Classifying truckers at the Port of Los Angeles as independent contractors is an example of a long-running debate over misclassification of workers. And it took a new turn this week when the Los Angeles City Attorney sued three trucking firms claiming they misclassified more than 400 truck drivers to avoid paying benefits and taxes.
“We allege these port trucking companies take advantage of hundreds of hard-working drivers, requiring them to pay onerous expenses just to do their jobs, while leaving them without basic benefits and protections — all to boost the companies’ profits,” Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said. “It’s wrong and we’re fighting to stop it.”
Drivers may take home as little as a few cents in a work period, according to Feuer.
Trucking companies sued include CMI Transportation LLC, K&R Transportation California LLC and Cal Cartage Transportation Express LLC. The companies use the drivers for short distance hauling of cargo between ports, railyards and warehouses.
Feuer argues the companies exert “near complete control over their drivers’ assignments and details of their work,” a factor in determining whether a worker is a contractor or employee. The City Attorney also cited truck leasing arrangements between the companies and drivers that he says essentially force truckers to work for the firms or lose significant investment in their trucks.
Dispute over classification of truckers at the port has been taking place over time. Last month, the Los Angeles City Council looked into denying access to the port for companies not in compliance with labor laws, including misclassification. The National Labor Relations Board had begun an investigation in 2016, and drivers held a strike in 2015 over the classification.
Changes are also happening elsewhere in the independent contractor legal landscape. Richard Reibstein and Janet Barsky of Locke Lord LLP discuss the situation in a new post on Bloomberg Law titled “Five Key Independent Contractor Legal Developments in 2017 — and What to Expect in 2018 (Part I of II).”