Were Thousands of Truck Drivers Misclassified by CR England?

by Norman B. Blumenthal on December 4, 2017

blumenthal nordrehaug & bhowmik, southern california employment law, southern california employment law attorneys, misclassified, misclassified truck drivers, truck drivers misclassifiedThousands of truck drivers filed suit claiming that CR England (CRE) misclassified them as independent contractors rather than employees in order to avoid costs associated with retirement, health and other miscellaneous benefits. The suit was filed on October 12, 2017 and claims that the company has been refusing benefits to some of its drivers for decades due to their classification as independent contractors.

According to allegations included in the lawsuit, CRE purposefully engaged in business practices that undermined the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), specifically vesting requirements, and limiting access to required benefits.

CRE is a Salt Lake City based, family owned company founded in 1920 that employs thousands of truck drivers. The company website describes the work performed as transportation of refrigerated goods while the lawsuit filed by drivers states that the company’s drivers transport CRE goods exclusively.

The argument presented by truck drivers at CRE is reminiscent of other, similar arguments presented by truck drivers in similar circumstances who were missing out on employee benefits due to misclassification. In 2015, J.B. Hunt faced a lawsuit for allegedly depriving drivers of employee benefits. In the J.B. Hunt case, a federal judge held that the drivers’ state-law claims were barred by ERISA. Both parties agreed to dismiss the case.

In more recent news, ERISA worker classification lawsuits have been common in the insurance industry with major insurance companies like Allstate Insurance Co. and American Family Insurance Co. defending their practices in long-running cases over misclassification of agents.

Carlos Silva, former CRE truck driver, alleges that the company praised the benefits of business ownership while promising to treat truck drivers as independent contractors. He further alleged that the company failed to follow through on their promise of independence and instead exercised the right to control both the manner in which drivers conduct their business as well as the means by which they accomplish each and every aspect of their day-to-day duties. Silva also claims that CRE employs some truck drivers as employees who are, due to their classification, entitled to benefits. According to the lawsuit, there is no difference between CRE’s method of regulating work flow regardless of their truck drivers’ classifications: employees or contractors. The only difference is that those categorized as employees have access to company benefits.

Silva seeks to be declared a legal employee. This would mean unpaid benefits, an order for the company to reform their health and retirement plans to offer access to benefits, etc. for Silva as well as any other potential class members.

If you have questions about misclassification on the job or if you need to get some answers regarding class certification for a class action lawsuit, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

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