Once again, a major court in North America has concluded that independent contractors be considered employees due to the amount of control the carrier exhibited over the drivers’ day-to-day work.
According to CCJ magazine, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned an August 2012 ruling by a lower court that held the drivers of Georgia-based Affinity Logistics were independent contractors.
An Affinity driver sued the carrier in 2009 claiming he and others were misclassified, causing them to not receive sick leave, vacation, holidays or severance wages.
While a lower court disagreed, the appeals court’s ruling stemmed from several factors about the relationship between Affinity and the drivers, chief among them being Affinity’s ability to control “details of the drivers’ work,” which the court said meant controlling their rates, schedules and routes, along with their equipment, their appearance and clothing, and requiring them to report to the carrier’s warehouse each morning and afternoon.
The case is not unique as various courts and labour commissions and tribunals in North America have all cracked down on employers who exercise a certain degrees of control over contractors.
The court also heard how the independent drivers had to sign an “Independent Truckman’s Agreement” — one-year contracts that renewed automatically each year, but could be terminated without cause – and a “Equipment Lease Agreement,” which requiring drivers to lease trucks from the company and automatically have pay deducted to pay for the lease, reports CCJ. The trucks were required to be painted white, and had Affinity’s name on the door. The company handled upkeep of the trucks, but deducted repair costs from drivers’ checks. Drivers were also asked to leave their trucks keys overnight and on weekends so other drivers could use the equipment.
Affinity also provided drivers phones (and deducted the costs) made drivers adhere to a procedures manual, which outlined requirements for loading and unloading, dealing with customers, reporting to the office and more.
Drivers were required to work five to seven days a week and were required to request off time several weeks in advance — requests the company had the power to deny. Additionally, drivers were required to report each morning for meetings, pay for and wear uniforms issued by Affinity.