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Port Truckers’ Lawsuit Tells Company the Gig’s Up

Truck drivers spend unpaid hours awaiting assignments from dispatchers, as well as burning up time at vehicle inspections or completing shipping paperwork—time that would be compensated if they were classified as hourly or salaried employees, instead of as contractors.

Bobbi Murray

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Angel Omar Alvarez, driver and lawsuit plaintiff.

Lawyer: Drivers can receive what amount to negative paychecks, even after a 60-hour work week, due to unlawful company deductions.


 

The term on-demand economy probably brings to mind Uber and Lyft drivers. But truckers, not so much

Short-haul truck drivers who move cargo from portside to railroad yards and warehouses are part of the “gig economy” that requires service-providers (i.e., the workers) to front their own operational costs.

On Monday lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against XPO Logistics Cartage on behalf of approximately 160 truck drivers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, arguing that truckers should be classified as employees, not contractors. The litigation seeks restitution of lost wages but also calls for an injunction to halt what it calls XPO’s unlawful practices.

XPO is one of the world’s 10 largest providers of transportation and logistics services, and worth $15 billion in annual revenues. It moves freight for such marquee brands as Amazon, Toyota, Procter & Gamble and Sony.

According to attorney Julie Gutman Dickinson, truck drivers spend unpaid hours awaiting assignments from dispatchers, as well as burn up time at vehicle inspections or while completing shipping paperwork—time that would be compensated if they were classified as hourly or salaried employees instead of as contractors. Dickinson is a partner at Bush Gottlieb, the firm which, along with the law offices of C. Joe Sayas Jr., filed the lawsuit. She said deductions for expenses include insurance, computer tablet fees and administrative costs.

Drivers can receive what amount to negative paychecks, even after a 60-hour work week, Dickinson added. “They actually owe money to the trucking company due to unlawful deductions because they are illegally misclassified as contractors instead of employees.”

An XPO spokesman denied that the company engages in these practices.

This is not the first proceeding against XPO Logistics Cartage and subsidiaries alleging misclassification. The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement has ruled that its drivers are misclassified as contractors. Appeals are pending. A 2013 class-action suit against the company, then called Pacer Cartage, resulted in a 2016 settlement for $2,687,500—but did not re-classify the truckers as employees.

In an emailed statement XPO asserted that the vast majority of port drivers want to maintain their independence as contractors. “This business model lets drivers decide who they work for and when. It also means we can offer contractors competitive pay while keeping service levels high for customers. We’ll continue to defend this way of doing business.”

Angel Omar Alvarez, one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, has worked for XPO for eight years. He described being responsible for the costs of diesel and repairs, as well as the level of control the employer can exercise.

If a driver rejects a dispatcher’s assigned haul because it’s too time-consuming to be worthwhile, he said, there is retaliation. Sometimes drivers don’t get assignments, other times “they give you the worst load that takes six to seven hours to pick up. They make your life miserable if you reject the load.

“That’s what happens, that’s the reality that we suffer with this company. It happens every day.”


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