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Knight Transportation “Independent Contractor” Drivers ERISA Class Action

Truck with Knight Logo

Plaintiff Ronnie Stevenson works for Knight Transportation, Inc. as a truck driver. Knight insists he’s not an “employee” but an “independent contractor,” yet the complaint for this class action alleges that the only difference between Knight’s “employee” truck drivers and its “independent contractor” truck drivers is that the employees receive benefits and the others do not.

The class for this action is all individuals who worked for Knight Transportation, Inc. as truck drivers and who Knight classified as independent contractors, with the class period to be determined.

While there are no hard-and-fast definitions of employees versus independent contractors, the criteria used to judge classification have to do mostly with independence, choice, and control.

According to the complaint, Knight requires independent contractor drivers to sign an agreement drafted exclusively by Knight, with no chance to negotiate or change its terms, and they are required to adhere to Knight’s policies and procedures.

The complaint alleges that Knight requires drivers to work exclusively for Knight and that it exercises control over all aspects of their work, including where, when, and how the work is performed, providing the loads, designating pick-up and drop-off locations, and specifying the routes to be driven.

In other respects as well, the complaint claims that the drivers were treated as employees, with virtually no aspect of their work permitted to be “independent”:

  • Drivers were not involved in a distinct business, but were given instructions on how to do their work.
  • Drivers did not have prior advanced skills or training but were provided with training by Knight.
  • Knight set the working methods and the requirements for final results.
  • Drivers had no opportunities for their own profit and loss; they were forbidden to use their trucks for personal reasons or to carry loads for other clients.
  • Drivers provided services that were part of Knight’s principal business of transportation services.
  • Drivers were required to do their work in a particular sequence, according to Knight’s policies.
  • Knight had controlled every critical detail, including the haul, route, and deadlines.
  • Drivers were required to put Knight’s logo on both their trucks and trailers.

Despite the exclusivity and control required by Knight, drivers like Stevenson were not permitted to participate in the Knight 401(k) plan or cafeteria plan, which the complaint says is a violation of Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) provisions.

The complaint asks the court to declare the drivers to be employees, to forbid Knight from continuing to misclassify drivers, to authorize their participation in the 401(k) and cafeteria plans, and to pay restitution or some form of retroactive coverage. 

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