According to a statement sent last week by Gomez Law Group, seven Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles truck drivers have been awarded more than $2 million after a California Superior Court ruling finding that port truck drivers are employees, not independent contractors.
The grand total of $2,026,483 million is owed to the truckers by Pacer Cartage, Inc., one of the largest port trucking companies in the United States, due to “unlawful payroll deductions and expenses as part of a wage theft scheme perpetrated” by the company, according to the release.
Superior Court Judge Jay. M. Bloom issued the ruling, according to the release, that Pacer Cartage, Inc., is guilty of misclassifying its employees as “contract laborers,” which allowed the company to force low-income truck drivers to lease their vehicles from a Pacer Cartage affiliate corporation. According to the release, the employees were unaware that their employer also owned the affiliate corporation.
Truck drivers working for Pacer Cartage, Inc., were apparently required to make payments on the leases, which were automatically deducted from their paychecks. According to the release, drivers were prohibited from using the trucks for other business-related or shipping company-related jobs and were not allowed to drive the trucks to their homes or to park them in lots of their choice.
“This is a tremendous victory in the fight against misclassification,” said Attorney Alvin Gomez of San Diego-based Gomez Law Group, counsel for the Pacer drivers, in a press statement. “We believe that these decisions, coupled with the lawsuits that we have recently filed and those we intend to file in coming weeks, will force the drayage industry to make long overdue changes in their business practices to comply with state and federal labor laws.”
San Diego law firm Aguirre & Severson will be assisting Gomez and Gomez Law Group with current and upcoming lawsuits in regard to truckers’ rights. “Mr. Aguirre was the former attorney for the United Farm Workers Union, stepping in when Cesar Chavez died during the trial. He has years of experience in complex labor litigation,” Gomez said in a statement.
“Many drivers went weeks without receiving any pay, but they continued working with the hope that the company would eventually pay them for the money they were owed. Many drivers felt they had no choice except to quit under the ever-present threat that they would be sued if they stopped paying for the company truck and other expenses that the company should have borne itself," Gomez said in the statement.
“Many of the drivers are legal immigrants who have understandable reservations about the legal system due to the inequities and inequalities they personally experienced in their home countries including Mexico, Korea and several countries in Central America,” he continued. “However, as a result of the progress being made against trucking companies like Pacer, drivers are now learning more about their employee rights and are appreciating the value and strength of uniting together with their fellow aggrieved workers to address workplace injustices collectively. Drivers are demanding the fundamental rights that every worker across the nation should inherently enjoy, regardless of race, gender, color or creed – that is to say, in exchange for an honest day of work, a driver should receive an honest day of pay and should be treated with fairness, equality, dignity and respect. The decision against Pacer gets us all one step closer to this goal; but, the fight continues and there is much more work ahead of us.”
Pacer Cartage is wholly owned by XPO Logistics Inc., and is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The Long Beach Post has reached out to Pacer Cartage, Inc. for comment and is awaiting a response.