Appeals Court Panel Rules FedEx Drivers in Oregon, California are ‘Employees’ not ‘Independent’ Contractors

  PORTLAND, Ore. (PAI)–In a judicial slam against a top employer dodge that weakens workers and unions, a 3-judge federal appeals panel ruled on August 27 that FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery drivers – 363 drivers in Oregon and 2,300 drivers in California – are “employees” under labor law, not “independent contractors.”

 

If the rulings, by a panel of 9th Circuit Court judges in Portland, Ore., are upheld, that means that virulently anti-worker Fed Ex must treat the workers as employees, paying the employers’ share of Social Security and Medicare withholding taxes as well as workers comp.

 

It also means both classes of FedEx drivers are organizable under labor law.  “Independent contractors,” who are supposed to be self-employed, are not.

 

The Teamsters are carrying on a long campaign to organize FedEx drivers of all types nationwide, but it’s hampered by FedEx’s success at misclassifying them as independent con-tractors.  The union was not involved in the California and Oregon class actions, but welcomed the judges’ rulings, spokesman Galen Munroe said.  FedEx vowed to appeal the rulings.

 

In virtually identical opinions – only the names of the states and their laws were changed – appellate Judge William Fletcher said FedEx controlled virtually every aspect of the drivers’ jobs: Their uniforms, their routes, their hours, their schedules, their trucks, and so on.  But the drivers had to buy the gas and insurance.

 

That’s not enough to make them independent contractors, Fletcher and his two colleagues said, reversing a lower court ruling for FedEx.

 

“The panel held under Oregon (California, in the other case) law that plaintiff FedEx

drivers were employees as a matter of law under both the right-to-control and economic-realities tests. The panel remanded to the district court with instructions to enter summary judgment for plaintiffs” – the drivers — “on the question of employment status.

 

“As a central part of its business, FedEx  contracts with drivers to deliver packages to its customers. The drivers must wear FedEx uniforms, drive FedEx-approved vehicles, and groom

themselves according to FedEx’s appearance standards.

 

“FedEx tells its drivers what packages to deliver, on what days, and at what times. Although drivers may operate multiple delivery routes and hire third parties to help perform work on those routes, they may do so only with FedEx’s consent.

 

“FedEx contends its drivers are independent contractors under Oregon (California) law.  Plaintiffs, two classes of FedEx drivers in Oregon (California), contend they are employees.  We agree with plaintiffs.”