FedEx disputes statement on unpaid taxes

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A FedEx Ground/Home Delivery representative said an attorney representing owner-operators in lawsuits over contractor versus employee status is misrepresenting the cases. Rob Boulware, a spokesman for the company’s subsidiary, said California’s Employment Development Department began hearing the case against FedEx Ground/Home Delivery this month.

Lynn Faris, the Oakland, Calif., attorney representing the owner-operators, had issued a release asserting that department auditors determined FedEx owes nearly $8 million in back employment taxes for wrongly classifying owner-operators as contractors instead of employees. However, Boulware said that figure is speculation. “The appeal is continuing into July,” he said. “I think it appears the plaintiffs’ attorney will do anything to gain publicity.” The audit was for 2002-04 and involved more than 2,000 owner-operators.

Boulware said Chief Judge Robert L. Miller Jr. had not denied FedEx’s requests for dismissal as stated by Faris’ law firm; Miller’s decision, issued June 5, restricted the claims to drivers residing in one state, he said. Faris’ statement also cited the recent case of Estrada v. FedEx Ground in which the California State Superior Court ruled in favor of drivers who argued they should be classified as contractors; that case is under appeal, Boulware said.

FedEx Ground/Home Delivery is also the defendant in a national class-action suit filed by owner-operators attempting to gain Employee Retirement Income Security Act benefits. Hundreds of drivers from seven states had filed suit for pension and other benefits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.