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Maryland school bus drivers file wage theft suit against employer

As we have previously noted in this Greenbelt Employment Law Blog, wage theft is becoming a growing trend in Maryland. Wage theft occurs when employers, for one reason or another, refuse to pay workers their earned wages. Some of the latest allegations of wage theft involve bus drivers and aides who are employed by a contractor of Baltimore schools.

About 85 bus drivers and aides are part of the collective-action lawsuit that accuses the employer not only of skirting wage laws, but also of failing to keep the workplace safe for workers and children on the school buses.

The lawsuit accuses the company, Durham School Services, of failing to pay overtime and failing to pay overtime in a timely manner. It also says the company neglects to pay workers for hours they spend fulfilling responsibilities that are necessary to transport students to and from school. This includes inspections before and after trips as well as cleaning and refueling the buses, according to a Baltimore Sun report.

One bus attendant who is a part of the lawsuit has stated that she is asked to clean her bus herself, but is not paid for it. Her bus, like others, is reportedly moldy and this has a negative effect on some of the students who have special needs who ride that bus.

It is not noted in the Baltimore Sun report whether the bus drivers and attendants are categorized by the company as employees or contractors. Maryland's wage payment laws provide legal protections for employees, but these laws do not apply to contractors. Nonetheless, in many cases, those who are listed as contractors are truly employees. Additionally, this case has been filed in federal court.

Those who believe they are victims of wage theft, or that they are unnecessarily subjected to unsafe working conditions, might benefit from seeking legal counsel. Recourse may be available under Maryland state law or federal law.

Source: Baltimore Sun, "School bus drivers protest working, safety conditions," Erica L. Green, May 24, 2013

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