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Hundreds of California truck drivers file employment complaints

A group of Southern California truck drivers have filed claims against the companies that employ them over alleged violations of California state employment laws. While many of these have proven successful due to changed circumstances on the job, hundreds of others remain to be decided by state authorities.

Trucking industry analysts estimate that an overwhelming 90 percent of the trucks used in Southern California are owned by their operators, rather than the companies the drivers are hauling for. These owner-operators are generally classified by the companies they work for as independent contractors and should be able to work non-exclusively. However, clean-trucking rules at the various ports in the region have forced some owner-operators to lease new, environmentally-compliant trucks from those companies.

This is one way, some argue, that companies who hire these independent contractors are exerting more control over the drivers. For instance, repair costs are automatically deducted from the drivers' wages. This control has led many of those truck drivers to file claims with the State Labor Commissioner, alleging that they should be classified as employees, rather than contractors. This would make the companies employing them responsible under the state's wage laws. In 2011, only two complaints were filed, but that number has risen into the hundreds in recent years. In the last few months, the Department of Industrial Relations has awarded 17 area companies to pay over $4 million in penalties and back payments.

In situations where an employee is misclassified as a contractor in violation of wage and hour law, an attorney may be able to help. The attorney may be able to assess the employee's situation and determine whether that employee is entitled to overtime pay or other compensation. The attorney may then be able to take the appropriate administrative or legal action.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Southern California port truck drivers loading up on wage-theft cases", Ricardo Lopez, July 04, 2014

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