A class-action lawsuit filed by three Southern California port truck drivers claims that XPO Logistics used a deliberate scheme to misclassify their truck drivers as independent contractors, thus denying them the protections available to employees under California law.
The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, represents about 160 workers at XPO Logistics Cartage LLC by attorneys Julie Gutman Dickinson and C. Joe Sayas Jr. on Monday, Feb. 26.
The lawsuit alleges the company, a subsidiary of Connecticut-based XPO Logistics, routinely denied workers hourly wages even though the company treated the drivers like regular employees. Under the independent contractor model, employees are paid by the load, but must pay operational expenses including the use of tablet computers necessary to provide information about the hauls.
Plaintiffs are seeking unpaid wages and all compensation due, as well as declaratory relief, liquidated damages and permanent injunctions preventing XPO from continuing their current business practices.
The topic of working conditions for port truck drivers has been in the news since USA Today published an investigative report that looked at unfair labor practices in the Port of Los Angeles.
According to the lawsuit, there are several reasons XPO truck drivers are misclassified as independent contractors.
The days and hours worked by drivers are controlled by the XPO dispatchers, the lawsuit said. To obtain work each day, drivers are required to check in with the XPO dispatchers at the start of the drivers’ work shift, at which time the driver is provided an initial load assignment. Throughout the course of the workday, the driver must continually contact the XPO dispatchers to receive further instructions on further assignments and is expected to continue working until all cargo loads have been pulled and may be denied further assignments if he or she stops working early.
The lawsuit also alleges that XPO uses electronics devices issued to drivers to monitor in real time the location, movement and status of drivers pulling loads for the company.
Angel Omar Alvarez, Alberto Rivera, and Fernando Ramirez are named as plaintiffs in the case. Dickinson said there are more than 160 plaintiffs in the class action. However, she expects more to be added.
The once union-dominated trucking industry was deregulated in the 1980s, and since then short-haul trucking near Southern California ports has become dominated by companies that use independent contractors. Los Angeles and Long Beach city councils have been grappling with how to address persistent complaints from truckers.
In recent years, the California Labor Commissioner has received hundreds of complaints regarding the misclassification of port truckers and has awarded more than $35 million in back wages and penalties.
The lawsuit asks for damages, compensation for back wages and requests that the company end the practice.