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Ruling Holding Independent Contractors to Be Employees Challenged

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Audet & Partners, LLP reports that a recent ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals holding truck drivers to be employees rather than independent contractors of Affinity Logistics Corp. has been appealed to the U.S Supreme Court.  In June, the Ninth Circuit held that delivery drivers had been improperly classified by Affinity as independent contractors based primarily on the degree of control that Affinity maintained over the drivers’ working conditions.

The Affinity case was originally filed in 2005 by Fernando Ruiz, a driver, who alleged that the company required drivers to sign “independent trackman’s agreements” in order to avoid paying overtime and other benefits to which properly classified employees are entitled under the law.

In ruling for the drivers, the Court reviewed criteria for determining independent contractor/employee status set forth in the 1989 California decision in S.G. Borello & Sons Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations.  The Borello case established the following factors to be considered when determining employee status:

• whether the employer controls or has the right to control the worker both as to the work done and the manner and means in which it is performed;

• whether the alleged employee can conduct work absent supervision; and 

• whether the supposed employee is engaged in a distinct business from the employers.

Now, Affinity is challenging the Ninth Circuit ruling by appealing the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The employer is basing its challenge on the argument that the Ninth Circuit failed to give proper deference to lower court findings and, in so doing, ignored long-standing principles guiding the application of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

The recent finding in the Affinity case is consistent with a growing trend in California to hold previously classified independent contractors to be employees entitled to overtime and other benefits.  Audet & Partners, LLP has extensive experience in representing employees who may have been improperly classified as independent contractors.  If you believe you have been improperly denied overtime and/or benefits, you are urged to contact an employment class action lawyer at Audet & Partners, LLP either by calling (800) 965-1461, or by completing and submitting our confidential inquiry form on the right side of this page.