People board the Muni F-train in San Francisco on Monday, June 13, 2016. (Ryan McNulty/Special to S.F. Examiner)

SF may pay Muni operators $8 million in overtime lawsuit settlement

Muni operators may net $8 million in a settlement from San Francisco as a years-long overtime lawsuit potentially comes to an end.

In 2012, former Muni operator Darryl A. Stitt filed a class-action suit against the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and The City alleging the transit agency failed to pay Muni operators due overtime in violation of the California Labor Code and San Francisco’s Minimum Wage Ordinance.

Muni operators weren’t paid for travel time between the bus yards they clocked into and the bus yards they needed to pull buses out of, or for certain post-driving inspections and other periods, Stitt and other operators alleged.

In 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez granted some 2,500 Muni operators class status, upping the ante in the suit.

From 2014 to this year, SFMTA and the plaintiffs engaged in numerous settlement hearings.
Now, an amount seems to have been agreed upon, according to court filings.

“The parties have reached agreement that Defendant shall pay an amount not to exceed Eight Million Dollars ($8,000,000) as the Maximum Settlement Amount to resolve the Action on a class-wide basis,” wrote attorneys for the defendant, SFMTA, in a motion for preliminary approval of class settlement filed Dec. 16.

The proposed settlement amount will tentatively go before the SFMTA Board of Directors for approval in early January, which will be followed by the next settlement hearing between the SFMTA and the plaintiffs on Jan. 24, 2017.

The SFMTA declined to comment, and attorneys for the plaintiffs did not return repeated calls. Eric Williams, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, declined to comment on the suit.
“I’m a plaintiff just like my [union] brothers and sisters,” said Williams, a former cable car operator.

The Tidrick Law Firm in Berkeley represented the Muni operators, and may take as much as 30 percent of the settlement should it be approved, according to court filings.

Operators from August 17, 2009, to May 2, 2014, will be included in the payout.

In the filings, the SFMTA “specifically and generally” denied any and all liability or wrongdoing of any sort. Crucially, this may also mean operators may not be paid for travel time going into the future, the defendants’ attorneys explained on background — the $8 million settlement may be all the money operators will ever see from the matter.

The lead plaintiff, Stitt, may net $25,000, as will another plaintiff, John Dudley. Other plaintiffs will receive $10,000 and $3,000 each, and a number of operators who provided depositions may net $800 each.

The rest of the settlement will be determined by hours worked, according to filings.

“Defendant (SFMTA) has concluded that further conduct of the Action would likely be protracted, distracting and expensive, and it is desirable that the Action be fully and finally settled,” attorneys wrote in court filings.

The settlement may signal the end of a long saga, which the San Francisco Examiner’s sister paper SF Weekly referred to in 2014 as “Finally, Inevitably: Muni is suing Muni.”

At the time, SF Weekly noted that if The City was found to be in violation of The City’s Minimum Wage ordinance, a fine of $50 per day — per 2,500 SFMTA workers — may have meant a $228 million fine for The City.

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