A $54.6 million jury verdict for truckers who said Walmart violated California law by not paying minimum wage for breaks and other work interruptions was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit. Walmart challenged a November 2016 jury verdict in favor of a class of more than 800 truckers for almost $55 million in damages on claims the retailer violated California law requiring minimum wages for all work. While it found Walmart — which paid workers based on their activities — did not short workers for certain aspects of their work, the jury found the company owed wages for mandatory 10-hour layovers between driving periods, pre- and post-trip inspections, and rest breaks.

Under California law, employers owe workers minimum wage for work interruptions in which they nonetheless have “control” over employees. The verdict built on pretrial rulings by the district court that Walmart’s written policy denied workers minimum wage for these interruptions, with the jury finding that Walmart shorted workers in practice, too.

Walmart argued that it did not control workers in writing or in fact, saying the court and the jury misread its policy. But the majority disagreed, saying the policy as written exerted “control” over workers because they had to get “permission to enjoy one of the most fundamental privileges that all employees enjoy — the autonomy to go home when they are not working.” And the workers offered ample evidence for the jury to conclude that Walmart so restricted them in practice, the panel said.

The case is Ridgeway et al. v. Walmart Inc., cases number 17-15983 and 17-16142, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.


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