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Wal-Mart loses fight over minimum wage for truck drivers

People take notice when Wal-Mart is involved in a workers' rights case. This should come as no surprise given that Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the United States.

In late November, a federal jury declared that Wal-Mart had failed to pay hundreds of truck drivers the minimum wage. More than 800 drivers who worked for Wal-Mart between October 2005 and October 2015 received a total of $54 million in damages, and Wal-Mart may face additional penalties as well.

The minimum wage issue arose, in part, because of how the truck drivers were paid. Rather than receiving a salary or hourly wage, the drivers were compensated based on mileage and other specific activities they performed as part of their duties.

Among the concerns listed in the lawsuit was that Wal-Mart was not paying the employees for all their work activities in accordance with California law, including washing and inspecting trucks and layover time.

The layover issue was one of the key concerns of the lawsuit. Wal-Mart attorneys argued that the duties listed in the lawsuit were included in the greater tasks that the drivers completed. In other words, they argued that the lawsuit was making the drivers' tasks too granular, and that Wal-Mart was in fact paying the drivers for every task. Wal-Mart attorneys also contended that layover time is not work time.

On the other side, the drivers' attorneys said that Wal-Mart controls the drivers time during layovers, because the drivers are required to stay with their trucks. Wal-Mart attorneys said that the company pays drivers $42 for 10-hour overnight layovers, and that employees are free to do as they please during that time.

In the end, the drivers' attorneys were able to convince the jury that Wal-Mart did not comply with minimum wage laws and secured a sizable verdict for the drivers.

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