A proposed class action filed against sister companies Expeditor Systems Inc. and Patriot Transport Inc. claims the Chicagoland trucking outfits illegally withheld wages and deliberately misclassified their workers to avoid paying benefits.
The defendants are related entities who share headquarters, equipment and often employees, the case says. According to the proposed class action, the defendants targeted individuals who spoke limited English to hire as “company drivers,” deliberately underpaid them, made illegal deductions from their pay, and misclassified them as independent contractors. According to the case, the defendants intentionally targeted immigrants knowing they would be easier to manipulate. From the lawsuit:
“[The defendants] implemented their exploitative scheme in full knowledge that most of the truck drivers they hired would take the job offered, not complain about under-payment of wages, and not seek any recourse in court or otherwise with government authorities. Individual defendants targeted drivers who were recent immigrants, had low English language proficiency and lacked legal sophistication, so as to ensure a consistent power imbalance, which the individual Defendants used to their advantage.”
The lead plaintiff, who the case says worked for the defendants from October through November 2018, alleges he signed a roughly 20-page employment contract in English, of which he says he has a limited understanding, and was denied a request for a copy. The man further alleges he drove approximately 4,000 miles within the span of two weeks without pay, and that the company at times made unauthorized deductions from his pay to cover “repair” and “scale” expenses despite the fact that he drove a company-owned truck. According to the lawsuit, though the defendants assured the plaintiff he would receive $0.55 for each mile driven, this rate was docked significantly due to the companies’ unlawful deductions for “various dubious ‘charges’ and ‘violations.’”
“Defendant companies did not pay for all of the miles which [the plaintiff] drove,” the suit states, alleging the plaintiff is owed more than $2,200 for his two-month employment.
“…[being] free of control and direction over the performance of his work”
“…perform[ing] work which is either outside the usual course of business or…outside all the places of business of the employer…”
“…[being] in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business”
The complaint argues that the plaintiff does not meet the definition of an independent contractor because the company controlled employees’ hours and work assignments and did not allow proposed class members to work for other companies or have their own customers. Additionally, the suit argues that the defendant violated the IWPCA by making unauthorized deductions from employee pay, failing to notify employees of their true rates of pay, and failing to pay employees their last paychecks in a full and timely manner.
The suit looks to represent a class that includes all employees of Patriot and Expeditor who worked as truck drivers or trainees in the state of Illinois, and subclasses for those affected by each specific IWPCA violation. The suit seeks over $1.5 million in damages.