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L.A. Port Truckers Win $7M Settlement for Being Misclassified as Independent Contractors

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The California Labor Commission has ordered Pacific 9 Transportation to pay 37 port drivers a total of nearly $7 million in back wages after they were misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees.  Earlier this month, 38 drivers made claims to the Labor Commission that they had been misclassified. Last week, it was announced that all had won and that 37 would receive backpay.  The lone driver who did not receive backpay was found to have claims that were too old and thus fell outside the statute of limitations.

In a statement, Daniel Linares, one of the misclassified Pacific 9 drivers, said:

“We have finally had our day in court and we are extremely grateful that the government has realized that it isn’t just a handful of drivers that are misclassified – it is all of us. We aren’t going to back down now. We will continue suing and striking these companies until they end their unfair treatment and the industry abandons the misclassification scheme that allows these trucking companies to steal our wages and defraud the government.”

The 60-year-old Linares said that Pacific 9 Transportation fired him in April, but even before that he never truly felt like an independent contractor:

“The control is on the company side only.  The drivers don’t control anything. They tell us which loads to pick up and where to drop them and what to do next once we’re done.”

The decision is the latest victory for truck drivers who have been rallying and protesting over misclassification at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach for several years.  Labor Commissioner Julie Su says that 720 truck drivers have filed complaints with her office since 2012.  Three cases affecting more than 100 drivers have been heard since July of 2015.  As noted by the Harbor Trucking Association, Su has ruled in favor of truckers in 90 percent of cases.  The trade group used this figure to suggest partiality.  Workers’ advocates, on the other hand, see Su’s decisions as merely cleaning up a long-standing misclassification mess.

Fred Potter, International Vice President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Director of the Teamsters Port Division, said:

“Misclassification, wage theft, and tax fraud has infested the port trucking industry, and the drivers are grateful to the California Labor Commissioner for scheduling back-to-back hearings in these cases. History has been made and change is on the horizon. Companies like Shippers Transport Express and Eco Flow Transportation have converted to an employee model and it is no longer “if” but “when” the $12 billion drayage industry will comply with the law.”

In the end, Pacific 9 Transportation will repay drivers for work-related expenses such as truck maintenance, which in many cases costs the drivers thousands of dollars.  The company will also repay drivers for deductions to paychecks that had been made for truck lease payments, insurance, day-to-day maintenance and other expenses.  While the payouts will vary, on average the truckers will receive just over $187,000 each.  

Pacific 9 was also found to, at times, pay their workers under the minimum wage, an offense for which they will pay each driver several thousand dollars.  The labor commission also found that drivers were not paid for rest and meal breaks.  The company will also pay interest on all of the infractions, amounting to tens of thousands of dollars per driver.  

According to the ruling, if the company plans to appeal they must first post a bond equal to the amount of the settlement.  


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