LOS ANGELES (CN) – As part of an ongoing investigation into labor practices in the trucking industry, California’s Attorney General has sued trucking companies in the nation’s two biggest seaports of Long Beach and Los Angeles where the companies are accused of labeling employees as independent contractors and working them over 60 hours a week.
“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 lawsuits filed last week are part of a crackdown on a growing problem in the trucking industry, and more filings are expected in the coming weeks.
The larger investigation started in February with an inquiry into the practices of an LA trucking company which, as it turned out, had not violated any labor laws, but whose affiliates were found to be in substantial violation of those laws.
In response, Attorney General Edmund Brown appointed a task force to investigate trucking companies operating at Long Beach or Los Angeles ports.
In the first lawsuit, Deputy Attorney General Carolyn La accuses Jose Maria Lira, a fleet operator, of withholding from his workers the protections and benefits of being an employee, and of cheating California out of 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, but were declared as independent contractors.
In the second lawsuit, Deputy Attorney General Timothy Kolesnikow charged Pac Anchor Transportation and Alfredo Barajas with similar violations.
Barajas supplied Pac Anchor Transportation with 38 trucks and drivers. According to the state’s complaint, Pac Anchor Transportation paid the truckers directly, and the truckers did not own their trucks. The drivers were nevertheless declared as independent contractors. California says the drivers are working as employees, and should receive the appropriate benefits.
The defendants of both cases have yet to appoint attorneys.