The California Labor Commissioner’s office has awarded 38 truck drivers $6.9 million in back pay after ruling that the drivers had been improperly classified as independent contractors, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The drivers, who had worked for Pacific 9 Transportation serving Southern California ports as independent contractors, filed a claim with the California Division of Labor Standards on the misclassification issue. The Labor Commissioner’s Office ruled in the drivers' favor, ordering Pacific 9 to compensate drivers for paycheck deductions, wages and legal costs related to the issue.
In some cases, drivers will receive payouts that amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Pacific 9 is ordered to pay interest for the years since the payments were considered due to the drivers.
The average amount awarded to drivers in this case is $182,270 and the largest individual amount awarded is $386,703.14.
“We have finally had our day in court and 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,” said Daniel Linares, a driver for Pacific 9.
The Harbor Trucking Association, which represents the interests of trucking companies that service the ports, released a statement criticizing the Labor Commissioner’s decision as a “loss of freedom and control” for drivers.
Pacific 9 will have the opportunity to appeal the decision.
Throughout the year, drivers have been striking at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach over the driver misclassification issue. The most recent strike occurred in early November.
At the heart of the issue is the claim that certain port drivers are not independent-contractors in the traditional sense and are only classified that way to avoid paying for such employee benefits as health insurance, unemployment compensation, and workers compensation.
Despite being labeled independent, the drivers argue they are driving trucks owned by the trucking companies and working exclusively for them without being able to negotiate rates, refuse loads or take work from competitors.
During the most recent strikes, the Los Angeles City Council adopted a resolution calling for all companies servicing the ports to comply with federal and state employment labor laws and provide striking drivers with proper wage and benefits.
As many as 720 drivers have filed wage complaints with the Labor Commissioner’s office since 2012.