HOUSTON – A lawsuit accusing Waste Management of shorting its Florida truck drivers overtime pay is among a collection of similar suits punted by a Texas federal judge back to the home states in which the lawsuits first originated.
U.S. District Chief Judge Lee Rosenthal of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas recently granted Waste Management's request to transfer the five lawsuits.
In the May 10 ruling, Rosenthal granted Waste Management's request to transfer the lawsuits – docketed as Erwin Reummele vs. Waste Management of Florida, Nicholas Ayala vs. Waste Management of Arizona; James Bogden vs. Waste Management of Colorado; Mark Ables vs. Waste Management of Tennessee and Reynold Vicente vs. Waste Management of California – to the states that involved each plaintiff.
The lawsuits filed in the district court in Houston by former and current truck drivers claim that Waste Management, which provides waste collection at more than 500 facilities across the U.S., violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying the drivers for working over 40 hours per week. The drivers allege that Waste Management automatically deducted 30 minutes from their daily work hours for "meal breaks" whether the driver took a break or not. Some drivers kept going on their routes for some portion or all of the 30 minute time slot, according to the court filing.
Waste Management claimed its subsidiaries or affiliates followed different practices with some crediting drivers for overtime "in whole or part" and some drivers "self reporting" their meal break times.
The court then denied the plaintiffs' motion to certify a nationwide collective action in September 2018 and certified a collective action for those drivers in the state of Texas and to facilities that don't pay for the meal breaks and deduct time for the breaks. The plaintiffs then filed five new lawsuits in the district court in Houston alleging Waste Management did not credit the drivers for time worked during their meal breaks.
In his May 10 ruling, Rosenthal concluded that Florida, Arizona, Colorado, California and Tennessee "are clearly more convenient forums than this court" and granted Waste Management's motion to transfer the cases to the district courts in those states.