California ruling may widely affect trucking industry

Frank S. Clowney III

A ruling by a San Diego Superior Court against a California-based international shipping company awarding more than $2 million to seven Los Angeles area truck drivers will have far-reaching implications for companies and drivers throughout the state. The truck drivers alleged that the company misclassified them as independent contractors and then leased trucks owned by the company to truckers to drive.

The court held that, under California’s labor law, the seven Hispanic drivers should have been classified as employees rather than independent owner-operators, and ordered that amounts withheld from their wages by the company for leases, fuel, insurance and other expenses be reimbursed to the truckers. The court’s decision affirmed a previous award by a state labor commissioner in the same amount.

According to the plaintiffs’ attorney, employee misclassification has increased in frequency in the trucking industry after new clean air regulations were passed in 2008 and that this new decision could be a landmark ruling, which changes the face of the trucking industry in the United Stated. The regulations forced many truckers, whose trucks were older, to begin leasing trucks from shipping companies when they were unable to purchase newer, cleaner operating vehicles. The plaintiffs’ attorney said that the decision would strengthen the position of drivers in litigation already pending against multiple other shipping companies and that he expected similar wage-theft lawsuits were forthcoming.

California employees who believe they may have been misclassified or may have wage theft claims against their employers may seek advice from an attorney with experience and knowledge in litigating employment law claims. Such an attorney may be able to assist employees in navigating the complexities of the law and the legal system in order to ensure that the employees’ legal rights are protected.

Source: Reuters, “California truckers win $2 million in wage theft suit,” Steve Gorman, Jan. 30, 2015