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Charles Smith, Hector Casas, and Barry v. Crst Van Expedited

November 20, 2012

CHARLES SMITH, HECTOR CASAS, AND BARRY NEWMANN, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHER SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CRST VAN EXPEDITED, INC., ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. GONZALEZUnited States District Judge

ORDER OVERRULING CLASS MEMBER JAMES COLE'S INTERVENTION AND OBJECTIONS AND DENYING CONSOLIDATION [Doc. No. 86]

This is a class action by truck drivers against their employer, trucking company CRST Van Expedited, Inc. ("CRST"), for failure to pay minimum wages during certain stages of the company's driver training program and related violations of California Business and Professions Code Section 17200. After nearly three years litigating these claims, the parties agreed to a proposed settlement, which the Court preliminarily approved on April 23, 2012. [Doc. No. 78.] Before the Court are class member James Cole's objections to final settlement approval and requests to intervene or consolidate. [Doc. No. 86.] For the reasons stated below, the Court OVERRULES Cole's objections and DENIES his requests.

BACKGROUND

The class is represented by three individuals, Charles Smith, Hector Casas, and Barry Newmann (collectively, the "Class Representatives").

Three portions of CRST's training program, (1) truck driver training school; (2) orientation; and (3) over-the-road training, pertain to the claims alleged as follows:

1. Truck driver training school: Certain drivers, referred to as Contract Student Drivers, were required to attend an 8 month truck driving school with the option of doing so at CRST's expense if they signed Driver Employment Contracts. Under the Driver Employment Contracts, if those drivers did not remain employed with CRST for a full 8 months, they would be obligated to pay CRST $3,950. This amount was ostensibly to repay the cost of the program, but was in fact $2,450 more than the cost of the program, and thus Plaintiffs allege the obligation to pay constituted an unenforceable penalty.

2. Orientation: All drivers were required to attend orientation, for which no compensation was paid. Plaintiffs allege they were entitled to California and federal minimum wage for the roughly 29 hours spent in this orientation.

3. Over-the-road training: Certain drivers were required to participate in over-the-road training, for which they received a flat $50 per day rate for 28 days. Plaintiffs allege this rate failed to meet the California and federal minimum wage.

For settlement purposes, the Court certified the following class divided into subclasses:

Persons who resided in the State of California at the time of their date of hire and who worked as truck drivers for CRST Van Expedited, Inc. between November 5, 2005 and April 23, 2012. These persons are divided into the following subclasses:

Subclass 1 -- Contract Student Drivers [Drivers who attended truck driver training school at CRST's expense] who worked for CRST for more than 8 months, or who have a current balance that CRST contends is still owed for training expenses which is less than $500;

Subclass 2 -- Contract Student Drivers who have a current balance of $500 or more, which CRST contends is still owed for their training expenses, or who are employed by CRST as of the date of Preliminary Approval Date, but have not completed the 8 months required by their Driver Employment Contacts; and

Subclass 3 -- Drivers who were not Contract Student Drivers [Drivers who (a) paid for their own truck driver training school, (b) who pre-paid CRST for the cost of truck driver training school, or (c) who already had their Commercial Driver's License when they started work for CRST and did not attend truck driver training school].

As consideration for the release of all claims expressly and derivatively asserted in this action, the settlement provides the class with a total financial benefit in excess of $11,600,000. This includes a non-reversionary $2,625,000 cash payout and over $9,000,00 in outstanding debt under the Driver Employment Contracts that CRST agrees to relieve. In addition to the financial benefits of the settlement, CRST has agreed to significant changes to its policies and training program that will benefit its employees going forward, including a full disclosure form provided to employees prior to enrollment in the training program, temporary employee status for drivers when tested by the Department of Motor Vehicles, payment for driver during orientation going forward, payment by a split mile basis ...


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