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Idaho Supreme Court Reverses Earlier Ruling Against Owner-Operators

February 21, 2014

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The Idaho Supreme Court has overturned an earlier decision classifying trucking company owner-operators as employees.

Idaho-based Western Home Transport had challenged the earlier ruling, claiming the court erred when it affirmed a decision by the Idaho Department of Commerce and Labor that the trucking company Giltner Inc., also based in Idaho, was liable for unpaid unemployment insurance and taxes on drivers it classified as owner-operators.

In the Giltner case, the court held that owner-operators operating under a motor carrier’s U.S. Department of Transportation operating authority are employees for purposes of Idaho’s Employment Security Law, because operating under the motor carrier’s operating authority prevents the owner-operator from being engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business.

Western Home Transport challenged the ruling, and the court now says its earlier ruling “improperly focused on the source of the owner-operator’s DOT authority as a single determinative factor.”

The court also noted that “the fact that an owner-operator may or may not have his own DOT authority is completely inconsequential and irrelevant for him to provide his services to a motor carrier” and is not a relevant factor for the analysis under Idaho’s Employment Security Law.

The Idaho Trucking Association filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief with the court, which the group says played a crucial role in informing the court about the trucking industry and facilitating the reversal of Giltner by a unanimous decision by the justices.

"This ruling is great win for the entire trucking industry,” said Idaho Trucking Association President and CEO Julie Pipal. “We recognized that Giltner threatened the owner-operator business model in Idaho and that there was an opportunity for our association to make a difference by informing the court about the trucking industry.”

 

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