Trucking company will fight driver misclassification ruling

A manager for a California trucking company Seacon Logix said the company intends to fight a labor commissioner’s order to pay four Long Beach port truck drivers more than $100,000 in withheld wages, interest and penalties.

The recent California Superior Court ruling upholding the state Labor Commissioner’s decision that Seacon Logix drivers were not independent contractors but company employees was “very, very unfair,” said Chris Hyon, Seacon Logix manager, and he plans to fight it, according to a Long Beach Press-Telegram report.

Hyon blames the situation on the Port of Long Beach’s Clean Trucks Program, which he said has placed a burden on trucking companies to run newer, lower-emissions equipment, forcing them to buy the cleaner trucks that can cost up to $120,000 and lease them to drivers who couldn’t afford to purchase new equipment to meet the regulations. Some drivers, he said, have lease-to-own agreements with the trucking companies.

“They signed the contracts,” Hyon said of the drivers. “We did it in good faith.”

The case originated from wage claims filed by four drivers in the Long Beach office of the Labor Commissioner’s office. The drivers claimed unreimbursed business expenses and unlawful deductions, including weekly truck rental fees and liability insurance costs for the Seacon Logix trucks they drove for the company. Hearings on the claims on Nov. 16, 2011, resulted in a decision requiring Seacon Logix to pay $105,089.15 for violations including unlawful withholding of wages, interest and waiting time penalties. Seacon Logix appealed the hearing decision with the Long Beach Superior Court.

The California Superior Court ruling upheld the labor commissioner’s hearing decision and ordered Seacon Logix to pay $107,802, including interest. The drivers will get the full amount of that award.

“In this case, drivers had signed agreements labeling them independent contractors but the court saw the truth behind the label,” Su said in a statement. “The court found that the company exerted sufficient control over the drivers such that the drivers were employees of the company and thus, enjoy all basic labor law protections.”

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