The U.S. District Court in Los Angeles recently granted final approval of the $11.04 million settlement obtained by the class action team headed by Joe Sayas.
In evaluating the facts and the law, the Court found that the settlement represents “an exceptional recovery” for the workers. It also noted the “significant time and energy” that Joe Sayas and his team have “skillfully devoted to this case”.
The case was filed to recover back wages on behalf of truck drivers working in the ports of Long Beach/LA and Oakland. In the case entitled: Taylor v. Shippers Transport Express, Inc., Joe Sayas' team also sought to enjoin the unfair practice of misclassifying the drivers as independent contractors, despite the control exercised over them by the trucking company.
For many years, the prevailing industry standard in the port trucking business is for trucking companies to treat drivers operating the company trucks as contractors, instead of employees. As contractors, workers do not have the same rights granted to employees under the law. These rights include the right to minimum wage and to be paid for each and every hour worked, and the right against unlawful discrimination and harassment.
The drivers were asked to sign so-called “independent contractor agreements” as a condition of employment, and to enter into “lease agreements” before they can drive company trucks that carry cargo for the company's customers. Through this arrangement, the companies deducted fuel, insurance and lease costs from drivers' pay. Joe Sayas' team sought to put an end to this unlawful practice.
The settlement was reached on the eve of trial, after more than 3 years of hard fought litigation. In addition to the significant settlement fund from which the drivers' back wages are to be paid, the companies agreed to to reclassify the drivers as employees. As employees, they are now paid for each and every hour worked, and are given protection under Workers Compensation laws.
With the victory in court, the drivers were able to collectively negotiate as employees, and as a result are provided with important employment benefits. They now have health and dental insurance, retirement benefits, and paid medical and vacation leaves – benefits that they did not have before the lawsuit.