California’s Motion to Dismiss in Dynamex-Related Case

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A California Supreme Court ruling that could upend years of law regarding the frequently litigated independent contractor vs. employee issue is fighting push back from trucking groups. A large part of the transportation industry workforce is made up of independent contractors. These independent contractors generating a significant portion of the transportation industry’s life force include thousands of California truck drivers/owner-operators.

The ruling under scrutiny was in the Dynamex class action lawsuit and came down on April 30th. The ruling adopted the ABC test.

Defining the ABC Test: The ABC Test assumes most workers are employees and are eligible for the protections offered by California wage laws (including overtime pay regulations, meal break requirements, and minimum wage guarantees). Part B of the ABC Test is vital. It states that a worker has to perform work outside the usual course of business of the hiring company in order to qualify as an independent contractor. This part of the ABC Test would rule out owner-operator truck drivers. They are most often doing the same type of work as their “client” companies.

The court’s decision in the Dynamex case throws the legality of the entire California trucking industry into question. In fact, the Western States Trucking Association filed a lawsuit earlier in 2018 against the state of California over the potential enforcement of the ruling. They argued that the Dynamex ruling is in violation of federal laws on interstate transportation preempting states from passing laws that affect prices, routes and services of interstate motor carriers.

Western States Trucking Association is not the only group pushing back against the ruling on the Dynamex case. The California Trucking Association filed its own lawsuit in October 2018 to try to prevent the state from applying and enforcing the ABC test categorically.

If you have questions about how to address wage disputes, wrongful termination claims, overtime violations or questions of misclassification, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Misclassification Lawsuit Filed Against Axelhire by Delivery Driver

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A new delivery driver misclassification lawsuit was filed against Axelhire Inc., a California based company providing same-day delivery services to ecommerce businesses and brick and mortar retail locations. The suit was filed by a group of employees that allege the company intentionally misclassified them as contract workers in order to save money by avoiding the payment of work-related expenses. This California delivery driver misclassification lawsuit was filed by three lead plaintiffs in California: James K., Krisia B. and Shemicka J.

The three plaintiffs filed the suit on behalf of themselves and other employees in similar situations. The three plaintiffs named above conjointly filed the delivery driver misclassification lawsuit with each claiming that they bore a number of different work-related expenses that should have been covered by the company.

According to the California misclassification lawsuit, class members previously worked or currently work for Axelhire Inc. during certain time periods:

·      James was a delivery driver for Axelhire from April 2017 to current in Los Angeles.

·      Krisia was a delivery driver for Axelhire from March 2017 to December 2017 in Los Angeles.

·      Shemicka was a delivery driver for Axelhire from October 2015 to November 2016 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The plaintiffs allege that they were not reimbursed for work-related expenses (i.e. fuel, mileage, vehicle maintenance, missing compensation, missing overtime, etc.) Each of the three original plaintiffs were allegedly never paid a regular hourly wage or overtime wages. They were also allegedly not offered the chance to take required meal and rest period breaks.

If you are not paid for your overtime hours in accordance with California state and federal labor law, please get in touch with the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Grub-Hub Drivers Officially Ruled Contractors and The Gig-Economy is Taking Notice

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A recent ruling declared Grub-Hub drivers independent contractors officially and the gig-economy is taking notice. The ruling has the potential to affect Uber litigation as it is also hinging on employment status questions. The significant court decision was handed down by a federal judge asked to rule whether drivers for GrubHub Inc. are actually independent contractors or employees. Since Uber Technologies Inc. has a similar business model that depends on pairing customers with products/services through a smart phone app, it’s not surprising that employment law litigation facing both parties includes similar issues.

The first of its kind ruling was delivered by U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in San Francisco. According to the ruling, a gig-economy driver does not qualify for employee protections under California law. Her ruling was based on her interpretation of California law on the matter. She did note that the law, as it stands, is an all-or-nothing proposition and the advent of the gig economy’s low wage workforce engaging in low skill, high flexibility, episodic jobs may mean the legislature will need to readdress the issue. 

The GrubHub suit was filed by Raif Lawson. Lawson worked as a food-delivery driver for less than six months while he pursued an acting/writing career. He claimed GrubHub violated California labor laws by not reimbursing him for expenses, failing to pay minimum wage and failing to pay overtime pay for hours worked in excess of either per day or 40/week.

Determining whether Lawson was an independent contractor or an employee hinged on pinning down how much control GrubHub exerts over their drivers’ work lives. GrubHub argued that Lawson held the reins as he decided when, where and how frequently he performed deliveries. Lawson’s attorney contended that GrubHub exerted control over drivers by expecting them to be available to accept assignments during shifts they sign up for and to remain in prescribed geographical regions.

GrubHub is happy with the ruling, as are many other gig-economy front runners facing similar litigation and questions of misclassification. They feel the ruling validates the freedom that GrubHub drivers enjoy. They also stated that the would make sure drivers would retain the advantage of flexibility that made working with GrubHub advantageous.

If you have questions about misclassification in the work place or if you need the help of an experienced California employment lawyer, get in touch with Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

NY Times Facing Discrimination & Misclassification Claims

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Robert Stolarik, a photographer with an extensive working relationship with the New York Times, filed a lawsuit against the newspaper. He alleges that the New York Times misclassified him on the job, discriminated against him due to age, denied him assignments due to a past arrest, and retaliated against him when he made these claims public. During the course of his career as a photographer, Stolarik has had his photos featured on the front page of the New York Times over 30 times.

Stolarik filed the lawsuit on July 6th in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He included a number of different accusations:

Classification as a freelancer instead of a full-time employee, which left him responsible for paying additional taxes and ineligible for the company’s benefits and retirement plan. Stolarik claims the editors referred to him as a “full time freelancer” for 14 years.

No overtime pay despite working close to 3,400 hours in overtime from 2005 through 2009.

When seeking to become a staff photographer/employee, Stolarik was told a number of times by different editors at the paper that his age (37 in 2006) prevented his hiring as a staff shooter. During that same time period, younger photographers (20-somethings) were hired on as staff photographers.

In August 2012, Stolarik was assaulted and arrested while covering a story in the Bronx. The Times made sure Stolarik had legal representation and submitted an angry letter to the NYPD about the incident. The officer was later charged and found guilty of a felony for lying about the arrest. Yet Stolarik was taken off the police beat (that he had covered for more than 10 years) in response to the arrest.

Stolarik claims that the unlawful and discriminatory practices of the New York Times resulted in a loss of income and benefits because he was denied both a staff position and freelance assignments. In addition, Stolarik claims the paper retaliated against him when he submitted a letter including these legal complaints to the paper in spring of 2016. Since that time, he has not received a single assignment from the paper’s editors.

If you have experienced workplace retaliation or you don’t know what to do about discrimination in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.