Another West Coast port trucking company owned by NFI Industries, Cherry Hill, N.J., has been ordered to pay drivers a large sum of money in a misclassification lawsuit. This time, a small handful of drivers were awarded more than $1 million.
On April 10, the California Labor Commission ruled in cases of 10 port truckers who drove for Los Angeles-based K&R Transportation. The commission determined the drivers are employees and not independent contractors, ordering the company to pay the drivers a total of $1.286 million.
According to court documents, the 10 drivers filed their complaint in May 2017, seeking unpaid wages as far back as September 2013. The following claims were included within the 10 cases:
- Unpaid wages ranging from $7,000 to $46,000.
- Unlawful deductions from $5,000 to $155,000.
- Expenses from $2,000 to $112,000.
- Meal period premiums from $5,000 to $47,000.
- Rest period premiums from $5,000 to $47,000.
- Wages for rest periods taken during hours worked earning a piece rate from $1,000 to $2,500.
Although the specifics of each case varied, general complaints were consistent. Most of the drivers claimed to drive an average of 10 to 14 hours per day for as many as six days a week at a piece rate per load.
In at least one case, the driver leased a truck from K&R. The driver did not get to choose which truck to lease. Rather, he was assigned a 2009 Freightliner Columbia. According to court documents, the driver owned the pink slip to the truck and registration was only in his name. The truck was leased from a bank. Despite not authorizing K&R to deduct lease payments, it did anyway.
Although the drivers can now drive for another company, K&R placed restriction on drivers to prevent them from doing so. Among the restrictions were threats of revoking parking and diesel privileges or being assigned bad work. Drivers were told that if they wanted to work for the company, they had to have a “clean” truck.
Some of the drivers were able to choose which days to work. However, they were unable to choose the hours due to lack of work during certain times. Furthermore, drivers moved cargo for K&R’s clients. Drivers do not have clients of their own. Consequently, K&R set the rates it pays its drivers.
After hearings were held in December, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement sided with drivers. First, the commission decided that K&R failed to pay drivers for hours worked which fall outside the scope of piece rate, such as pre-trip inspections of the truck and waiting for dispatches.
Second, California’s Labor Code prohibits an employer from making deductions from an employee’s paycheck. K&R made illegal deductions from drivers’ paychecks for fuel, insurance, parking, truck maintenance, electronic logging device, trip deductions, radio used, materials and supplies, citations and driver placards. K&R also failed to reimburse for out-of-pocket expenses, including fuel, Department of Motor Vehicle payments and truck repair.
Lastly, K&R failed to provide 30-minute meal periods for every five hours worked and 10-minute rest periods for every four hours worked.
According to a news release from Justice for Port Truck Drivers, the highest individual award was more than $243,000, with the average award being nearly $130,000. K&R has until April 25 to either appeal or pay the drivers.
NFI Industries acquired K&R when it bought California Cartage. At the time, K&R was one of several California Cartage-affiliated companies.
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