Drivers allege misclassification in lawsuit against Harbor Express Inc.

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, Land Line staff writer | Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Drivers have filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against Harbor Express Inc., of Wilmington, CA, alleging they have been misclassified and are really company drivers.

Brian Kabateck, managing partner of Kabateck Brown Kellner LLP, told Land Line, that as many as 400 drivers, including former and current drivers over a four-year period, may have been misclassified.

“California has a much more pro-employee labor code than most other states,” Kabateck said. “In California, slapping a label on somebody and saying they are an independent contractor doesn’t make them an independent contractor. You have to look beyond that.”

Kabateck said that as far as he knows all of the drivers drive or drove company trucks, and did not have lease or lease-purchase agreements with Harbor Express. He said they still received IRS 1099s stating they were independent contractors, even though the drivers claim they have no control over their workdays.

“And here, you’ve got people who generally don’t own their own truck, are not given the freedom to do what they want, and are told exactly what they need to do,” he said. “The drivers are told exactly what their workday is, exactly where they have to go, and they can’t take on any other work from other companies.”

A growing trend among intrastate trucking companies is to label company drivers as independent contractors, according to Kabateck.

“And as a result of that, the employer, we claim, gets a substantial benefit from that, not having to pay the employer’s share of taxes, not having to pay benefits, and in some cases, not paying minimum wage, let alone overtime or meal breaks or rest breaks.”

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s SAFER website, Harbor Express has 111 power units and 185 drivers. Harbor Express drivers haul freight in and out of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

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