Wage theft claims totaling $1.1 million were filed by seven drayage drivers against California Multimodal, LLC, a division of NFI Industries, which recently purchased the California Cartage family of transportation and logistics services companies.
The allegations against the owner of California Cartage include illegal deductions, unreimbursed business expenses and failure to fully compensate a worker when they leave the job.
Seven truck drivers who haul containerized cargo on and off the docks at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex on Oct. 20 filed claims totaling $1.1 million in stolen wages – an average of $153,150 per driver – with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.
The drivers filing the suit argue that they are treated as employees, but paid as independent contractors, leading to violations of labor laws on the part of their employer. The allegations of wage theft include illegal deductions, unreimbursed business expenses, meal break premiums, rest break premiums, minimum wages, and failure to fully compensate a worker when they leave the job.
The claims were filed against California Multimodal, LLC, a division of NFI Industries, which recently purchased the California Cartage family of transportation and logistics services companies.
“Today, six of my co-workers and I filed our ‘wage and hour’ claims with the California Labor Commissioner. This is just one step forward in fighting for justice,” CMI driver Guillermina Velasquez said in a statement.
New Jersey-based NFI acquired CalCartage in early October. It’s drayage operations at the adjoining LA and Long Beach seaports includes five transport and logistics companies that together represent the largest trucking operation at the ports.
More than 600 drivers work for these companies, and the four largest – California Multimodal LLC, K&R Transportation, California Cartage Express and Container Freight EIT – have been facing multiple claims in the courts and government agencies for misclassifying their drivers.
Over the past two years, there have been at least nine decisions issued by the California Labor Commissioner in individual claims filed by CalCartage drivers working for K&R Transportation, Cal Cartage Express, Container Freight and CMI.
In each case, it was found that the drivers were employees and not independent contractors. Together, those decisions ordered Cal Cartage to pay those seven drivers a total of $1,096,480 for Labor Code violations including unlawful deductions and unreimbursed expenses.
CalCartage appealed all of these cases, settling two of them, while the other seven remain pending in Superior Court.
In addition to the latest seven claims filed, there are currently pending 27 other labor claims that drivers have filed against NFI’s CalCartage companies. The total potential liability for those 37 claims is over $6.1 million, according to Justice for Port Drivers, a Teamsters-backed group fighting to have drayage truckers at the ports recognized as employees by the companies they work for.
NFI’s Southern California trucking divisions are also facing two class action lawsuits for multiple Labor Code violations, including willful misclassification, unlawful deductions, unreimbursed expenses, unpaid minimum wages, and failure to provide meal and rest breaks, along with violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law.
Each case was filed in California Superior Court, and remains pending. The company recently settled in two similar suits. The NFI companies are also facing two separate “mass action” lawsuits in CA Superior Court filed by groups of drivers against K&R for misclassification and wage theft.
The California Trucking Association for its part, has fought back by filing a lawsuit in state court against various California officials and agencies, claiming that they’re willfully violating the state’s public records laws and depriving businesses of due process in a coordinated effort to change the legal relationship between thousands of small business owner-drivers, from a business-to-business transaction into an employer/employee relationship.
The CTA is claiming that its member companies have not been provided with a fair and unbiased forum when the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement exercises its power to decide driver claims.