Federal appeals court upholds ruling that FedEx drivers were employees, not contractors

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Updated Jul 18, 2015

FedEx_GroundA federal appeals court ruled last week in favor of the more than 500 FedEx Ground driver plaintiffs in a now five-year-old class action case in which the drivers claimed they were wrongly classified as independent contractors, arguing they instead should have been classified as employees of the company.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, upholding a ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court last year that said per Kansas state law, the drivers should have been classified as employees.

The Seventh Circuit’s ruling also overturns a ruling made by a Multi-District Litigation panel from several years ago.

FedEx Ground says it disagrees with the court’s ruling and is exploring options for its next move in the case. FedEx in a statement says the Seventh Circuit decision applies only to drivers who worked in Kansas from 1998 to 2007. And, as the company has said before about similar rulings in different states, the independent contractor model in question in the case is no longer in use.

“More than 100 state and federal rulings have affirmed that FedEx Ground contracted service providers are properly classified as a matter of law,” FedEx Ground said in a statement. “We remain committed to protecting our way of doing business and the rights of those businesses to continue operating.”

FedEx Ground last month announced it had reached a $228 million agreement with truck operators who brought a similar suit in California to settle that case. That settlement, however, applied only to the drivers covered by that class action suit.

Several other similar cases involving other carriers have also been decided in favor of driver plaintiffs bringing the claims, most of them decided by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers nine West Coast area states.

The Ninth and Seventh Circuit appellate courts are the final courts before the U.S. Supreme Court. FedEx has not said whether it plans to appeal the Seventh Circuit ruling.