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Classification is Key: Ninth Circuit Considers FedEx Drivers Employees, Not Independent Contractors

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that former drivers of Federal Express should be classified as employees, as opposed to independent contractors pursuant to California’s right-to-control-test.  The Court held that plaintiffs in Alexander v. FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 16585 (9th Cir. Aug. 27, 2014), had been improperly classified as independent contractors, and were entitled to various expenses and wages. The decision applies to over 2,300 FedEx drivers.

The right-to-control test focuses on just how much control the worker both has to the work and the manner and means in which it is performed. The Court stated that while the agreement that FedEx had with its drivers left discretion regarding the hours they worked and driving routes, the company actually expected the drivers to work certain hours, and maintained control over their service areas. Further, FedEx imposed mandatory rules regarding driving safety standards, the appearance of the vehicles, and the workers’ uniforms. The Court found that the totality of these factors indicated that FedEx had misclassified the drivers as independent contractors. This is an important distinction, as employees are entitled to health care and retirement benefits, vacation, paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, in addition to worker’s compensation benefits.

Note to employers: take the time to review your workers’ status and make sure they are properly classified as either an employee or independent contractor, under the right-to-control test.  Classification is key to avoiding potential lawsuits down the road. 

This article is not offered as, and should not be relied on as, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.