AmericasPorts and Logistics

California ruling could open door for more port truck drivers to claim employee status

Truck drivers who service California’s seaports could all be eligible to unionize and to receive back payments following a recent labour ruling, the Los Angeles Times revealed this week.

That’s because the state’s Labour Commissioner’s Office has favoured a group of 38 truck drivers who were claiming employee status from the Pacific 9 Transportation company. The decision was made earlier this month but only disclosed on Tuesday.

The company had been wrong to classify the drivers as independent contractors, the commissioner ruled, a distinction that denied the drivers the right to join a union and to receive certain payments and benefits.

Primarily, giving the drivers independent contractor status means the company avoids paying payroll taxes, income taxes and workers’ compensation liability.

Drivers have been taking strike action over this issue from time to time.

The ruling means Pacific 9 (of Carson, California) must compensate drivers for illegal paycheque deductions, back wages and legal costs, averaging $187,000 per driver.

California is home to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s busiest seaport hub.

Drivers have been bringing cases individually to the commissioner’s office for a long time but this case is the first with an en masse decision for such a big group. It could lead to an accelerated rate of claims against trucking firms servicing the seaports. And its example could see similar claims and decisions follow in other states.

Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.
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