Settlements with 25 other plaintiffs followed a trial in federal court in St. Louis over the employment status of 11 former FedEx drivers.
A three-week trial in April over the claims of the 11 drivers ended with verdicts for economic damages totaling more than $327,000 for nine of them. The jury found for the defense on punitive damages. Settlements with two other groups of plaintiffs followed about four months later.
The drivers had alleged that FedEx agreements said they would be independent contractors, but they were treated like employees. They sought the difference between what they made as contractors and what they would have made as employees, including overtime, benefits and expense reimbursement.
Drivers around the country have sued FedEx over the independent contractor classification with mixed results. The 11 plaintiffs whose claims went to trial were the first listed in a lawsuit that dated back to 2006. The lawsuit was consolidated with similar cases in northern Indiana for class certification purposes but then denied certification. The case returned to the Eastern District of Missouri in December 2010.
The remaining 12 plaintiffs in that case and 13 in a separate lawsuit filed in 2010 announced settlements with FedEx in late August.
Drivers claimed they were told when to pick up and deliver packages and required to wear uniforms and have their trucks painted “FedEx white” with the company’s logo.
“These people were micromanaged at every step of the way during their employment with FedEx,” plaintiffs’ attorney John Toma Jr. said during a hearing, according to a transcript. The January 2013 hearing was on motions for summary judgment.
FedEx attorneys argued that the drivers could hire their own employees, manage and control investments in their business and set their own hours. Dress and branding requirements were intended to foster a professional image and good reputation, and other demands reflected government regulations, they argued.
“These plaintiffs agreed to deliver packages according to standards for the industry for package delivery and under the FedEx brand,” defense attorney James C. Rehnquist said at the hearing. “That’s the core of what they agreed to.”
U.S. District Judge John Ross found in his September 2013 summary judgment that FedEx drivers were employees, citing the control the company exercised over the drivers and an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals 2010 decision in Huggins v. FedEx Ground Package System Inc., which he said was the only Missouri case to address the employment status of FedEx drivers.
The appeals court found FedEx retained the right to control at least some of the “means and methods” of the driver’s work in a car accident case brought by a passenger riding with the driver, Ross said in his order.
FedEx suffered a loss in other litigation last month, when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with drivers in class action lawsuits, saying they were employees under California and Oregon law.
The settlements in Missouri were not related to the FedEx decisions in that appeals court, a spokesman for the company said in an email.
Plaintiff’s attorney Stacy Burrows didn’t return a phone call seeking comment by press time. Messages left for defense attorneys were routed to the spokesman, who responded to confirm and clarify facts in an email.
- Reginald Gray $90,482
- Bobby Brown $52,792
- John Waweru $31,341
- Marcus Holmes $31,177
- James Tichenor $29,320
- Jammie Hill $27,748
- Michael Jost $27,149
- Richard Mitchell $20,112
- Carl Tucker $17,108
- Kevin Pour $0*
- Roy Patton Jr. $0*
Venue: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri
Case number/date: 4:06-cv-00422/April 28, 2014
Judge: John Ross
Caption: Reginald Gray, Bobby Brown, John Waweru, Marcus Holmes, James Tichenor, Jammie Hill, Michael Jost, Richard Mitchell, Carl Tucker, Kevin Pour and Roy Patton Jr. v. FedEx Ground Package System Inc.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys: Stacy Burrows and George A. Barton, Law Offices of George A. Barton, Kansas City; John E. Toma Jr., Law Offices of John E. Toma, Gulf Breeze, Florida
Defendant’s attorneys: Gordon L. Ankney, Thompson Coburn, St. Louis; James Rehnquist and B. Aidan Flanagan, Goodwin Procter, Boston; K. Lee Blalack II and Scott M. Voelz, O’Melveny & Myers, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles