Alexander, et al v. FedEx Ground Package System, No. 12-17458 (9th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
The named plaintiffs represented a class comprising approximately 2300 individuals who were full-time delivery drivers for FedEx in California between 2000 and 2007. FedEx contended its drivers were independent contractors under California law. Plaintiffs contended they were employees. This appeal involved a class action originally filed in the California Superior Court in December 2005 on behalf of a class of California FedEx drivers, asserting claims for employment expenses and unpaid wages under the California Labor Code on the ground that FedEx had improperly classified the drivers as independent contractors. Plaintiffs also brought claims under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), which similarly turned on the drivers' employment status. FedEx removed to the Northern District of California based on diversity. Between 2003 and 2009, similar cases were filed against FedEx in approximately forty states. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated these FedEx cases for multidistrict litigation ("MDL") proceedings in the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana ("the MDL Court"). Plaintiffs moved for class certification. The MDL Court certified a class for plaintiffs' claims under California law. It declined to certify plaintiffs' proposed national FMLA class. Plaintiffs in all the MDL cases moved for partial summary judgment, seeking to establish their status as employees as a matter of law. In this case, FedEx cross-moved for summary judgment. The MDL Court denied nearly all of the MDL plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment and granted nearly all of FedEx's motions, holding that plaintiffs were independent contractors as a matter of law in each state where employment status was governed by common-law agency principles. The MDL Court remanded this case to the district court to resolve the drivers' claims under the FMLA. Those claims were settled, and the district court entered final judgment. Plaintiffs appealed, challenging the MDL Court's grant of summary judgment to FedEx on the employment status issue. FedEx conditionally cross-appealed, arguing that if we reverse the MDL Court's grant of summary judgment to FedEx, we should also reverse the MDL Court's class certification decision. Upon review, the Ninth Circuit held that plaintiffs were employees as a matter of law under California's right-to-control test. Accordingly, the Court reversed both the MDL Court's grant of summary judgment to FedEx and its denial of plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment. The case was remanded to the district court with instructions to enter summary judgment for plaintiffs on the question of employment status.
Court Description: California Law. The panel reversed the Multidistrict Litigation Court’s grant of summary judgment entered in favor of FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., and its denial of a plaintiff class of FedEx drivers’ motion for partial summary judgment in a class action alleging that FedEx drivers in California were employees rather than independent contractors. The panel held that the plaintiff FedEx drivers were employees as a matter of law under California’s right-to- control test. The panel remanded to the district court with instructions to enter summary judgment for plaintiffs on the question of employment status. Judge Trott, joined by Judge Goodwin, concurred. Judge Trott wrote that FedEx’s labeling of the drivers as “independent contractors” in its Operating Agreement did not conclusively make them so.