Brown Wins Fifth Suit Against Port Trucking Companies that Violated Workers' Rights

Thursday, February 4, 2010
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

Los Angeles—In an ongoing investigation of the state’s underground economy, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced a fifth legal judgment against trucking companies operating at California ports that deny workers “the Social Security, Medicare and workers’ compensation benefits to which they are entitled under state law.”

Last month, the Los Angeles Superior Court found that Pacifica Trucks, a Southern California fleet operator, misclassified its drivers as independent contractors. The company failed to pay state employment-related taxes, contribute to Social Security and Medicare and provide W-2 forms to its employees.

“We’re sending a clear message that if you cheat your workers, we’re coming after you,” Brown said. “Pacifica Trucks claimed that its workers were independent contractors in order to avoid paying the Social Security, Medicare and workers’ compensation benefits to which they are entitled under state law. This judgment validates our continuing effort to ensure that all employees are protected.”

In 2008, Brown filed a lawsuit against Pacifica Trucks for unlawfully classifying its workers as 'independent contractors,' circumventing state employment taxes and ignoring labor laws that guarantee workers’ compensation and disability benefits.

In the lawsuit, Brown argued that Pacifica Trucks had exclusive authority over its drivers and provided all of the trucks, equipment, gas, repairs, and other business-related expenses used by employees. Under these conditions, the drivers should have been classified as employees with legally mandated protections and benefits.

Brown also argued that, in violation of California Business and Professions Code 17200, Pacifica Trucks had an unfair advantage over its competitors through the cost savings achieved by misclassifying its workers.

The judgment requires Pacifica Trucks to permanently refrain from misclassifying truck drivers as independent contractors and to pay a penalty.

Brown previously won lawsuits against the following trucking companies for similar violations:

• Guasimal Trucking
• Jose Maria Lira Trucking
• Esdmundo Lira Trucking
• Noel and Emma Moreno Trucking

Brown’s office has pursued several other companies suspected of operating underground economy schemes and violating worker’s rights. Recently, Brown filed a lawsuit against Auto Spa Express Car Wash in Los Angeles for forcing its employees to work nearly 60-hour weeks without overtime, ignoring minimum-wage laws and denying workers' compensation benefits to injured employees.

Last year, Brown also filed a lawsuit against Charles Evleth Construction in Bakersfield to recover $4.3 million in lost wages and benefits for the company’s employees.

Copies of the complaint and judgment against Pacifica Trucks are attached.

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