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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Garcia v. Seacon Logix: Court Affirms Decision that Truck Drivers Were Employees, Not Independent Contractors

In Garcia v. Seacon Logix (7/16/15, pub. 7/30/15) --- Cal.App.4th ---, the plaintiffs were truck drivers who were classified as independent contractors, rather than employees. They filed a class action under Labor Code section 2802, alleging that they should have been classified as employees and that their putative employer, Seacon, should not have deducted truck lease payments or insurance premiums from their paychecks. The court found for the plaintiffs and entered judgment in their favor. Seacon appealed, arguing that the trial court's decision was not supported by substantial evidence and that the damage award was excessive. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding as follows: 

Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc. (2014) 59 Cal.4th 522, 531 (discussed here) states the test for whether one is an employee or independent contractor. [Note that this issue is before the California Supreme Court in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court (Lee) (discussed here).]

The plaintiffs' testimony proved that Seacon controlled the manner and means of their work. Seacon told them when to be at work, approved or disapproved absences, determined their delivery assignments, and monitored their delivery progress. The plaintiffs could not decline assignments, work for any other delivery companies, or use their trucks for any other purpose. The agreements signed by the parties gave the plaintiffs control of their work as independent contractors, but the facts contradicted the agreements, and the agreements were not dispositive.

The secondary factors also demonstrated that the plaintiffs were employees. Seacon terminated two of the plaintiffs without notice. Seacon was in the business of transporting cargo, and the plaintiffs were an integral part of that business. The plaintiffs worked under Seacon's supervision. Seacon owned the trucks and controlled their use. Seacon paid the plaintiffs per delivery, which supported independent contractor status, but the court found this factor not dispositive.

Seacon forfeited its argument that the court awarded excessive damages.

The opinion is available here.

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