Drivers, owner settle in Shaun’s Towing litigation
Drivers will be compensated as part of a lawsuit settlement with an Aspen-area towing company, but the amount they are due to receive will be far less than they deserve, the lead litigant in the case said Tuesday.
“I’ll get $2,000, everyone else got about $1,500 (each) and the lawyers got about $5,000,” said Joseph Durrant, the lead plaintiff in a class-action suit he carried out against Shaun’s Towing and Recovery in U.S. District Court in Denver.
Durrant was the only one contacted by The Aspen Times who would comment on the settlement. Attorneys on both sides did not return to telephone messages. Shaun Healy, owner of the valleywide towing company that started in 2005, also could not be reached.
Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix entered an order dismissing the suit Jan. 13. The dismissal came after parties on both sides agreed to pay their own legal fees and court costs, according to pleadings in the lawsuit.
The settlement amount doesn’t accurately reflect what Durrant said he was owed.
“I was working 60 to 90 hours a week, and I was only getting paid for 40,” said Durrant, who no longer lives in the Roaring Fork Valley. “He was taking my hourly pay out of my commission when I was promised hourly plus commission.
“I quit working for him because of what he was doing.”
Settling for a fraction of what he claims he was owed, Durrant said, was better than nothing. Durrant said he was due more in the neighborhood of $44,000.
“It was either take two grand, or take nothing,” he said, adding Healy had said during settlement negotiations that he could leave the country and not pay the plaintiff drivers.
Six other drivers were part of the suit; collectively they will receive $9,000, according to Durrant.
Durrant was the sole plaintiff when he sued Shaun’s Towing in December 2017 on allegations that it did not pay overtime wages to its employees. Magistrate Judge Mix cleared Durrant’s attorneys, in November 2018, to notify former and current drivers of Shaun’s Towing about the class action and how to join it.
At one point there were as many as 10 to 15 drivers in the suit, but they later dropped out, Durrant said.
Durrant worked as a driver with Shaun’s Towing from August 2015 until February 2016, earning $13 an hour plus 30% commission. The suit claimed Durrant and other drivers were paid for two weeks of work regardless of the number of hours they logged each pay period. Some workers put in as many as 96 hours a week, the suit alleged, which argued employees should have been paid time-and-a-half once their work hours exceeded 40 in a week.
While the plaintiffs said they should have received overtime compensation because all of their work occurred in Colorado, attorneys for Shaun’s Towing had argued in court filings argued that because Durrant and other employees crossed state lines during work, they were subject to the Motor Carrier Act Exemption. That act exempts employees who work overtime, provided they are involved in interstate commerce through driving activities, from receiving time-and-a-half pay.
The suit was filed under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Colorado Wage Claim Act and the Colorado Minimum Wage Act.