Yet another court in the U.S. has ruled that independent-contractor drivers from a large freight carrier are effectively and legally employees.
The Arizona court ruling was made in a class-action lawsuit against Swift Transportation.
As reported by Heavy Duty Trucking, the District Court in Arizona granted a partial summary judgment to the five drivers involved in the lawsuit, declaring them employees despite Swift considering them contract workers. The drivers’ suit contended that because they were not classified as employees, they missed out on wages required by law.
Although the drivers were regarded as independent contractors by Swift, the court found that because they worked exclusively for Swift and drove trucks that were leased from Swift, they were not functionally able to work for another fleet at the same time.
“Plaintiffs had much less control of their schedule than defendants contend,” the court stated in the judgment document. “Even though plaintiffs were not explicitly required to work a set number of hours, the combination of the contractor agreements and the IEL leases dictated a minimum amount of time plaintiffs needed to drive for Swift in order to pay the weekly rent for the leased truck.”
While “defendants argue that there were ways plaintiffs and other contract drivers could use their ‘business acumen, hard work, and enterprise’ to make a profit and establish an autonomous business,'” the court said the evidence showed “it was impracticable for plaintiffs to establish their independence from Swift in order to maximize profits.”
There have also been similar cases across Canada over the years where courts and arbitrators consider independent drivers to be employees depending on the amount of day-to-day control and instruction companies exhibit over owner-operators, among other factors.
CRA, in particular, pays close attention to the distinction between an employee/employer relationship and an independent contractor relationship.