Federal judge awards nearly $1 million to five former XPO drivers in misclassification suit

By Land Line staff | Friday, May 26, 2017

Five former drivers for XPO Logistics subsidiary, XPO Cartage were awarded nearly $1 million in reimbursement following a driver misclassification lawsuit.

Plaintiffs Jose A. Ramirez, Jose Alba, Jose Peraza, Mario Alba and Mauricio Rodriguez were awarded a total of $958,660 in reimbursement plus attorney’s fees and costs by U.S. District Court Judge William Keller on May 16.

All five men were previously issued awards by the California Labor Commission, which found that the drivers had been misclassified as independent contractors. XPO Cartage appealed the decisions in California Superior Court before the case was moved to federal court. Attorneys for the Labor Commission defended the decisions on behalf of the drivers.

After a four-day bench trial and post-trial briefing, Keller ruled the cases were not pre-empted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 and that all five drivers, misclassified as independent contractors, were entitled to reimbursement for expenses and unlawful deductions.

"The United States District Court's decision in this case vindicates the rights of five employees who have sought for years to recoup the deductions unlawfully withheld from their wages due to being misclassified as independent contractors," California Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su said in a press release issued following the ruling.

The release notes that California state courts have also upheld the Labor Commissioner's awards in misclassification cases in the port and rail trucking industry.

In 2013, Superior Court Judge Michael Vicencia rendered judgment in favor of four port truck drivers and against Seacon Logix Inc. in the amount of $107,802.  The Second District Court of Appeal affirmed Judge Vicencia's judgment in its published decision Garcia v. Seacon Logix, Inc. (2015) 238 Cal.App.4th 1476. In 2015, Superior Court Judge Ross Klein also affirmed the Labor Commissioner's finding of misclassification and awarded port truck driver Ho Lee $179,390 for reimbursement of expenses and unlawful deductions following a three-day bench trial.

The federal courts over the past four years have also upheld the Labor Commissioner's authority to adjudicate claims and rejected complaints that wage claims filed by truck drivers with the Labor Commissioner are pre-empted under the F4A, including:

  • Clean Truck Coalition, et al. v. Julie Su, Labor Commissioner of the State of California, Department of Industrial Relations, in her official capacity, et al., Case No. 2:12-cv-08949-MMM-AJW; 
  • Seacon Logix, Inc. v. Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, Case No. BC504306; 
  • Winwin Logistics, Inc. v. Julie Su, Labor Commissioner, California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, Case No. 2:15-cv-04624-CAS (PJWx); 
  • Sterling Express Services, Inc. v. Jose Vasquez, an individual; Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, by and through Julie Su, in her official capacity as Labor Commissioner, et al., Case No. 2:14-cv-01308-DSF-VBK; 
  • Sterling Express Services, Inc. v. Johel Climaco Valencia, an individual; Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, by and through Julie Su, in her official capacity as Labor Commissioner, et al., Case No. 2:14-cv-00137-R-JCGx.
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