Risk Watch 2014: Sweat Shops on Wheels

 Some groups are calling it systematic and deliberate wage theft, others (slightly more diplomatic) are calling it a labour friendly campaign, but there is a tidal wave of turmoil brewing in the trucking Industry of the Ports of Los Angeles.

A report entitled “The Big Rig Overhaul: Restoring Middle-Class Jobs at America’s Ports Through Labor Enforcement” is a collaboration between three organizations alleging years of what they call the “enormous scale and shocking costs of an illegal business practice used by employers..” to bring attention and demand restitution and change to the industry. The National Employment Law Project, The Los Angeles Alliance for a new Economy and the Change to Win Strategic Organizing Center allege that worker misclassification in classifying port truckers as Independent Contractors instead of Employees became the port industries business model and was in fact a “scam”.

The numbers in the report allege a 1.4 billion dollar (includes wages and lost state tax revenue) misclassification scam that involves 60% of port truck drivers. Amounting to lost wages and benefits translating to 5,072$ per driver, per month.The report was published in the hopes to leverage Congress to pass legislation including The Payroll Fraud Prevention Act, The Clean Ports Act of 2013, and the Fair Playing Field Act of 2012.

From a Contingent Workforce Management perspective, the main point of emphasis and what it may come down to in the courts to deem who (if anyone) is in fact responsible for this misclassification will rely on the Nature of the Working Relationship between the alleged Independent Contractors and the trucking companies themselves.  The CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) and IRS (Internal Revenue Service) do have a different set of standards in how they define the classification of workers, but where they agree in terms of how they view this report will be that:

A) They do not differentiate between errors of omission and errors of commission. If misclassification occurred, the company will be liable, regardless of intent.

B) Determining of the amount of control a company can have in regards to the daily tasks of an independent contractor. Two instances of note in this example would fall under Exclusive Service, and Supervision. (Both are further defined below)

Supervision and Service

 

While the outcomes of this report remain unclear at the present time, there was fair warning that 2014 would be a year of heightened scrutiny at all levels regarding worker misclassification. If nothing else, the groups involved in the allegations of this report shows that those warnings are true.

 

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