They’re employees, not contractors! State orders LA Port trucking firm to pay drivers $6.9M

They’re employees, not contractors! State orders LA Port trucking firm to pay drivers $6.9M

Photo by John Schreiber.
A Carson-based trucking company serving the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports was ordered to pay $6.9 million to dozens of drivers who said they were cheated out of wages and wrongly classified as independent contractors, Teamsters union officials said Wednesday.

The California Labor Commissioner ruled Dec. 14 that 37 drivers who filed wage claims in 2013 and 2014 were indeed employees of Pacific 9 Transportation and are owed a total of $6.9 million in compensation, with the amounts ranging from $3,684 to $386,703.

The payments are related to missed meal and rest breaks, business expenses paid by the drivers, hours when drivers were paid below minimum wage, illegal deductions for such costs as truck rentals and insurance, and other issues, according to a Teamsters statement.

The commissioner denied a 38th driver’s claims, saying his complaints fell outside the three-year statute of limitations, according to Jean Choi, an attorney employed by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy that represented the drivers.

Representatives of Pac 9, which can still appeal the ruling, did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

The company has until Dec. 29 to appeal, according to Labor Commissioner spokeswoman Julia Bernstein. But in order to appeal, Pac 9 must post a bond in the amount of the award, according to the ruling.

The “drayage” company that provides trucking and other transportation cargo services, carries goods for Costco, Goodyear Tires, Microsoft and the boot company UGG, according to the Teamsters.

The ruling, which followed six weeks of back-to-back hearings on 38 claims against a single employer, is considered unusual and a “landmark” decision from the Labor Commissioner’s office, according to the Teamsters. Typically the office would only rule on a handful or more cases at once for each employer.

Pac 9 drivers have been on strike since July to protest the company’s labor practices, according to Barb Maynard, a spokeswoman for the Teamsters.

Prior to the commissioner’s ruling on the drivers’ wage claims, Pac 9 had agreed in March 2014 to settle a case related to a National Labor Relations Board investigation. The deal was expected to allow drivers to unionize, but the board later withdrew the agreement after Pac 9 violated the terms, according to Teamsters officials.