9th Circuit Shows No Affinity For Independent Contractor Status In Delivery Drivers

18 wheeler truck

From Mondaq Employment and HR

In Ruiz v. Affinity Logistics Corporation, the Court of Appeals rejected the district court’s conclusion that Affinity’s drivers were independent contractors, a decision the district court had reached based on the fact that the drivers had established their own businesses, obtained their own Employee Identification Numbers, signed independent contractor agreements, and could hire helpers or secondary drivers. The Ninth Circuit instead ruled that other factors were more important to the analysis and that California law required the conclusion that they were employees of Affinity….

The Court of Appeals ruled that under California law, the most important factor in the analysis is the company’s right to control work details. The Court concluded that Affinity controlled enough details of the drivers’ work that they were employees, not contractors. For example, the company played a significant role in setting rates of pay, work schedules, routes, attire, and loading procedures.

The Court of Appeals also considered eight secondary factors, ruling that these too weighed in favor of employment status. The Court noted that the drivers’ work was supervised, that the drivers’ own businesses were created only because Affinity required it, that the drivers’ work did not involve substantial skill, that the trucks were provided by Affinity (even though the drivers had to pay for them), that Affinity determined the pay, and that the drivers’ services went to the core of Affinity’s business. The Court recognized that the parties believed their relationship to be that of an independent contractor, but the Court deemed the contract terms to be irrelevant. The Court also observed that the contract could be terminated at will but deemed that factor to be neutral. In all, the right to control test weighed heavily, in the Ninth Circuit’s opinion, in favor of employment status, and six of the eight secondary factors weighed in that direction as well.

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