.
Common Wage Issues for Truck Drivers
As with any type of industry, there are many issues that may arise for truck drivers when it comes to proper compensation and payment. Some truck drivers may face poorer treatment than others. It all comes down to each workers’ situation. However, all truck drivers, as with all workers within California state, are guaranteed certain rights while working. In some cases, an issue with your employer may be a result of illegal practices. It is crucial to understand your rights as a worker.
In California, there are laws meant to ensure that all workers receive the proper pay and that employers do not deny properly earned wages in any way. Even on the federal level, there are laws that are meant to ensure the same rights.
For truck drivers, there are some common wage-related issues that may arise. These may include problems related to overtime, inaccurate pay records, reimbursement, and more. As just a list of some common issues, this is by no means a definitive list of issues. Any situation where you are not properly compensated or denied your wages may be enough to file a complaint against your employer. Overall, it is crucial to understand what your rights entail, any related laws, and what your employer’s responsibilities include. With this knowledge, you may be able to determine if you are owed wages or if you need to file a complaint.
A major issue that many truck drivers face from their employer is not receiving the proper compensation for all of the work they have done. Often times, this can mean that a driver is not paid for time spent not driving, even though this time is spent working on non-driving activities. Within this, drivers may only be compensated for mileage. This indicates time spent on the road; however, not all of the duties as a truck driver take place while on the road. Also, if paid on a piece rate basis (as described in the lawsuit before), you may be shortchanged based on the number of wages you make.
In any situation where you believe that you are not making the right amount of wages, you should make sure that what you make on a daily basis amounts to the minimum wage or more. By being paid based on mileage or on a piece rate basis, the amount paid divided by the time spent working should amount to at least the rate of California’s minimum wage. As stated by Labor Code § 1171.5, there is a minimum pay rate in the state of California. This means that this is the minimum amount of pay per hour that an employee can make. If an employer compensates you with a wage amount that is equal to below the minimum wage rate, then they are in violation of California’s labor laws.
Alongside this, with Labor Code § 1171.5, employers are required to pay employees all the wages they have rightly earned from all labor done. This simply indicates that employers should compensate for all duties and related tasks done while on the job. If an employer fails to compensate for labor done, then they are in violation of California labor laws. For truck drivers, this means that you should be compensated for all of your duties—even including those that are non-driving. This can include tasks like inspecting and/or waiting for your loads. Since these are considered to be a part of your job, you should be compensated for your time in doing them.
Secondly, sometimes truck drivers may not be compensated for taking rest breaks or meal breaks while on the job. In California, these breaks are required for all workers in most fields of work. Labor Code § 226.7 states that if your employer has not provided you with a proper rest period, they must pay the worker affected an additional hour of pay for each workday this practice has occurred. If your employer asks you to work through any of your rest periods, they must compensate you for working this time. Lastly, you cannot be made to work “off of the clock.” You must always be compensated for all of the work you do—no matter what the situation may be.
Another major wage-related issues for truck drivers is overtime. This usually means any work done above a certain amount of time for the day or for the workweek. Overtime pay is different from standard wage rates. In California, overtime wage rates, and the necessary qualifications include:
- More than eight (8) hours in a day = 1.5 x regular pay rate
- More than forty (40) non-overtime hours in a week = 1.5 x regular pay rate
- A seventh (7th) consecutive day in a workweek = 1.5 x regular pay rate
- More than twelve (12) hours in a day = 2 x regular pay rate
- More than eight (8) hours on a seventh (7th) consecutive day = 2 x regular pay rate
All employers in California must adhere to these overtime specifications. Usually, employers who do not are the ones who do not provide proper overtime compensation. Any denial of proper overtime compensation is a form of wage theft. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Labor Code § 510, all workers receive special protections and guarantees regarding overtime rates.
Lastly, in relation to overtime, an employer cannot make a worker take paid time off rather than receiving overtime pay. However, under certain circumstances, it may be allowed if the worker asks for this.
Inaccurate Pay Records
All employers must keep track of their employees’ hours so that they can be properly compensated. This can include regular working hours, overtime, and any other time in which a worker is completing a task or duty. This falls under Labor Code § 1171.5, where an employer must properly compensate all employees for any labor done.
More importantly, these records must be accurate. As described in the lawsuit example, the truck drivers’ employer changed time sheets so as to improperly display how much they had worked. Thus, they did not receive the proper compensation which is illegal.
Another major issue for truck drivers with regard to their wages is being misclassified as independent contractors. It is illegal for employers to misclassify truck drivers as independent contractors. Usually, employers do this to avoid paying them the proper wages, overtime, and any other compensation. Also, with this classification, employers do not reimburse the drivers for any expenses. If a truck driver is considered an independent contractor, then they may only be paid by the mile, rather than per hour as with a normal employee. Thus, improper classification will make the driver lose their proper wages.
Of course, there are some specifications that must be considered to determine if a driver is an employee or independent contractor. First of all, if the employer owns the tuck, makes the schedules, gives the routes, prohibits taking loads from other companies, and more similar actions, than the driver may be an employee. These simply show that the employer has great control over the driver.
