Kansas FedEx truck drivers are company employees and not independent contractors, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday, reversing a key ruling in continuing multi-district litigation.
The case is one of about 70 class-action lawsuits FedEx drivers filed over the last decade challenging their classification as contractors. The consolidated MDL cases are being heard by Judge Robert Miller in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend.
Miller ruled in favor of FedEx, but the 7th Circuit posed certified questions to the Kansas Supreme Court, which answered that drivers were company employees under the Kansas Wage Payment Act.
In a six-page per curiam opinion, a panel including Judges Frank Easterbrook, Richard Posner and John Tinder reversed summary judgment for FedEx and ordered judgment in favor of the drivers. The case is In Re: FedEx Group Package System, Inc. Employment Practices Litigation, Carlene M. Craig, et al. v. FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., 10-3115.
“FedEx’s understanding of the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision strays from reality,” the court wrote. Judges rejected the company’s claim that Kansas justices restated a 20-factor test for determining employment status under the state’s wage act.
"Not surprisingly, FedEx argues that we should not follow the Kansas Supreme Court’s answers to the certified questions," the 7th Circuit panel wrote, noting such answers are binding statements of law. "FedEx simply disagrees with the Kansas Supreme Court's legal conclusions."
The 7th Circuit remanded for entry of judgment for the drivers and for proceedings, which may require remand to a Kansas District Court for a determination of damages.
In a separate case, FedEx last month agreed to a $227 million settlement with its drivers in California.