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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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