Getman Sweeney, a law firm in New Paltz, N.Y., has filed a class action suit against Swift Transportation and Interstate Equipment Leasing Co., alleging the mistreatment of truckers and misclassification of workers as "independent contractors."
The case claims the companies misclassified workers and then deducted a variety of charges from their paychecks, such as truck lease payments, insurance, taxes, tolls, gas, maintenance and equipment.
The lawsuit alleges that Swift and IEL have been shifting their own business expenses onto employees, including a regular weekly lease of $500 or more. Leases run for four years or more, Getman Sweeney says. Swift and IEL can terminate the lease at any time, demand return of the truck, and declare that the trucker is in default, making the trucker pay all remaining lease payments, but with no way to earn the money to do so, according to Getman Sweeney.
"As a result, truckers become unable to leave the company, but they have none of the rights an employee would have to minimum wage, to unemployment, to insurance, to unionize, or to quit," said Dan Getman, the attorney in the case. "Swift's business model shift the business risks of the economic downturn to employees, makes the employees cover Swift's costs for fleet inventory, insurance, tolls, taxes, and equipment, and makes the employees pay various fees to Swift that enable Swift to exact further profit from employees who cannot leave their contracts without crushing financial consequences."
The case is brought in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and will be tried to the Honorable Richard M. Berman.
Employees seek to recover all the expenses that Swift and IEL shift to its owner-operators. They also seek unpaid wages, liquidated damages, interest, costs and attorneys' fees as well as declaratory relief under the Fair Labor Standards Act and state wage laws.
For more information on this suit, visit www.swiftjustice.org.