Illinois FedEx Drivers Are Employees, Not Independent Contractors, Orders Federal Court in First Summary Judgment Ruling in Multi-District Litigation Over Drivers' Employment Status

Jun 03, 2010, 12:16 ET from Leonard Carder, LLP

CHICAGO, June 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being released by Leonard Carder, LLP:

In a ruling that could have far-reaching national implications, a Federal court judge issued the first summary judgment ruling that FedEx Ground and Home Delivery drivers in Illinois are employees of the company - not independent contractors - under that state's Wage Act.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Miller, who has been presiding over the 63 cases in the multi-district litigation for the past five years (FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. Employment Practices Litigation, Cause No. 3:05-MD-527 RM), issued an Opinion and Order on May 28, 2010 granting the drivers summary judgment - a first in the protracted litigation - to the drivers, who the company has maintained in that and other cases throughout the U.S. are independent contractors. "This ruling is a step forward for not only the Illinois drivers, but for many other FedEx drivers across the country whose rights arise under similar laws," according to Lynn Faris, Esq., a California lawyer and one of the lead attorneys representing the drivers who allege that FedEx has intentionally and consistently misclassified drivers as independent contractors even though they are in reality employees.

In this opinion, Judge Miller specifically found that the drivers were employees because their delivery work was an essential and necessary part of FedEx's business. The judge cited testimony by former FedEx CEO Dan Sullivan who said the drivers are the "centerpiece" of FedEx's "workforce" and they are an "essential component" of the company's business. The Court noted that the drivers - fixtures in neighborhoods across America - must wear FedEx uniforms and drive logo-ed trucks to support the FedEx brand.  The court also found that FedEx structures the drivers' routes so that the trucks are in use nine to 11 hours a day; allows for the hiring of replacement drivers, but only with FedEx's approval; and the drivers were required to permit FedEx managers to have business discussions and customer service rides annually in the vehicles in order to maintain FedEx's image and reputation.  "These same facts suggest that FedEx controlled the drivers work to such an extent that all the drivers were and are employees," commented Jerry Cureton, Esq., a New Jersey lawyer and counsel to the plaintiffs.

Similar plaintiffs' motions for Summary Judgment in 39 other states are pending, fully briefed and awaiting decision.

The lawsuits nationwide, which collectively represent more than 27,000 drivers, are seeking to have the former and current class members reimbursed all the expenses - including wage and other employment-related taxes - they've been forced to pay as a result of being misclassified, a liability that experts estimate exceed $1 billion. For more information, visit  

SOURCE Leonard Carder, LLP