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June 2012: $7M Settlement Approved for California Bus Drivers' Travel Time Claims

A Northern California federal judge on June 14, 2012 approved a $7 million settlement bringing to an end a long running FLSA collective action lawsuit brought by Leonard Carder, LLP on behalf of 1,388 bus drivers employed by Alameda Contra-Costa Transit District, based in Oakland California.

The drivers claimed that two types of travel incurred when they were not carrying passengers should be counted as "hours worked" under the FLSA: (1) "split-shift travel" which occurs when the first part of a driver's split run ends at a different location than the start point of the second part of the run, requiring the driver to travel between the two points to start the second part of the run, and (2) "start-end travel" which occurs when a driver's assigned run ends at a different location than it started, requiring the driver to travel from the end point back to the start point to retrieve his or her car and commute home.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken had ruled in January 2010 that the District was liable for violating the FLSA for both types of travel, and in November 2011 had rejected the District's motion to decertify the collective action status of the case. In November 2011 Judge Wilken also made rulings on how damages would be calculated at trial, and the parties were preparing for trial on the amount of the District's damages when they agreed to settle the drivers' claims for $7 million.

The $7 million settlement agreement approved on June 14, 2012 provides for payment of $5.25 million to the drivers, with the remainder of the settlement paying for Settlement Administrator's costs in administering the settlement and for Plaintiffs' attorneys fees incurred in securing the two summary judgment orders favoring the drivers, and preparing for trial.

"We are delighted that these hardworking public servants who have endured nearly 4 years of hard fought litigation will finally receive nearly full compensation for all of the time they spent in both types of travel. They were willing to compromise extra liquidated damages to put this behind them and focus on their work, which provides a vital public service to the citizens of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties," said Philip Monrad, lead counsel for the drivers.

"We are also pleased that Judge Wilken's rulings clarified several issues of FLSA coverage and litigation which will provide guidance helpful to employees in other settings," said Monrad. Specifically, Monrad said: "Judge Wilken ruled that the Portal-To-Portal Act, the Motor Carrier Act Exemption, and the de minimis defense did not apply to exempt this travel time from FLSA coverage. Likewise, Judge Wilken ruled that straight time "gap time" (time worked less than 40 hours in an overtime week) damages can be recovered as an element of overtime damages, and that these drivers' "elapsed time" premium pay did not constitute "clock-pattern" pay which must be offset against damages owed for FLSA violations."

Plaintiffs are represented by Philip Monrad, Margot Rosenberg and Elizabeth Morris of Leonard Carder, LLP.

Defendant is represented by Geoff Gibbs and Diane O'Malley of Hansen Bridgett, LLP.

The case is Gilmer et al v. Alameda Contra-Costa Transit District (AC Transit), U.S. District Court Northern California, No. 08-cv-05186-CW.

LEONARD CARDER, LLP

San Francisco: (415) 771-6400 | Oakland: (510) 272-0169