The lawsuit, filed February 22 on behalf of California trucker Fidel Cornel, alleges that Graebel violated California labor codes by requiring drivers to work shifts lasting more than four hours without receiving a 10-minute rest break; requiring drivers to work shifts longer than five or 10 hours and not providing or allowing required 30-minute meal breaks; and failing to pay class members for all hours worked. Further, The suit also alleges that the truckers suffered loss of wages and compensation by failing to be paid for all hours worked, and failing to be paid minimum and overtime wages.
The company might want to take into consideration the ruling by a federal judge in January on similar accusations. Senior U.S. District Court Judge John W. Sedwick determined that five drivers for Swift Transportation Co., headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona were misclassified as independent contractors rather than employees. The judge agreed with the plaintiffs: they are employees because the giant carrier controlled every aspect of their work schedules – including how they delivered freight and which routes they had to use—and Swift controlled the equipment the truckers used, including the maintenance and condition of the trucks.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Dan Getman said the judge’s ruling over the misclassification question as “significant for the drivers.” Even though the ruling didn’t take place in California, misclassified drivers nationwide are paying attention. And California truckers have filed over 800 claims alleging they have been misclassified as independent contractors and as such were denied benefits owed to employees.
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According to Trucks.com (January 2017) Graebel has also cut costs by laying off about 50 of its employees. “We will work side-by-side with [those employees] to offer our support as they transition to new opportunities,” said Chris Preston, Chief Operating Officer for Graebel Van Lines. Perhaps he will see those 50 former employees side-by-side in the courtroom. The lawsuit seeks class action status for drivers who worked or lived in California and were employed by the company within the last four years.