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Port truck drivers win employee status and 6.9 million dollars in stolen wages

The California Labor Commissioner ruled on December 14, 2015, that Pacific 9 Transportation wrongly classified its 38 drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. The port trucking company was ordered to pay them $6.9 million in stolen wages.

The Labor Commissioner also found the company had failed to provide its drivers with legally mandated 10-minute rest periods and 30-minute meal breaks. Based in Carson, California, Pac 9 moves containers from the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports for major brands such as Microsoft, Costco, Ugg Boots and Goodyear Tires.

Among the payments the company owes the drivers are rest and meal breaks, unlawful deductions for costs such as insurance and fuel, business expenses, liquidated damages and compensation for hours when drivers were paid below minimum wage.

The ruling came after six weeks of hearings that began in July 2015. It is the first time the Labor Commissioner has held consecutive hearings for individual wage theft claims against one employer. In the same month, the 38 drivers went on their sixth and indefinite strike against the company’s unfair labor practices and misclassification.

“ . . . 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,” Daniel Linares, a misclassified Pac 9 port truck driver, said in a statement. “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.”

In order to determine whether the drivers worked as employees or independent contractors, the hearing officer had to evaluate their working relationship with the employer. Among the factors that were considered were the amount of control the employer exercised over its workers and whether the employees’ duties were an integral part of business operations.

If you feel that you may have been misclassified as an independent contractor, or denied your due wages and overtime for any reason, contact the employment attorneys at McCormack & Erlich for a free evaluation. Call us at 415.296.8420.

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