California AG Sues Truckers in Biggest Ports of Nation for Avoidance of Labor Laws

     LOS ANGELES ( CN) – California’s Attorney Generel sued trucking companies operating out of the two biggest seaports in the nation, Los Angeles and Long Beach, for declaring employees as independent contractors, saying the practice of avoiding labor laws is widespread in the trucking industry.
     The operators      In the first lawsuit, Jose Maria Lira, a fleet operator for the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, is accused of withholding the legal protections and benefits of being an employee from his workers, and of cheating California out of state payroll taxes.
     Lira leased his trucks to the drivers and required that they pay him 50% of their gross earnings, along with 10% in management fees. Lira’s truckers were found to work exclusively for him, putting in more than 60 hours or work a week, but were declared as independent contractors.
     “The main reason for these lawsuits is that truckers are working 13-hour days without receiving the proper guarantees of overtime, workers’ compensation, or health benefits owed to a full-time worker. These lawsuits are to protect the workers and the California taxpayers” stated Dana Simas, a spokesperson for the Attorney General.
     The second lawsuit charges Pac Anchor Transportation and Alfredo Barajas with similar violations.
     Barajas supplied Pac Anchor Transportation with 38 trucks and drivers. Despite the fact that Pac Anchor Transportation reportedly paid the truckers directly and that the truckers were found not to own their trucks, the drivers were declared as independent contractors. California, however, believes the drivers are entitled to the protections and benefits of employees.
     The Deputy Attorney General, Carolyn LA, is representing California in the case against Lira. Timothy Kolesnikow, the Deputy Attorney General, is representing California in the case against Pac Anchor Transportation and Barajas. The defendants of both cases have yet to appoint attorneys.
In February 2008, the Attorney General’s office investigated a Los Angeles trucking company for labor law violations. While the company under investigation was not found to be at fault, the investigation discovered that its affiliates were in violation of the labor laws.
     With this discovery, Attorney General Brown appointed a task force to investigate trucking companies operating at Long Beach or Los Angeles ports, the two most active ports in the United States.

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