Hundreds of drivers file suit against Oklahoma trucking company for low pay, 100 hour work weeks

More than four hundred current and former John Christner Trucking drivers have filed civil suit against the company, alleging because they were misclassified as independent contractors, they were often working as many as 100 hours a week and earning less than $500 per week. In a suit filed in federal court, lead plaintiff Thomas Huddleston argues that John Christner Trucking violated federal and California labor laws by employing them as independent contractors but then treating them as employees. The suit argues that because the drivers were misclassified, John Christner Trucking was in violation of minimum wage requirements.

Huddleston, who worked for John Christner Trucking (JTC) from May 2016 through August 2016, says that the company required drivers to work nearly hundred hours a week and did not provide adequate compensation.

From court documents:
“…they [the truck drivers] routinely worked 10–14 hours per day and 70–98 hours per week. JCT compensated them based on three factors: (1) a flat rate per mile; (2) reimbursements for certain categories of expenses; and (3) deductions for, inter alia, lease payments, various insurance premiums, Qualcomm communications systems, licenses, maintenance and repair, cleaning services, fuel costs, freight charges, physical examinations, and drug screenings. Under this scheme, their effective hourly wage was often less than $7.25, the federal minimum wage. In fact, it was not uncommon for them to work 70–100 hours in a week but receive less than $500.00 from JCT. It was also not uncommon for them to receive negative paychecks. The conditions described above were consistent throughout their time with, JCT, and they observed their co-workers working under similar conditions.” The suit also argues that though the drivers were classified as independent contractors, JTC “exercised complete control over their trucks and work-related activities. JCT accomplished this, in part, by requiring them to lease their trucks and purchase equipment from JCT, and by mandating their assignments, schedules, and routes. If they or JCT terminated their operating agreements, JCT had the option to terminate their lease agreements without notice and take immediate possession of their trucks.” As of July 25, 426 drivers opted to join the lawsuit against John Christner Trucking. Company co-owner Darryl Christner denied the allegations and told the Tulsa World that “we’ve been in business for a little over 32 years, so if we were patently doing something illegal or unethical on a continuous basis, we wouldn’t be in business.”

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