Jan. 29–A local tow truck driver accused the American Automobile Association of forcing employees who help distressed motorists to work off the clock, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Houston. The alleged wage practices, which includes deducting gas money and failing to pay overtime, can bring hourly wages below the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour, according to the lawsuit.
Christopher Smith is seeking class-action status on behalf of 10,000 AAA drivers nationwide, including 1,000 in Texas, who works for the motor club better known as AAA that has 58 million members in the U.S. and Canada.
Smith works as a tow truck driver for Houston Emergency Auto Rescue and Trucking which, in turn, does roadside assistance work for AAA. Smith drives a company tow truck with an “AAA” logo, wears an “AAA” uniform and carries an “AAA” identification card.
Smith earns an hourly wage that is little more than the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, said his lawyer, Taft L. Foley II. But the company deducts gas money for the company-owned trucks, said Foley, and recalculates Smith’s wages each week based upon the number of vehicles he towed. It’s not unusual for Smith to earn less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, said Taft.
Smith works about 60 hours a week, Taft said, but is not paid time and one-half for the overtime hours.
Taft said that he has clients who work for other towing companies that have contracts with AAA and the work rules are identical.
“It is a big scam,” said Taft, who believes that AAA and Houston Emergency Auto Rescue and Trucking are joint employers and jointly liable for wages.
AAA said in a prepared statement that Smith is not an employee of AAA and therefore, has no basis to sue the organization. It would not comment further on the lawsuit.
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Houston Emergency Auto Rescue and Trucking did not return a call for comment.
Smith is seeking an unspecified amount of back wages.
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