Ex-driver sues DNJ Intermodal for misclassification, short pay

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 6/11/2015

A Chicago trucker has filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer, DNJ Intermodal, alleging the company misclassified its drayage drivers as independent contractors and unlawfully deducted monies from employees’ paychecks, resulting in drivers being paid less than minimum wage.

The plaintiff, Lucio Barrera, who worked as a drayage driver for DNJ in Illinois from September 2013 to January 2015, claims that the company frequently deducted over 25 percent of the total wages owed to him in a given pay period. The lawsuit alleges DNJ violated both the Illinois Wage Payment Collection Act and the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying workers for all the hours worked in a given pay period. The suit also seeks class certification for 50 to 100 other drivers.

According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, he and other similarly situated drivers who worked full-time for DNJ were required by contract to own or lease trucks that met specifications determined by DNJ. The contract also specified that employees were allowed to use their trucks for DNJ business only and could not earn revenue by using the truck to haul non-DNJ loads.

“Plaintiff and the putative class members do not have an independently established trade or business in that they do not perform delivery services for anyone else,” plaintiffs’ attorney Alejandro Caffarelli wrote in the complaint. “The drivers are dependent upon DNJ for their work, they do not negotiate with DNJ’s customers regarding the rates charged for their services, and they do not contract with DNJ’s customers independently.”

In addition, the suit alleges Barrera and other drivers were required to report to DNJ facilities, supervised by DNJ management (which had the ability to discipline or terminate them); to respond to DNJ dispatch for instructions; and to complete and file paperwork generated by DNJ. In addition, Barrera and other drayage drivers were also required to use DNJ’s communication and tracking system, with dispatchers issuing instructions through the PeopleNet fleet management system. The suit alleges that DNJ deducted amounts from each driver’s paycheck to cover the cost of the PeopleNet system.

The suit alleges that the deductions for PeopleNet aren’t the only moneys taken out of drivers’ checks. Funds for truck leases, insurance and administrative costs are also deducted, and Barrera and other drivers are also responsible for fuel costs, vehicle maintenance and repairs.

According to the suit, DNJ Intermodal Services LLC is a Tennessee-based corporation providing transportation and logistics services in Illinois. A representative for DNJ was not available for comment Thursday.

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