TriMet Moves Operator's Action Suit to Federal Court

Former TriMet driver and prolific blogger Al Margulies has filed a multimillion-dollar class action lawsuit against the transit agency, alleging unfair labor practices.

On Wednesday, TriMet's lawyer filed a motion to move the case from Multnomah County Circuit Court to Oregon District Court, saying the suit is a federal question.

The suit asks for $20 million, with $10 million in state labor claims and $10 million in federal claims.

Margulies, who is joined by 14 other plaintiffs, is the author of Rantings of a Former TriMet Bus Driver, and is a vocal critic and watch dog of the agency's administration. Margulies, who was part of WW's Voices issue in December, retired from TriMet in May 2012 after 15 years.

Portland attorney Paul Breed, who along with a California firm, is representing the operators, says the case will likely have more signatories.

At the heart of the suit is pay for drivers who must drive from the end of one run to the start of another due to split shifts, as well as pay for operators whose shift ends away from their personal vehicle.

"They have a practice of not paying drivers for the time in between split shifts," Breed tells WW. "It's time that the drivers are not effectively able to put to their own use and it should be considered compensable under federal and state wage laws."

The suit also argues that drivers aren't paid for the actual time a shift takes, rather TriMet's estimate of how long a run should take, meaning that if a shift is behind schedule, operators aren't paid for the extra time.

Breed pointed to a similar case against the Alameda-Contra Costa (California) Transit District settled in favor of the operators last year. The judge in that case awarded $7 million to operators, plus $10,000 to each main plaintiff and $1.65 million in attorney fees. In that case, well over 1,300 operators became party to the class action suit.

TriMet Attorney Gregory Skillman declined to comment on the claims. 

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