If you are a regular follower of national news, you may have noticed a lot of stories in recent months on the topic of employee misclassification, particularly among drivers. Although many of those stories focus on legal battles playing out in other states, they often involve companies operating right here in Texas, such as Uber, Lyft and FedEx.
However, the problem of driver misclassification extends well beyond that handful of well-publicized cases. Long-haul trucking is an often-overlooked industry in which drivers are very often misclassified as independent contractors, depriving them of their rightful pay and other benefits.
According to a 2014 report from the National Employment Law Project, a majority of port drivers in the United States are misclassified as independent contractors. Port truck drivers are the truckers responsible for moving goods from the seaport to the rail yard, warehouse or distribution center. NELP data from the report indicate that there are approximately 4,500 port drivers in Texas alone, and that nearly 3,000 of those drivers are misclassified.
How misclassification can hurt you
At a glance, it may not be easy to see why it matters whether you are classified as an employee or independent contractor, regardless of what industry you work in. Oftentimes, companies that misclassify their workers will even try to make it sound appealing by using phrases like "be your own boss" and "set your own hours." While
there are situations in which workers can be properly classified as independent contractors, it is often done incorrectly as a tactic for companies to save money - illegally - on taxes, wages, employee benefits and more.
If your boss misclassifies you as an independent contractor instead of an employee, it puts you at a distinct disadvantage in a number of ways. This can deprive you of:
- Full payment for the hours you work, including minimum wage and overtime pay
- Unemployment benefits if you lose your job
- Disability benefits if you are hurt and cannot work
- Social Security credits to ensure your eligibility when you retire
- Paid time off, including vacation and sick time
- Medical insurance and other employer-provided benefits
Trucking companies also save money by requiring misclassified truck drivers to pay for their own fuel, tires and vehicle maintenance costs, further cutting into the drivers' pay. If you are an independent contractor and you believe you may be misclassified, be sure to talk your situation over with an employment lawyer. He or she can help you evaluate your situation and may be able to help you recover financial compensation, including back pay, unpaid overtime and more. Contact the employment lawyers at Kennard Law, P.C., to learn more.