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Pacer truck drivers win major $2 million victory

The question of whether or not a worker is an independent contractor or an employee is a contentious one. In some instances, it is very clear how a worker is classified. In other situations, such as the truckers at the Port Authority, it is not as clear-cut. The main issue in cases like this one, which resolved with Pacer truck drivers winning $2 million, is that being classified as independent contractors would and did deny them overtime pay. Being misclassified is a violation of federal and state laws.

The $2 million Pacer Cartage verdict, handed down by a Superior Court Judge, stated the truckers were indeed employees and not independent contractors. Seven drivers filed a class action lawsuit stating they did not receive sick leave, health care or overtime pay because they were classified as independent contractors.

The court pointed out in its decision that the truckers could not be independent contractors because they did not have any control over setting rates or prices, had to fill out job applications, were required to adhere to Pacer’s rules with regard to deliveries, had to sublease their vehicles from the company, had no control over dates or times for deliveries, were required to be on call and had to restrict how much they drove every year or be surcharged. The less discretion and control a worker has, the higher the likelihood they are an employee and not an independent contractor.

The decisive factor in this lawsuit was the fact Pacer had purchased new trucks with emission control devices allowing them to service the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. Pacer then subleased the trucks back to the truckers. Similar lawsuits with truckers as plaintiffs are pending and this decision may have significant ramifications in the outcome of those suits.

Violating labor laws is a quick way to be sued for significant sums of money. In just about every case, the defendants would have been better off financially following existing wage and hour rules and regulations.

If you are in a situation like this one, consult with a knowledgeable employment attorney. It is in your own best interests to find out your legal rights.

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Stolen Wage Lawsuit Results in Job Reinstatement for Two California Truckers

Recently, two Long Beach port truckers who had been misclassified as independent contractors, when they were really employees, achieved a landmark victory. Green Fleet Systems in Long Beach was not thrilled with the federal judge’s ruling against them, as they were ordered to cease illegal job misclassification activity, or face contempt of court. The court’s decision is the first of several injunctions in support of misclassified workers’ rights in U.S. history.

Misclassifying workers in order to pay them lower wages is not just a problem in California, occurring nationwide. According to the Teamsters’ General President Jim Hoffa, truckers were being treated like regular workers but illegally paid independent contractor wages for years.

The two truckers were fired by Green Fleet Systems last January for questioning whether their job classification was legal, for filing claims for stolen wages with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement and for publicly standing up for the Teamsters Union. Such unjust dismissal is referred to as retaliation, an illegal action in violation of labor laws. The court’s decision to censure Green Fleet Systems acts as a warning to the trucking industry that workers have the right to union representation and cannot be fired for filing wage claim thefts.

Workers who feel they are misclassified as independent contractors should seek legal counsel and find out how the local labor laws apply in the specific situation.

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