LOS ANGELES — A lawsuit on behalf of California and Florida drivers charging KLLM Transport Services LLC with numerous wage and hour violations was filed November 14 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and is one of several similar actions this year. Another lawsuit brought by the same attorney, Joshua H. Haffner of Los Angeles, alleging the same wage and hour violations, was filed December 9 in Los Angeles County Superior Court against K & R Transportation LLC of Wilmington, California, an in-house drayage operator for California Cartage Co.
Haffner has made a sort of specialty of California labor lawsuits against trucking companies. The industry’s means of compensation, especially in the truckload sector where few if any drivers are paid by the hour and almost all are paid by the mile, appears to subject it to extra scrutiny in states such as California that have worker-friendly wage and hour laws.
Both lawsuits seek class action status in order to receive back pay, pre-judgment interest, liquidated damages, statutory penalties, attorney’s fees and costs, and “for Plaintiff and the
Class of members no longer employed, waiting time penalties.” Each one charges the companies with failure to provide meal periods and rest breaks, failure to pay minimum wage and to pay all wages owed every period, failure to furnish accurate and timely wage statements and failure to reimburse business expenses.
Both are based on alleged misclassification of drivers as independent contractors, a practice that, Haffner said, is “quite common.”
“The lawsuit contends drivers are misclassified as independent contractors although, because of the circumstances of employment, and control by employers, they are in fact employees under the legal test for determining whether a relationship is employment or not,” Haffner said in an interview with The Trucker. “[The] complaint alleges fuel, insurance, maintenance, cost of tractor” were not paid [to the drivers].
The lease agreements that some trucking companies require drivers to sign unfairly tie up the driver’s truck, Haffner charged.
“Many trucking companies operate under lease agreements which prohibit or constrain drivers from using that truck for other employers,” he said. “This alone significantly undermines the independent contractor classification. The complaint alleges failure to pay minimum wages for certain days and failure to reimburse business expenses, and requests penalties associated with Labor Code violations, among other things.”
Two KLLM drivers, Shawn Etienne and Angelo Grant, “on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated,” are plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Mississippi refrigerated carrier. Etienne is from California, Grant is from Florida. The second lawsuit lists two K & R drivers, Marcio D. Varela and Francisco J. Vera, as plaintiffs.
Haffner frequently takes on misclassification cases involving drivers, he said
“I litigated several misclassification cases involving truckers driving out of ports of LA and San Diego, including one that recently settled. I am also currently involved in multiple driver misclassification cases.”
The class of defendants defined as the “California Class” consists of “all current or former California drivers for [KLLM] who were classified as “independent contractors,” at any time beginning four years prior to the filing of the Complaint to the date notice of mail to the Class.” The “Florida Class” is identical for KLLM drivers from that state.
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