Struggling but surviving

| September 29, 2009

Contrary to concerns that a federal bill will cripple owner-operator legal status, two recent decisions in cases brought against FedEx divisions suggest preservation of the status quo treatment of leased owner-operators.

Grawe says in one, a Washington, D.C., court of appeals ruled that FedEx Home Delivery drivers are indeed ICs and that the company did not have to recognize the Teamsters union as its collective bargaining representative. “The majority opinion spent more time on ‘the opportunities and risks inherent in entrepreneurialism,’” a concept that Grawe says has more in common with decisions of “30 or 40 years ago” than recent decisions focused solely on company “control” of the contractor.

Grawe also points to a Minnesota legislative compromise that preserved the state’s industry-specific treatment of IC definition as a recent favorable development. All the same, he expects a federal bill on IC misclassification before the end of the year.

Other analysts and industry stakeholders don’t worry too much about the IC legal territory, though. They see the latest battles as either a union/nonunion fight with little other impact or just a reason to strengthen lease terms to enhance owner-operator independence.

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