FedEx Ground has recently lost a ruling from a federal court of appeals in a suit brought by its delivery drivers. Those drivers are classified as independent contractors by FedEx, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals says FedEx is wrong.
FedEx Ground drivers brought lawsuits all over the country, including in Connecticut and Massachusetts, claiming that they were illegally classified as Independent Contractors. They claim they should have been employees. This classification matters for many reasons including overtime pay, benefits, unemployment insurance, taxes and other reasons. The lawsuits have been pending for years and the trial court ruled in favor of FedEx.
Recently, that ruling was overturned. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in Alexander v. FedEx Ground that FedEx maintains enough control over the drivers that they are truly employees and should not be treated as independent contractors.
Connecticut and Massachusetts have similar laws. Employees are not allowed to avoid the costs associated with having employees by calling them Independent Contractors when they are really not very independent. The court found that FedEx controlled almost every aspect of the drivers’ work including how the dressed and groomed themselves.
FedEx controls its drivers’ clothing from their hats down to their shoes and socks. It requires drivers to be “clean shaven, hair neat and trimmed, [and] free of body odor.” FedEx’s detailed appearance requirements clearly constitute control over its drivers. See Ruiz v. Affinity Logistics Corp., No. 12-56589, 2014 WL 2695534, at *7 (9th Cir. June 16, 2014) (finding right to control under California law where a delivery company controlled “‘every exquisite detail’ of the drivers’ appearance, including the ‘color of their socks’ and ‘the style of their hair’”); cf. Huggins v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., 592 F.3d 853, 859 (8th Cir. 2010) (holding, under Missouri law, that FedEx’s appearance requirements “show the extent of FedEx’s control” over drivers’ work).
What happens next is the question. Will FedEx appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court? Will it change its business model? Will it start paying overtime wages to these drivers? Stay tuned!