Two truck drivers working out of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have filed a lawsuit against the trucking company Harbor Express alleging they should be treated as employees, not owner-operators.

The Los Angeles Times newspaper reports the case was filed in Los Angeles county court by two brothers, Jose I. Estrada and Jose A. Estrada, claiming they were denied meal breaks, overtime and lunch hours because they are wrongly classified as independent contractors.

They are seeking to get class action status. Their attorneys say the case could affect as many as 400 truckers who worked for Harbor Express since 2009.

The case alleges the carrier classified its truckers as independent contractors rather than employees so the company wouldn’t have to provide benefits. Harbor Express has yet to comment to the newspaper.

One of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, Brian Kabateck, told the newspaper, "If they were truly independent contractors, they would own the truck or lease it," [They would also] "have freedom to come and go and can take on other jobs and assignments. This is just a clever way to do a runaround of labor law."

The two brothers, like many truckers who serve the port complex, are paid for each trip they make, regardless of how long it takes. Also because they are not employees they are not eligible for workers compensation insurance, a concern to one of the brothers because of an injury that may keep him from being able to work again.

The Times points out that in 2008, when Gov. Jerry Brown was then attorney general for California, he filed several lawsuits against trucking companies that were allegedly misclassifying truck drivers as independents. In addition, a proposal at the Port of Los Angeles requiring truckers serving the facility to be employees is making its way through the court system.