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Van Dusen, Doe, and Sheer v. Swift Transportation Co., Inc.


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Jan 17, 2010
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New Jersey
This lawsuit is brought as a nationwide class and collective action on behalf of truckers who lease trucks from Interstate Equipment Leasing Co., Inc. and are treated as "owner operators" by Swift Transportation Co. The suit seeks damages claiming that Swift and IEL's form contracts shift the business risks of the economic downturn to truckers who must by law be treated as employees, makes these truckers cover SWIFTÂ’s costs for fleet inventory, insurance, tolls, taxes, and equipment, and makes the truckers pay various fees to SWIFT that enable SWIFT to exact further profit from employees who cannot leave their contracts without crushing financial consequences. The arrangement helps SWIFT keep its workforce as virtual captives, undercuts the competition, avoids unions, evades unemployment and social security taxes, insurance, and permits SWIFT to charge its employees for expenses that must be borne by an employer.

The suit raises three broad groups of claims, first it claims that the truckers are really "employees" and not "independent contractors." As a result, the suit claims, truckers are owed wages under federal minimum wage law (FLSA) and must be reimbursed for all the deductions from their pay they now face, including lease payments, tolls, gas, maintenance, equipment, taxes and insurance.

Second, the lease and Independent Contractor Operating Agreement (ICOA) are challenged as "unconscionable" since defendants can terminate the contract at will and treat defendants' termination as the trucker's "default" and then demand that the trucker make all remaining lease payments. Claims are brought under the contract law of all states in the US.

Third, the complaint claims that the truckers are held in "forced labor" in violation of federal labor. Since truckers can only drive for Swift, and cannot leave their work without the threat of crushing debt burden, Swift and IEL's arrangement amounts to "forced labor" for Swift for periods extending up to four years.

The case is to be heard by U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona and will be tried to the Honorable U.S. District Judge John W. Sedwick of the District of Alaska, sitting in Arizona. Plaintiffs seek to recover the full panoply of expenses that Swift and IEL shift to its "owner operators" plus liquidated damages which may equal these deductions. The deductions for which plaintiffs seek recovery include truck lease payments, insurance, tolls, accounting fees, bond, equipment such as Qualcomm, etc. Plaintiffs seek unpaid wages, liquidated damages, interest, costs and attorneys' fees as well as declaratory relief under the FLSA and state wage laws.

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