SUMMERLAND, B.C. - Truckers who are sick of being able to claim $45 per day less than government workers for meal allowances now have a chance to take a stand.A class-action lawsuit has been launched ...
SUMMERLAND, B.C. – Truckers who are sick of being able to claim $45 per day less than government workers for meal allowances now have a chance to take a stand.
A class-action lawsuit has been launched by B.C. law firm, Johnston, Johnson and Co., and truckers who feel jilted by the current system are being invited to take part.
Under the current system, truckers are entitled to claim 50 per cent of $33 per day, while government employees can dine on $61.50 per day. That’s a difference of $45 per day, and to add insult to injury, government workers aren’t even required to provide receipts to validate their claims.
With a series of recent tax court rulings going in favor of truck drivers who feel the current system is unfair, Tom Johnston says the timing couldn’t be better to launch the lawsuit. He has set up a Web site at www.summerlandlawoffice.com to recruit interested people, who must sign up to take part and send in $100 for legal fees. Although the Web site hasn’t been up long, about 300 people have already sent in their cheques, while thousands of copies have been printed off and are in circulation. Because the case will be carried out through Tax Court, only those who sign up will be eligible to reap the rewards, says Johnston.
“Membership has its privileges,” he says. “In tax law, if you’re not in the class, the benefit won’t be there for you, the theory being that maybe these other people who travel don’t want the benefit of it.”
And the benefit may be more than just pocket change. Johnston estimates if the case is successful and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency hands out retroactive reimbursements, then truckers running the highway for 10 years or more can expect to get back between $20,000 and $40,000.
In order to proceed, however, a number of criteria must be met. First, 500 people must sign up and pay a $100 legal fee.
Then, the next challenge is to become certified as a class. In order to be certified as a class, the group must be capable of a clear definition, the issue must be common to all class members and the success for one member must mean success for all members.
The other requirement is that the class must have one individual who can represent the entire group.
“One person would speak for the class and we should be able to pick a person like that quite easily,” says Johnston.
The lawsuit is open to any over-the-road trucker in Canada who feels that 50 per cent of $33 is simply not enough. So far, there has been interest across the board, and Johnston says it will prove to be a truly national case.
“It’s been about 50/50 men and women, and we’ve had a number of people from Quebec so we’re working on getting the information on the Web site in French as well,” says Johnston.
In fact, while the law firm pursuing this case is based in B.C., the case may be brought before the courts just about anywhere in Canada.
“Obviously we know there are judges who ruled on this in the past, so it may be advantageous to try to get it back in front of that court because of their familiarity with it,” says Johnston.
Participants who decide to join the effort may be called on to provide information from time to time.
“They can sit back, and we will inform them periodically of the status of the action as it proceeds,” says Johnston.
“They will be asked to participate at different times in terms of their experiences. We want to draw on the collective knowledge of the group.”
While talk of a class action lawsuit over meal allowance deductions is nothing new, now that the plan is in motion just how realistic is it?
According to Johnston, there’s a very realistic chance of a victory.
He estimates the total cost of the lawsuit will be $50,000 and that is why the company requires at least 500 people to chip in $100 each.
“If we can get that, I’m reasonably confident we’ll have some success,” says Johnston.
“The bottom line is that people stand to benefit if they join.”