The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

FedEx Driversâ€TM Privacy Shielded in Class-action Suit

by Michelle Chen

Sept. 15, 2006 – Delivering a small victory to FedEx workers in a sprawling class-action lawsuit, a court has struck down the company’s request that the plaintiffs turn over their tax records in order to pursue their claims of labor-law violations.

Attorneys for the workers announced the decision on Wednesday as the latest strike in the ongoing battle against the multi-billion dollar company’s controversial employment practices.

Challenging FedEx Ground drivers’ classification as "independent contractors," the suit demands compensation for entitlements they were allegedly denied because they were not recognized as employees. In response, during the discovery phase of the lawsuit, FedEx demanded that workers turn over previous tax filings to reveal how they classified themselves on the filing forms. The company argued that the forms would show that workers did not consider themselves employees.

Last week, the Indiana District Court rejected FedEx’s argument, ruling that the tax statements were irrelevant to the question of whether workers actually were independent contractors. In fact, Judge Christopher Nuechterlein concluded, because FedEx provided them with independent-contractor 1099 forms, workers "had little choice" but to use them.

The tax records were private, and forcing their exposure in court would have little bearing on the plaintiffs’ employment or legal status, the judge stated, noting that the pre-trial discovery process "is not an invitation to the proverbial fishing expedition."

The suit, originally filed in 2005, now includes about 150 named plaintiffs nationwide. The class-action case is being litigated on behalf of some 14,000 drivers allegedly misclassified as independent contractors.

Late last month, attorneys for FedEx driver Robert Williams announced a ruling by the Massachusetts Department of Workforce Development that FedEx had misclassified him as an independent contractor and illegally denied him unemployment benefits.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Michelle Chen is a staff journalist.

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