Judge Finds Drivers’ who Delivered Amazon Prime Packages Were Employees Instead of Independent Contractors and Eligible for Back Overtime Wages
February 8, 2019, Dallas, TX — Today, the national law firm of Baron & Budd announced that on Wednesday, Jan. 30, U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means granted a summary judgement motion in favor of a group of former Express Courier International, Inc. (Express) delivery drivers who have filed suit alleging that Express violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by miscategorizing them as independent contractors. The Case is Hugo Lovo et al V. Express Courier International, Inc. (Case No. 4:16-CV-853-Y).
In the suit, a group of former drivers who worked at Express’s Fort Worth branch delivering Amazon Prime packages allege that Express miscategorized them as independent contractors, rather than actual employees. In the suit, the drivers state that this distinction means they should have been paid minimum wage and overtime pay for their work delivering packages on behalf of Amazon Prime, rather than on a piece-rate basis only.
In determining whether or not the drivers should be classified as employees, the court considered five-points including: the degree of control exercised by the employer; the extent of the investments made by the alleged employee and employer; the degree to which a worker’s profit or loss is determined by the employer; the skill required for the job; and the permanency of the relationship. Judge Means found that four of the five FLSA requirements favored employee status over independent contractor, which will allow the plaintiffs to move forward with their claim for unpaid wages.
In the suit, the plaintiffs allege that Express did not allow drivers to set their own schedule and instead required drivers to report for a mandatory “check-in time,” and a “check out time” for picking up deliveries. The drivers also allege they were not allowed to manage their responsibilities, hire subcontractors or use their preferred equipment. In the suit, the plaintiffs cite that they were denied time-off, pressured to accept work and delivery routes dictated by Express, and also forced to comply with other requirements such as uniforms, technology, and training to complete the job as required. Additionally, while they were required to use their own vehicle and gasoline, the drivers allege that they were also required to place an Express corporate decal on their vehicle.
In his ruling, Judge Means found that the drivers did not have control over their work as a separate economic entity from Express, and that Express likely provided more significant investment than the drivers, since the company paid for warehouses and dispatchers to ensure proper sorting and timely delivery of the packages. Additionally, the court found that because drivers were only required to have a valid driver’s license and complete a background check and drug screen, they met the qualification of employee status under the ‘skills and initiative’ requirement of FLSA because special skills were not required for the job. Finally, the court found that working for Express required “virtually every waking moment for each plaintiff,” and as a result rule that the plaintiff’s met the ‘permanency’ factor of employee status.
“Many companies mislabel workers as independent contractors to avoid overtime pay, workers compensation benefits, unemployment benefits, retirement benefits, and payroll taxes,” said Baron & Budd attorney Allen Vaught, who manages the firm’s Employment Law Group. “We are pleased with the Court’s finding that our clients were employees as opposed to independent contractors so we can seek the back overtime and other wages they are owed as employees. It is important to know that, even if a worker signs an independent contractor agreement, has their own LLC, or even writes off expenses for taxes, they cannot waive employee status under the FLSA and may be owed back overtime wages, minimum wages, and other money.”
If you are a current or former delivery driver and believe you may have been misclassified as an independent contractor, you may be entitled to unpaid overtime wages, minimum wages, and other money. If you believe you have been misclassified as an independent contractor, please get in touch with an attorney with Baron & Budd by calling 866-238-4143.
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