Judge sides with FedEx in Kansas case

| 8/25/2010

Currently, there are 63 cases involving more than 27,000 former and current FedEx Ground drivers who say they are misclassified and are really employees, not independent contractors.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Miller in Indiana, who is presiding over the multi-district litigation, recently sided with FedEx in a Kansas case involving more than 100 drivers. The drivers filed suit citing that they were underpaid and that FedEx controls their businesses, which would make them employees under the Kansas Wage Payment Act.

Judge Miller said that FedEx has an operating agreement, which drivers sign to be independent contractors, when working for the company. The judge said that although FedEx does offer “suggestions and best practices for performance of assigned tasks,” FedEx hasn’t “retained the right to control the details of the contractors’ work methods on a class-wide basis.”

One of the three lead attorneys in the multi-district FedEx litigation is Lynn Rossman Farris of Leonard Carder LLP, who won a $27 million judgment on behalf of 200 FedEx Ground drivers who were found to be employees, not independent contractors, in California.

Farris told Land Line that they will appeal the court’s decision in the Kansas case.

“While we respectfully disagree with the court’s decision in the Kansas case and will appeal it as soon as possible, it remains to be seen what the court will conclude in the other 27 states in which the court granted class certification,” Farris said.

She added that previously Judge Miller sided with the drivers who filed suit against FedEx in Illinois under the state’s Wage Act, agreeing they were actually employees.

State laws vary on “tests” they use to classify whether a worker is an employee versus an independent contractor.

Farris said the judge has sent 16 cases back to their original courts – including Montana, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, South Dakota, which have “virtual presumptions” of employment status, similar to the test used by the state of Illinois, in which the judge sided with the drivers as being employees.

“So it now appears that, unless reversed on appeal, the case will ultimately end with FedEx drivers in some states being deemed employees and in others deemed independent contractors, a result which makes little sense to non-lawyers and unfortunately gives workers and companies no guidance for the future,” she said.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer