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Misclassified Truck Drivers Secure a $4.75 Million Settlement After a Decade of Litigation

On December 14, 2022, the honorable Samuel H. Mays, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee granted final approval to the settlement (“Settlement”) of a class action lawsuit against freight and trucking business Comtrak Logistics, Inc. (“Comtrak” or “Defendant”).  The Court previously granted preliminary approval to the Settlement on July 21, 2022.

The nine-year litigation accused Comtrak (presently known as Hub Group Inc.) of misclassifying its truck drivers as independent contractors.  The class of California drivers secured $4.75 million in damages and relief for unpaid wages, unreimbursed business expenses, and missed meal and rest breaks.

In May 2013, Salvador Robles, Jorge Avalos, and Jose Marquez (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) brought suit in the Eastern District of California, alleging that Comtrak misclassified its employees as independent contractors and, therefore, deprived them of legal protections and benefits including minimum wage, overtime pay, and sick time.  Defendant attempted to dismiss the case, arguing that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (the “FAAAA”) preempts California law.  However, the motion to dismiss was denied after the Ninth Circuit ruled in a separate action that the FAAAA did not present a preemption issue.  In 2015, at the request of Defendant, the case was transferred to the Western District of Tennessee.

Because the Western District of Tennessee continued to apply California law, the case remained subject to the changing legal terrain of California’s misclassification laws.  The Court ultimately applied the California Supreme Court’s decision in Dynamex, which states that a worker is considered an employee unless the employer can demonstrate that the worker is free from its control, performs work outside its line of business, and operates as an independent firm.  As a result of this standard (but independent from the Settlement), Comtrak stopped hiring drivers in California.  In his final approval order, Judge Mays applauded the timing of the settlement, predicting that future preemption decisions could once again alter the independent contractor-employee divide and prevent class member recovery.

The Settlement Class includes California drivers from January 2009 to the present.  The $4.75 million settlement allocates $150,000 to resolve a related lawsuit asserting claims under the Private Attorneys General Act, which allows workers to sue employers on behalf of the state for California Labor Code Violations.

The case caption for this action is Robles, et al v. Comtrak Logistics, Inc., Case No. 2:15-cv-02228, filed in the Western District of Tennessee.

The legal team at Miller Shah LLP has extensive experience representing employment and misclassification matters.  If you have any questions regarding this subject or this post, please contact Samantha Kielbania (sjkielbania@millershah.com) or Chiharu Sekino (cgsekino@millershah.com).  The firm can also be reached toll-free at (866) 540-5505.

Miller Shah LLP is a law firm with offices in California, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.  The firm is an active member of International Advisory Group (IAG Global), which provides clients with access to excellent legal and accounting resources across the globe.  For more information about the firm, please visit Miller Shah LLP.

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