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Judge: FedEx Kansas drivers aren't employees

September 01 2010

A federal judge ruled that FedEx Ground drivers in Kansas are independent contractors under Kansas law and not employees. The Kansas drivers' case is one of several lawsuits in multiple states against FedEx alleging drivers are misclassified as independent contractors.

In a 103-page opinion and order issued Aug. 11, Judge Robert Miller Jr. wrote that FedEx hasn't retained the right to direct the manner in which drivers perform their work.

"FedEx supervises the drivers' work and offers numerous suggestions and best practices for performance of assigned tasks, but the evidence doesn't suggest that FedEx has the authority under the operating agreement to require compliance with its suggestions," according to the ruling.

In addition, the judge wrote "Further, other factors strongly weigh in favor of independent contractor status; in particular, the parties intended to create an independent contractor arrangement, the drivers have the ability to hire helpers and replacement drivers, they are responsible for acquiring a vehicle and can use the vehicle for other commercial purposes, they can sell their routes to other qualified drivers and FedEx doesn't have the right to terminate contracts at-will."

In a statement, FedEx said the decision was significant.

"Judge Miller granted FedEx Ground's motion for summary judgment and denied plaintiff's motion for summary judgment in the Kansas case," FedEx said. "The court holds that the plaintiffs are independent contractors as a matter of law. This is consistent with recent rulings by the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals as well as a jury in Washington State Court and supports the company's long-standing position that FedEx Ground independent contractor owners are properly classified."

The same judge had found in May that some FedEx Ground drivers in Illinois were employees.

Lynn Faris, lead counsel for the drivers, said in a statement on the www.fedexdriverlawsuit.com Web site that plans are to appeal the decision.

"We are surprised and dismayed by this opinion," Faris said in the statement. "The drivers know that what FedEx may call a 'suggestion' is, in reality a mandate, because not following it leads to termination."

In addition, the judge sent 16 cases back to their original courts in the states of Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Dakota, Vermont and Virginia, according to the Web site.

"The upshot of these two rulings means that drivers in some places will be legally employees and in other places, if the decision is not reversed, the drivers will be considered independent contractors," Faris said on www.fedexdriverslawsuit.com.

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