The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 150 has announced that three drivers for package delivery company DHL have filed a lawsuit against the company and the driver contracting firm DNM Delivery Solutions in California’s Sacramento Superior Court on the claim that the drivers are unlawfully classified as independent contractors. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all current and former DHL drivers throughout California who were allegedly misclassified as contractors.
DHL uses independent contractors to provide dedicated pickup and delivery work in many parts of the U.S., with about a 60/40 in the comapny's pick-up and delivery network between independent contractors and DHL couriers, respectively. There are over 300 independent contractor operated centers in its U.S. network, with between 10,000 and 13,000 independent couriers.
“It’s complicated by the web DHL sets up to insulate itself from liability and from union representation,” Jason Rabinowitz of the labor law firm Beeson, Tayer & Bodine told Fleet Owner. “The lawsuit is complicated because we have to sue DHL and the middleman (DNM Delivery Solutions) on behalf of all the other cartage contractors in California.” Rabinowitz’s firm represents Local 150.
“It’s the same type of work [as Teamsters-represented UPS drivers]—they’re picking up DHL packages for DHL customers in a DHL uniform,” Rabinowitz said. According to his law firm, the DHL drivers working as contractors average between $7 and $9 per hour.
DHL said it encourages independents to promote its own business identity, although a contractor's display of DHL branding on its trucks and uniforms is based on a trademark licensing agreement.
“UPS drivers’ comparative wages are higher, however, the productivity is much higher also,” Robert Persuit, S.J. Consulting analyst told Fleet Owner. “This has to do with the work structure and freight density and the fact that [UPS] has more deliveries in a more condensed area.
“This has been an ongoing situation with respect to what is the line between an independent contractor and a company driver,” Persuit continued, noting that FedEx Ground has wrestled with similar lawsuits in the past. Rabinowitz said in a similar case filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, the judge ruled against FedEx Ground last year.
“Employers have tried to avoid their obligations by calling people who are employees independent contractors to deny those drivers their rights,” said Rabinowitz. “The reason [the independent driver vs. company driver issue] persists is the desire of companies like DHL to deny their drivers their basic rights.”
DHL and DNM Delivery Solutions are expected to file responses to the lawsuit. DHL said it doesn't comment on pending litigation.