The California legislature has approved a bill that, if made law, would hold retailers liable for working with trucking companies that violate state labor and employment laws.
 - Photo courtesy Port of Long Beach

The California legislature has approved a bill that, if made law, would hold retailers liable for working with trucking companies that violate state labor and employment laws.

Photo courtesy Port of Long Beach

A bill that would hold retailers liable for labor violations incurred by port trucking companies has been approved by the California state legislature.

Introduced earlier this year by California Sen. Ricardo Lara, SB 1402 is part of a push in the state to crack down on what many see as a driver misclassification at the state’s port complexes. Proponents of the bill believe that truck drivers that are classified as independent contractors and not employees are not truly independent from the companies they contract for and allege that by misclassifying these drivers as independent, they are denying them of proper wages and benefits. Other alleged practices by these companies include placing drivers in truck leases that leave them with little take home pay and no ability to work for other companies.

For the past few years, several lawsuits have been filed on behalf of “misclassified” drivers, seeking back pay from some trucking companies and tallying millions of dollars in judgements.  SB 1402 seeks to curb this practice by making retailers partly liable for hiring trucking companies with unpaid final judgements related to state labor and employment laws.

With approval by the state legislature, the bill will be passed on to California Governor Jerry Brown who has until Sept. 30 to sign, veto, or allow SB 1402 to become law. This bill is separate from a controversial California Supreme Court ruling that imposes a test requiring companies to prove that an independent contractor is truly independent.

Under SB 1402, port trucking companies will have access to a list of trucking companies that have failed to pay final judgements. The list is being prepared by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Retailers hiring port trucking companies with final judgements would be liable for future state labor and employment law violations brought against the companies on this list.

“Port truckers are delivering for the world’s biggest brands, but working for poverty wages. California’s economic engine does not go without them, and they need to share in the benefits,” said Sen. Lara. “Retailers have been leaders in ending exploitation in overseas factories. They can be a force in creating good jobs for American workers here at home.”

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