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Bus Drivers Settle Overtime Lawsuit

NEWARK — School bus drivers have reached a settlement with First Student Inc. in their overtime pay lawsuit. First Student, the largest school bus company in North America, allegedly failed to pay the bus drivers for their time spent on maintenance and other duties before and after their shifts. If the court approves the settlement offer, First Student will pay the current and former bus drivers in the class action a total of $1.6 million. Interestingly, First Student settled two other wage violation class actions in December 2013.

Bus Drivers’ Claim

The school bus drivers brought their claim under both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New Jersey state labor law. They claim First Student withheld both straight time and overtime from the 146 named plaintiffs and the rest of the drivers in the putative class. A putative class is an assumed class based on the presented evidence; in this case the putative class includes about 9,000 drivers.

The class action was filed in March 2013 and initially included claims of failure to pay for time spent putting on and taking off safety vests, waiting for route assignments, and maintenance responsibilities, all of which took place “off-the-clock.” The allegedly unpaid “off-the-clock” maintenance responsibilities included federally mandated post-trip inspections. School bus drivers must perform a general inspection of the bus and a sleeping child inspection, clean the bus, and report issues after they finish their route. The drivers claim First Student required them to perform these duties after they had clocked out.

The bus drivers also claim First Student’s time system is based solely on estimated route times. It does not account for or credit drivers for actual route times if there is traffic or other delays, but does dock drivers pay if the routes take less time than estimated. While the unpaid time spent on routes and other activities is not always extensive, over the course of a week it does add up and could potentially result in appreciable overtime wages on top of the unpaid wages.

Off-the-Clock Work

There are very few work-related activities that an employer can require an employee to perform when they are not “on-the-clock.” Activities such as commuting to and from work and, in some cases, putting on work gear or clothing are some of the few allowed activities. But, for the most part, “off-the-clock” work responsibilities are not permitted under state and federal labor laws. Off-the-clock work provides employers with the unfair advantage of free labor and deprives employees of earned wages and potential overtime pay.

If your employer requires you to work “off-the-clock” or does not record all of the hours you have worked, call our experienced team of overtime pay lawyers today at (855) 754-2795 to discuss your situation. Or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form and our knowledgeable legal team will evaluate your case. If we accept your case, we will represent you under our No Fee Promise. This means there are no legal fees or costs unless you receive a settlement. However, there are strict time deadlines for filing lawsuits so it is important to contact an attorney immediately.

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