Jan. 4, 2010
-- On December 23, 2009, Getman Sweeney, a law firm in New Paltz, New York filed a nationwide collective action and a class action against SWIFT TRANSPORTATION COMPANY and Interstate Equipment Leasing Co. for alleged mistreatment of truckers. The case claims that the companies together mis-classify workers as "independent contractors"
when they are really "employees" and then deduct a variety of charges from their paychecks (truck lease payments, insurance, taxes, tolls, gas, maintenance, equipment).
The lawsuit challenges a scheme by which Swift and its related company IEL shift their own business expenses onto employees. Various state statutes prohibit employers from making employees bear the expenses of their employer’s business. Here, SWIFT forces workers to pay a regular weekly lease of $500 or more, plus pay the costs of tolls, insurance, maintenance, gas and other equipment. Leases can run for 4 years or more. At any time, Swift and IEL can terminate the lease, demand return of the truck, and simultaneously declare that the trucker is in default, making the trucker pay all remaining lease payments, but with no way to earn the money to do so. “As a result, truckers become unable to leave the company, but they have none of the rights an employee would have to minimum wage, to unemployment, to insurance, to unionize, or to quit,” said Dan Getman, the truckers’ attorney. Getman added, “Swift’s business model shift the business risks of the economic downturn to employees, makes the employees cover SWIFT’s costs for fleet inventory, insurance, tolls, taxes, and equipment, and makes the employees pay various fees to SWIFT that enable SWIFT to exact further profit from employees who cannot leave their contracts without crushing financial consequences. Swift calls these workers ‘business partners’ but all that means is that Swift and its teams of lawyers can squeeze these truckers for as long as the lease lasts.” “They own these truckers once they sign the truck lease,” Getman said.
The case is brought in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and will be tried to the Honorable Richard M. Berman. U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis is also assigned to the case. Plaintiffs seek to recover the full panoply of expenses that Swift and IEL shift to its "owner operators" plus liquidated damages which may equal these deductions. The deductions for which plaintiffs seek recovery include truck lease payments, insurance, tolls, accounting fees, bond, equipment such as Qualcomm, etc. Plaintiffs seek unpaid wages, liquidated damages, interest, costs and attorneys' fees as well as declaratory relief under the FLSA and state wage laws.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
contact Dan Getman, Getman & Sweeney, PLLC, 9 Paradies Lane, New Paltz, NY 12561, telephone (845) 255-9370; fax (845) 255-8649; website: http://www.getmansweeney.com
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Getman & Sweeney, PLLC. represents employees only in labor disputes. We handle Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime and minimum wage claims as well as commission, contract, other wage and hour, and other state law wage claims.