(CN) – FedEx drivers suing the shipping company for back pay and business-expense reimbursements could not persuade a federal judge in South Bend, Ind., of their case.
Drivers around the country have filed class actions against FedEx Ground Package System, alleging that the company purposefully misclassifies drivers as independent contractors to duck labor laws.
In a comprehensive 182-page ruling, Judge Robert Miller Jr. found that the drivers have enough control over their jobs to be considered independent contractors, not FedEx employees.
Miller had asked all parties to outstanding litigation to explain why their case should have a different outcome than his court granted to a Kansas case in August.
The ruling, which affects 42 cases in the multidistrict litigation (MDL), states that the drivers actually favor independent-contractor status because they can hire help, sell their routes and use their trucks how they please.
“Generally, employees can’t sell their jobs, and they can’t hire other people to do their jobs for them,” Miller wrote. “The drivers call these entrepreneurial opportunities a ‘sham,’ but they haven’t shown the court on the common evidence that these opportunities are but a sham.”
The ruling also states: “FedEx is contractually unable to discharge a driver at a whim and on the spot the way an employee in an at-will employment relationship could be discharged.”
The drivers complained that the court, at times, refused to consider evidence of FedEx’s conduct toward them.
Miller rebuffed the accusation.
“The drivers’ characterization of the court’s use of evidence, after the court indulged their strategy of coming before an MDL court as classes, isn’t well-taken,” Miller wrote. “To disagree with the court’s ruling is fair (and is a matter better handled through a motion to reconsider or an appeal), but to say the court ‘refused’ to do something when the court accepted the drivers’ own arguments on the matter isn’t accurate.
“The parties have heaped numerous insults upon each other’s arguments and reasoning in their various briefs, and the court has patiently overlooked their excursions into the land of uncivil arguments, exaggerations and mischaracterizations (and the court has avoided wasting time on listing citations to all the foul balls the parties pitched in their arguments); the court is less patient with mischaracterizations of its own efforts to rule fairly on the issues in this litigation.” (Parentheses in original)