If a truck driver does have substantial control over their vehicle, their daily business, and an ability to work on their own terms, then they can be classified as an independent contractor. Otherwise, an employer may be liable for not properly compensating for a driver’s labor and for not properly reimbursing for business-related expenses.
Not Receiving Reimbursement
In California, employers are prohibited from making their employees pay for business-related expenses that are a result of their job performance. Under Labor Code § 2802, all employers must reimburse their employees for any necessary expenditures or losses incurred while carrying out their duties or on the employer’s insistence. Of course, these expenditures must be reasonable within the context of the job. For truck drivers, this can include expenses such as gas or vehicle maintenance.
This can be related to situations in which drivers are misclassified as independent contractors. Under this title, the employer does not have to reimburse the driver for business-related expenses. However, if it proves that the driver is actually an employee, the employer may be liable and may have to pay back any incurred expenditures or losses.
“Motor Vehicle Carrier”
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there is a “motor vehicle carrier” overtime exemption that may affect your wages. If a driver falls under this exemption, then they also fall under similar exemptions in California. However, only certain truck drivers may fall under this exemption. Yet, there are cases where an employer may wrongly use this exemption to deny overtime wages.
It is crucial for all employers to understand overtime laws, and to understand how they may apply to truck drivers if they are on the payroll. If they do not understand who is and is not exempt from overtime, then they may wrongly compensate that driver for their work. It is also important to know if you fall under these exemptions. With this knowledge, you can figure out if you have been denied certain wages. By wrongfully classifying a driver under this exemption, your employer may be denying you proper overtime wages which is illegal.
What You Can Do to Recover Your Lost Wages
If you have ever been denied your proper wages, or if you feel that you are, then you might feel powerless. Especially when dealing with unhelpful employers, recovering your lost wages may seem like an impossible task. Once you realize what your situation is, you may not even know where to start in order to recover your lost wages. Just know this: there is help out there for you. Since receiving proper wages is one of your fundamental rights as a worker, there are certain agencies and protocols in place meant to assist you in filing a complaint and/or recovering any lost wages from your employer. Also, more than this, you may even seek the help of an experienced and qualified employment lawyer that can help you with any step of the process.
If you have found out that you are missing your proper wages, or if you believe you are, you should also bring up the matter with your employer first. It is their duty and responsibility as an employer to handle and assess any complaints their employees have, especially about their wages. However, if taking the matter up with your employer is unsuccessful, or if they are the root of the problem, you may go further with your complaint. This would mean you could file an official complaint with California’s own Labor Commissioner. This is where you can begin seeking outside help for your situation.
When it comes to filing your complaint, you should know of some important qualifications about the time frame of your complaint. With any case, there is a specific time frame that you may file your complaint, if it is not within this time frame, your case may not be considered. The time frames for filing are as follows:
- Cases involving minimum wage, illegal deductions from your pay, and overtime must be filed within 3 years of the incident.
- Cases involving an oral promise to receive pay greater than minimum wage must be filed within 2 years of the incident.
- Cases involving a written work contract must be filed within 4 years of the incident.
If your case fulfills these requirements, then you may proceed in filing with the Labor Commissioner. During this period, you should gather all related documents like any pay stubs, schedules, time sheets, and more. When you actually file, you should file an “Initial Report or Claim” form. This will require specific documents to be sent with it. Once your complaint goes through, both you and your employer will be notified of the complaint.
The process can proceed with a scheduled settlement conference between you and your employer. With the assistance of a Deputy Labor Commissioner, you and your employer could possibly reach an agreement on lost wages. However, if this does not occur, you both will have to attend a hearing. Here, both of you will have to testify about your complaint and submit evidence for review. Usually, a decision is made on whether or not you are owed any lost wages. If this does not happen, then the complaint will move to a court.
With the help of a qualified lawyer, you can be sure to do every step that is necessary. These include:
- Speaking with your employer
- Preparing your claim
- Filing your claim
- Attending a scheduled settlement conference
- Attending a hearing (if necessary)
- Reviewing the decision
- Taking your claim to court (if necessary)
Locating an Employment Lawyer Near Me
It is wrong for any employer to deny you any rightful wages. It is also a challenge to your rights as a worker in the state of California. If you are a truck driver, and you have been unfairly compensated or denied any wages, you may seek help by filing a claim to recover those wages. It is only fair that you should receive compensation for putting in hard work on a daily basis. No one should have to stress or suffer from such occurrences. If you feel that you are not receiving the right amount of compensation for your labor, or if you know that your employer is utilizing illegal practices, you should begin filing a complaint as quickly as you can.
Our lawyers at Stop Unpaid Wages can help you with this. If you need aid in filing a complaint or if you want to discuss your situation, our staff and our lawyers are on standby to hear from you. We are well-versed in wages and labor laws, and we can lend our expertise whenever you need it most. Please do not pause to call our unpaid wage lawyer at 424-781-8411. The sooner you call, the sooner we can assist you with your case.