Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Hundreds of Port Truck Drivers Settle Landmark Class Action Lawsuit for $5 Million

LOS ANGELES, CA – On July 14, 2016, the Wage Justice Center and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA) reached a $5 million class action wage and hour settlement on behalf of nearly 400 immigrant Latino and Korean American port truck drivers against a port trucking company comprised of intertwined corporate entities.
 
“When I chose to stand up and fight for fair wages for myself and my co-workers, I was fired,” says Mariano Saravia, a former driver for QTS, Inc. “It’s been a long, hard road, but I’m happy that we will see some of our stolen wages, and more importantly, that drivers are no longer held captive by agreements that exploited us in order to benefit the company.”
 
The company, QTS, Inc., and its related entities including LACA Express and Win Win Logistics misclassified their drivers as independent contractors in order to deny them their rightful compensation, and then hid behind purported bankruptcy protections to avoid liability for wage theft and other exploitative business practices. The parties reached a settlement after the drivers followed the company into bankruptcy court and asked the court to act in the interest of justice by consolidating the assets of all of the related business entities in order to overcome the company’s disingenuous claims of poverty.
 
“The settlement is the first to successfully attack this dual scheme of misclassification and corporate shell games that is endemic in the port trucking industry,” stated Nicole Ochi, supervising litigation attorney from Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles. “Unfortunately, misclassification is the port industry norm. Nearly two-thirds of all port truck drivers nationally are misclassified as independent contractors, resulting in an impoverished, mostly immigrant workforce. We are proud that with this settlement, hundreds of drivers will be rightfully compensated, and we hope this case sends a strong signal to other drivers that they can win if they fight back.”
 
By classifying the drivers as independent contractors but controlling them like employees, companies are able to evade taxes as well as shift all the costs of operating their businesses to the drivers, including the cost of trucks, gas, maintenance and repair, and insurance, leaving drivers with poverty wages. These high weekly deductions operate like debt bondage, forcing the drivers to work dangerously long hours to eke out a living.
 
“The trucking company dictated how much I got paid, which loads I took, and from whom, yet they denied that I was their employee,” says Victor Vitela, a former driver for QTS, Inc. “I was forced to work 80 or more hours per week, sacrificing my health and my family relationships in order to make just a few hundred dollars after all the expenses they took out of my paycheck.”
 
As counsel for the port truck drivers, Wage Justice Center and Advancing Justice-LA filed papers with the Los Angeles Superior Court on July 14, 2016 seeking preliminary approval of the $5 million class settlement and an end to the drivers’ three-year-long fight for fair pay and accountability, over half of which has taken place in bankruptcy court as the defendants played paper games with business names and assets in an attempt to avoid liability. In one instance, the defendant QTS, Inc. filed for debtor bankruptcy protection, stalling the drivers’ case, on the same day that QTS, Inc.’s former President James Kang created a new corporation, which took over all of the debtor’s accounts and drivers.
 
“The defendants in this case filed for bankruptcy to try to avoid paying our drivers their hard-earned wages,” said Jay Shin, senior staff attorney at Wage Justice Center. “But we were not ready to concede the millions of dollars stolen from our drivers. We doggedly followed them into bankruptcy court and used innovative legal theories to hold the companies liable.”
 
Judge Berle of the Los Angeles Superior Court will hear Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary approval of the class settlement on August 12, 2016 at 10 a.m.
Contact: 
Randy Bunnao, (213) 241-0227, [email protected]
About Advancing Justice - LA: 
Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA) is the nation’s largest legal and civil rights organization for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (NHPI). Through direct services, impact litigation, policy advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building, Advancing Justice-LA focuses on the most vulnerable members of Asian American and NHPI communities while also building a strong voice for civil rights and social justice. The Wage Justice Center has been serving low-wage, immigrant workers in Southern California, including in the trucking, janitorial, construction, car wash, garment and homecare industries for nearly a decade. The Wage Justice Center uses innovative legal theories and tools to enforce wage judgments against the types of unscrupulous businesses that are far too common in the industries that employ low-wage and immigrant workers. Since its founding in 2007, the Wage Justice Center has helped thousands of workers collect millions of dollars in unpaid wages. Now, through a partnership with the California Labor Commissioner, the Wage Justice Center is helping workers throughout the state. The Wage Justice Center aims to effectively utilize the legal tools, strategic litigation and policy advocacy necessary to collect unpaid wages and empower long-abused workers to assert their basic economic rights.
Keyword: 
Friday, July 15, 2016
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