The City of San Diego agreed to pay $500,000 to trash truck drivers who say they were illegally denied pay while taking lunchbreaks.
The class action suit was filed in 2014, after disgruntled drivers filed a complaint over what was then a standard practice – deducting a half hour’s pay from each shift. The 30-minute deduction was supposed to cover for the time employees used to eat and weren’t actively on the job.
The plaintiffs contested the city’s logic, saying they were made to stay on their collection routes while eating.
Despite agreeing to the settlement, San Diego and its attorneys denied any wrongdoing. Its lawyers say that, because San Diego is a “charter city,” it is exempt from applicable state laws.
“Charter cities are supreme and beyond the reach of legislative enactments,” wrote lawyers for San Diego in a court document.
They also argued that the contract between the city and the drivers explained and covered issues pertaining to rest periods, overtime, and other occurrences claimed as unpaid wages.
The San Diego Union Tribune reports that the estimated number of drivers affected could be as many as 220, including those who have since left their positions.
San Diego, the Tribune reports, tends to keep about 100 drivers on staff, who remove rubbish from residences across the city – free of charge, due to “a controversial law known as the People’s Ordinance.”
Due to the number of drivers affected being higher than the current staff, a judge will have to approve the settlement before it’s actually disbursed.
If San Diego had lost the case in civil court, the Tribune claims the damage to the city’s coffers could have been much higher – the payout would have covered “more than six years of back wages, plus interest, for many of the drivers.”
The city, which denied wrongdoing, said it agreed to settle to avoid its taxpayers having to foot a far higher bill.