Truck Drivers Win Big at the Supreme Court


Truck driving is a challenging job, and any hour worked is an hour that should be paid. Fortunately, in a recent ruling,the Supreme Court has reinforced this principle.

Specifically, the ruling allows truckers,specifically owner-operators, to legally sue their employers, even if the drivers are considered to be independent contractors. This means employment contracts can no longer prevent truckers from participating in class-action lawsuits.

Supreme Court Case Details

The official ruling was made during the Dominic Oliveira vs New Prime Inc case. The Missouri trucking company did their 5,000 truckers a major disservice by saying they were independent contractors rather than full-time employees.

By doing so, New Prime, aka Prime, avoided paying their truckers properly and bypassed other labor laws. The trucking company cited their employment contracts as a signed agreement, which forced truckers into arbitration.

Arbitration is the act of getting an issue resolved outside of court. In general, the process tends to be faster, private, and less expensive than court. Here’s how it works. Those in the dispute hire arbitrators to represent them.

An arbitrator is basically a combination of a lawyer and a jury member. Arbitrators present their side of the issue to each other. Then they discuss the fastest way to resolve the dispute and come to a joint decision, which is final in most cases.

Typically, using this legal method occurs when the benefits of arbitration outweigh going to court. For New Prime, however,the main benefit of arbitration was to keep truckers in the dark about their labor rights. When workers are forced into arbitration, they lose their leverage and legal protection.

Oliveira believed he could not be forced into arbitration and maintained his legal rights. The long-haul trucker cited the Federal Arbitration Act of 1926 in the case. This act specifically states that “workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce” are exempt from arbitration.

And the SCOTUS agreed.

What This Means for Owner-Operators

Interstate commerce covers commercial or business trading and the moving of goods or money across state lines. Needless to say, there are a lot of truckers are involved in interstate commerce.

The Supreme Court ruling is a major win for truckers. The right to sue for wrongdoing, such as payment disputes, is an important protection for truck drivers, specifically owner-operators that work as independent contractors and not company employees.

Being able to avoid arbitration makes it possible for trucking disputes to be settled in the public eye. Which means owner-operators can get the word out if a company is treating their drivers unfairly.