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Class-action suit alleges port trucking firm exploits drivers

Class-action suit alleges port trucking firm exploits drivers
Trucks crossing the Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Los Angeles on July 19, 2017. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

A lawsuit was filed Monday alleging that Southern California units of port trucking firm XPO Logistics Inc. improperly classified drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, depriving them of wages and benefits.

The suit, which seeks class-action status on behalf of about 160 or more drivers, was the latest step in a long-running dispute between some drivers and trucking firms that operate at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

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Government officials and regulators also have entered the fray. In January, for instance, Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer sued three other port trucking companies, likewise alleging that the misclassification enabled the companies to avoid providing drivers with a legal minimum wage and employee benefits.

In the latest suit against XPO Logistics, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, three drivers alleged that the company maintained a "deliberate scheme to misclassify their truck drivers as independent contractors, thereby denying them the fundamental protections due to employees under California law."

The suit alleges that in certain cases XPO Logistics failed to pay the minimum wage, failed to pay wages for missed meal and rest periods, and failed to reimburse business expenses as required, among other things.

One of their lawyers, Julie Gutman Dickinson, told reporters on a conference call that XPO Logistics had faced litigation before, including class-action suits, along with regulatory action but "continues to misclassify workers and flout California labor laws, leading to the class-action lawsuit that we filed today."

XPO Logistics said it had not yet received a copy of the suit. But the firm said in a statement that "we know the vast majority of drivers want to maintain their independence as contractors. We'll continue to defend this business model."

The suit seeks to stop XPO Logistics' alleged "unlawful conduct" and recover unpaid wages and other compensation, statutory penalties and damages. The total dollar amount sought has yet to be determined but would likely be "in the millions" of dollars, Gutman Dickinson said.

XPO, based in Greenwich, Conn., is a multinational logistics company that operates 1,455 locations in 32 countries and had $15.4 billion in revenue last year.

In December, the Los Angeles City Council approved a plan to investigate claims of wage theft by port truck companies and to look into whether the city could deny port access to companies in violation of labor laws.

Since 2011, the California labor commissioner's office has awarded port truck drivers more than $46 million in cases in which they contended they were misclassified as contractors.

Twitter: @PeltzLATimes

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