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South Bend federal judge rules on FedEx class action litigation

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A federal judge in South Bend has issued a significant 182-page opinion that holds FedEx drivers nationwide are independent contractors rather than employees entitled to back pay and full benefits.

U.S. Judge Robert Miller in the Northern District of Indiana made his decision Tuesday in the five-year-old In Re FedEx Ground Package System, Inc Employment Practices Litigation, MDL 1700, No. 3:05-MD-527, which is a series of multi-district litigation before him consisting of dozens of class-action cases filed by drivers in multiple states including Indiana. Judge Miller’s ruling tosses the claims that FedEx misidentified drivers’ employment status and owed them back pay, overtime, and other damages, though an appeal is likely before the litigation comes to a close.

Though the first individual FedEx cases addressing these issues began surfacing in 2001, the line of litigation obtained MDL centralization in 2005 and Judge Miller has been ruling on various nuances involved through the years. He largely granted class certification to many of the cases in March 2008 and some of the more significant happenings since then have come this year.

In his ruling this week, Judge Miller wrote that the “nationwide character” of this litigation makes it a truly unique set of cases, unlike anything that has appeared before him or in the cases cited by the parties.

Judge Miller found that the drivers are independent contractors in 20 of the 28 remaining group lawsuits, and the judge ruled in favor of FedEx on some claims in the other eight class-action cases.

The judge largely based his ruling on how each states’ laws dictate how employees should be classified, and in various ways that employment relationship turned on the degree of control the purported employer has over workers.

“FedEx doesn’t have the right to control the drivers’ means and methods of how they go about their work,” Judge Miller wrote. “FedEx’s results oriented controls don’t result in employee status.”

Judge Miller relied largely on his holding reached back in August in a FedEx case out of Kansas, where he ruled in the company’s favor and found it didn’t retain the “right to control” its drivers, but rather only offers “suggestions and best practices” and does not dictate delivery requirements.

Specific to the Indiana drivers’ claims, Judge Miller focused on Indiana Code §§ 22-2-6 and 22-2-4-4 concerning illegal deductions in wages as well as fraud statutes. The state statutes don’t define the term “employee,” and the parties agreed the court should interpret that term using Indiana’s common law test for employment status or a ten-factor analysis the Indiana Supreme Court has relied on in the past. The drivers cited a Fort Wayne newspaper’s suit ruled on by the Court of Appeals in 1995, but Judge Miller determined that caselaw isn’t controlling here because no one fact is dispositive and the totality must be considered. Relying on the Kansas decision rationale with the Hoosier statutes, Judge Miller held the Indiana drivers are independent contractors and ruled in favor of FedEx on all claims.

Judge Miller denied a motion by FedEx for a jury trial as moot.

 



 

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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