AUGUSTA, ME — A group of Maine dairy delivery drivers recently secured a substantial $5 million settlement as part of a resolution to the class action unpaid overtime lawsuit in which the plaintiffs challenged the interpretation of state overtime pay laws that had barred them from premium overtime pay until now. As part of the agreement, Oakhurst Dairy will pay an estimated 127 drivers for back overtime wages earned from 2008 to 2012. Each of the five named plaintiffs who brought the suit will receive an additional $50,000 for taking the initiative to bring the case on behalf of the class.
According to the unpaid overtime class action lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, the plaintiffs asserted that they should not have been included in groups of dairy workers named as overtime exempt under state law. The delivery drivers argued that the language of the law was ambiguous and should have been interpreted in the most literal way possible.
The law, as written, attempted to exempt workers engaging in “The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: (1) Agricultural produce; (2) Meat and fish products; and (3) Perishable foods.” Specifically, the plaintiffs argued that because no comma was placed between the phrase “packing for shipment or distribution,” delivery drivers should not be overtime exempt because they were not engaged in packing.
The case came down to whether the courts would interpret the lack of a comma to either read that only dairy packagers would be excluded from overtime pay or that both packagers and distributors (drivers) would be overtime exempt. In its recent ruling, the First Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the lower District Court’s interpretation siding with Oakhurst Dairy and sent the case back holding delivery drivers were not overtime exempt. As a result, Oakhurst Dairy began settlement discussions and eventually agreed to resolve the matter with the plaintiffs rather than continue litigation.
Delivery Driver Unpaid Overtime Lawsuit
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