Truck Drivers Sue US Foods over Labor Practices

On May 20, Alex Guerrero and Manuel Antonio Rios sued US Foods Inc. in the California Central District Court under allegations that the defendant violated California labor laws. The plaintiffs, two long-distance delivery drivers, asserted that the defendant failed to provide legally mandated breaks, meal-times, and compensation for time worked. The plaintiffs requested court costs, damages equivalent to the amount of unpaid compensation, and attorney’s fees.

With regards to breaks, the plaintiffs claimed the defendant failed to provide pay for “on-duty” meal-time breaks. California Labor Code Sec. 512(a) states that “an employer shall not employ an employee for a work period of more than five hours per day without providing the employee with a meal period of not less than 30 minutes.” Interpreting administrative opinions from the California Industrial Welfare Commission state that “unless the employee is relieved of all duty during a 30 minute meal period, the meal period shall be considered an ‘on duty’ meal period and counted as time worked.”

The plaintiffs proffered that the mealtimes are “on-duty” as the defendants simply preprinted schedules that included designated meal-times regardless of whether job duties on any given day allowed the meal-time to be taken off-duty. The plaintiffs also asserted that on days where the work obligations failed to permit scheduled meal times that nonetheless plaintiffs must clock out at these scheduled times as the defendant “gives write-ups and has fired many drivers for not complying.”

The plaintiffs further alleged that the defendant failed to provide appropriate rest periods between shifts. Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s  “Hours of Service” rules for long-distance delivery drivers carrying property, one may drive 11 hours within a 14-hour shift but then must receive 10 hours of rest time. However, the defendants allegedly failed to comply with these rules via undue pressure as “drivers…have received write-ups or been suspended or terminated for not completing their daily routes on time because they took meal or rest breaks.” In conjunction with the speculated aforementioned break-time deprivations above, plaintiffs sought compensation under California Labor Code Sec. 226.7(c) which allows “one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each workday that the…rest recovery period is not provided.”

The plaintiffs also alleged that at the end of a delivery day, the driver must carry out tasks like (1) “uncoupling and dropping the trailer”; (2) “bringing in returns and damaged items from customers for check-in”; (3) “putting frozen returns in the freezer”; (4) “bringing out empty pallets and the pallet jack”; (5) “returning the hand-truck”; (6) “turning in collection money”; (7) “returning the paperwork”; and (8) undergoing the “DOT-mandated post-trip inspection.” The plaintiffs claimed that the defendant “requires the driver to clock out for the day within 30 minutes after driving into the hub or he gets a write-up” in spite of the fact that “the returns and inspection can easily take 45 minutes.”

The plaintiffs further averred that the defendant paid inadequate compensation for overtime hours worked. Under California Labor Code Sec 510(a), “any work in excess of 12 hours in one day shall be compensated at the rate of no less than twice the regular rate of pay for an employee….” In violation of this legal standard, the plaintiffs claimed the defendant failed to pay the double-time rate despite the plaintiffs “routinely [being] on-the-clock for more than 12 hours in a work day” and instead paid the normal overtime rate of time-and-a-half. As such, the plaintiffs claimed an entitlement to the “difference between the overtime rate and the double-time rate for all work hours in excess of 12 hours per day during the statutory period.”

Finally, the plaintiffs sought “waiting time pay” from the defendant under California Labor Code Sec. 203(a). Sec. 203(a) allows a resigned or terminated employee to seek up to 30 days of additional pay if the employer fails to pay out earned compensation within 72 hours of the employer-employee relationship ending. Under this provision, the plaintiffs alleged the defendant must pay an additional 30 days of compensation for “on-duty meal periods”, “mandatory but uncompensated time at the end of each work day” and “double-time wages.”

The plaintiffs were represented by David Himelson Law Offices