Newspaper carriers for the San Diego - Union-Tribune (UT) have finally received a favorable ruling from a case that started way back in 2009. While the carriers initially raised a number of claims, including one that claimed the paper failed to pay minimum wage and overtime, most claims were dropped in 2013 except for the claim that the newspaper failed to reimburse workers for reasonable business expenses.
The newspaper carriers have now won a class action suit amounting to more than $3 million. That sum includes compensation for mileage, supplies, warehouse rent and insurance.
Forced into independent contractor status
At issue was whether the workers were independent contractors, as the newspaper claimed, or employees. The court decided that the workers were, indeed, employees of the paper, on the following grounds:
- The paper controlled crucial elements of the carriers' jobs.
- The carriers did not operate independent newspaper delivery businesses outside of the work they did for the UT.
- Many carriers worked for the UT for a long time.
- The UT required carriers to purchase specific supplies from the paper itself.
As employees of the paper instead of independent contractors, carriers were entitled to reimbursement for certain expenses they incurred in the course of doing their jobs.
Are you an independent contractor?
There are many factors that go into determining if a worker has been misclassified as an independent contractor. If you suspect that you may be an employee, but your employer has classified you as an independent contractor (even if you've signed a contract accepting this arrangement), you should speak with a qualified employment lawyer who can evaluate your situation and determine if your rights have been violated.