145 drivers, claiming they are owed pay, sue school bus firm

Posted: March 23, 2013

Claiming they were cheated out of pay, 145 current and former school bus drivers have sued First Student Management L.L.C., a contractor that operates routes for many local districts, including Cherry Hill and the Camden County Educational Services Commission.

The suit was filed in federal court in Camden on Thursday. Tim Stokes, a spokesman for Ohio-based First Student Inc., declined to comment.

The lawsuit says First Student requires each driver to report to the bus yard at a certain time, but does not begin paying the driver until after the employee's badge is swiped at the bus.

At the end of their trips, drivers swipe their badges again, but must continue to work "off the clock," the lawsuit says, inspecting the bus, cleaning it, reporting problems, and checking to make sure there are no children asleep on it.

According to the lawsuit, when First Student lands a contract, it creates an "estimated route time." If the driver takes less than the estimate, the driver is paid less. If the driver takes more time, the driver is paid according to the estimated time but an exception report is filed, the lawsuit says.

To be paid after the report is filed, the driver must document the time worked, said the workers' attorney, Patrick T. Cronin of Haddonfield. Cronin said the law requires the employer to keep track of work hours.

Cronin estimated that unpaid time amounted to about a half-hour a day per driver - a significant amount for the drivers, who are paid, he said, $13 to $17 an hour.

"I grew up on food stamps," Cronin said. "Thirty or forty dollars a week buys bread, buys lunches, puts food on the table."

The plaintiffs live in Camden, Gloucester, Burlington, and Atlantic Counties and work in bus yards in Lawnside, Berlin, Delran, and Willingboro as well as others around the state.

First Student is a division of FirstGroup plc, a British company that also operates Greyhound Lines. First Student's website says the company operates 54,000 buses in the United States and Canada, transporting six million students each day.

In 2010, First Student paid $1.5 million to settle a similar wage and hour lawsuit in Maryland.

Contact Jane Von Bergen at jvonbergen@phillynews.com, @JaneVonBergen on Twitter, or at 215-854-2769. Read her workplace blog at www.philly.com/jobbing

comments powered by Disqus