Appellate court rules federal law does not override state’s wage laws

December 2018/January 2019

Tyson Fisher

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An appellate court recently ruled in favor of drivers of a warehousing and home delivery company who said they had been shorted wages.

The court disagreed with the company’s claim that federal law supersedes Illinois law in matters involving the trucking industry in a case that is essentially the classic “independent contractor versus employee” argument.

On Sept. 27, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision in favor of drivers for motor carrier Joseph Cory Holdings, Secaucus, N.J. Five delivery drivers for Cory Holdings accused the company of deducting wages from their paychecks without obtaining “contemporaneous consent in violation of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act.”

Cory Holdings moved to dismiss the case by invoking the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994, which says states “may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier … or any motor private carrier with respect to the transportation of property.”

Neither the district court nor the appellate court agreed with Cory Holdings’ interpretation of the law.

Drivers claim that the relationship was more that of an employee than contractor. That claim was backed up by pointing out the following:

  • Drivers were required to report to Cory Holdings facilities in Illinois at a preset time determined by Cory Holdings.
  • Drivers were required to make deliveries within time windows set by Cory Holdings.
  • Drivers were required to wear a uniform.
  • Cory Holdings required drivers to complete their route in a specific order. If drivers failed to complete their deliveries in the order specified by Cory Holdings, they would be subject to discipline.
  • Cory Holdings subjected drivers to a rating system.
  • Cory Holdings retained the right to terminate drivers for any reason.

The lawsuit claims that drivers worked six to seven days per week for 12-16 hours per day making deliveries for Cory Holdings. However, they were never paid overtime rates for hours worked beyond 40 hours each week. LL

Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.