The approval by U.S. District Judge Robert Miller of the U.S. District Court for Northern Indiana of class action status certifies lawsuits filed in 36 states covering 14,000 current FedEx Ground drivers and as many as 10,000 former drivers, according to the news report. The over-arching issue in the suit is whether these drivers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors.
The drivers claim that FedEx Ground was able to skirt paying expenses such as gas and vehicle repairs, as well as pension benefits because of the misclassification.
“This is a landmark decision for workers everywhere serving under sham independent contractor arrangements such as the one exploited by FedEx,” said Lynn Rossman Faris, lead counsel for the drivers who brought separate class-action lawsuits in 36 states, in an announcement . “The judge’s 56-page opinion is compelling on many levels, including its certification of nationwide claims brought under the Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA), state wage-and- hour and common law claims.”
The class members want benefits and the plan participant status they would be entitled to under ERISA if they were classified as employees rather than contractors. The class members claim they were improperly denied these benefits because of the misclassification.
Miller threw out a plea by FedEx lawyers in July 2006 to dismiss a class action suit by drivers in 30 states, saying that the attorneys failed to prove that the ERISA claim should be turned away (See FedEx Plea to Dismiss ERISA Claim in Drivers’ Class Action Suit Denied ).
Information on cases filed by drivers in various states is at http://www.fedexdriverslawsuit.com/ .
Miller’s latest ruling is here .
The FedEx statement about the ruling is here .