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JGL Attorneys Jay Holland and Brian Markovitz Bring Class Action Against Delivery Company for Misclassifying Its Drivers as Independent Contractors & Instead of & Employees Depriving Drivers of Proper Wages and Overtime Pay

Law360, New York (September 02, 2009) — American Eagle Express Inc. drivers have hit the company with a putative class action accusing it of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by misclassifying employees as independent contractors and illegally docking and withholding regular and overtime pay.

In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday, the plaintiffs allege that AEX ignored the FLSA, and several local statutes, in an effort to avoid its obligations as an employer and required drivers to work more than 40 hours per week without overtime pay.

The 11 drivers are seeking to certify this matter as a collective action for violations of the FLSA and as a class action for violations of the Maryland Wage and Hour Law, the Maryland Wage Payment and Collections Law, the DC Wage Payment and Collection Law and the DC Minimum Wage Act, according to the complaint.

“Without [certification] AEX will likely retain the benefits of its wrongdoings and will continue a course of conduct that will result in further damage to the named plaintiffs and the class and subclass,” the complaint said.

The couriers are seeking declaratory relief asserting that they are employees of AEX and injunctive relief prohibiting the company from misclassifying the plaintiffs and others as “independent contractors” and requiring it to provide to the drivers the rights, benefits and privileges of employees, the complaint says.

They are also seeking restitution for wages lost due to illegal deductions and payment practices, together with interest, additional damages as provided for under local law and the costs of the action, the complaint says.

The named plaintiffs are pickup and delivery drivers who provide courier services from a Maryland warehouse to AEX clients within the state and in Washington – primarily banks and drug stores, the complaint says.

AEX requires each employee to sign a lengthy form contract that misleadingly classifies these drivers as “independent contractors,” despite also detailing the direction and control AEX will maintain over the couriers to such an extent that it creates an employer-employee relationship, the complaint says.

AEX unilaterally controls all aspects of work performed by the plaintiffs, including their schedule, route and nonnegotiable wages, and prohibits the couriers from exercising any management or independent discretion, refusing to undertake deliveries assigned by AEX management, or wearing shirts and hats other than those with the company’s logos emblazoned on them, the complaint says.

The company would cease to function without the services of the couriers, who “provide the majority, if not all, of the services required by [the company’s] clients,” and are almost exclusively economically dependent on money earned at AEX as they work over 40 hours per week and could not work elsewhere, the complaint says.

“Despite its knowledge of all of the aforementioned facts, [AEX] persists in a uniform policy of misclassifying named plaintiffs, the class and the subclasses as ‘independent contractors,’ with full knowledge that they are actually employees of [the company] as a matter of law,” the complaint said.

AEX is a courier service that employs over 450 people in Washington and at least four states: Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Representatives for both parties did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

The plaintiffs are represented in this matter by Joseph Greenwald & Laake PA.

Counsel information for the defendant was not immediately available Wednesday.

The case is Spellman et al. v. American Eagle Express Inc., case number 1:09-cv-01666-RMC, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

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