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Fernando Ruiz previously worked as a driver for Penske Logistics Corporation, a furniture delivery company that had a contract with Sears. His job status was that of an “employee.” When Sears terminated its contract with Penske in November 2003, Sears advised the drivers that Affinity Logistics Corporation, a company providing home delivery services for various home furnishing retailers, would take over Penske’s contract.

Affinity told Ruiz and the other drivers that if they wished to be hired by Affinity, they had to become independent contractors. Specifically, a manager told the drivers they needed a fictitious business name, a business license, and a commercial checking account. Affinity then advised the drivers on how to complete the necessary forms. Affinity went so far as to complete the forms for Ruiz, leaving only the spaces for his signature blank. With Affinity’s help, Ruiz formed his own company and obtained a Federal Employer Identification Number and a separate business banking account. Additionally, to work for Affinity, each driver was required to sign an Independent Truckman’s Agreement (“ITA”) and Equipment Lease Agreement (“ELA”). The ITA and the ELA included clauses stating that the parties were entering into an independent contractor relationship.

Drivers regularly worked about five to seven days per week. An Affinity employee would call the drivers each day to tell them whether or not they were working the following day. Drivers had a fairly regular rate of pay since they worked five to seven shifts per week, and every route had approximately eight deliveries. Drivers had to request time off three to four weeks in advance, and Affinity had discretion to deny those requests. Affinity denied requests for time off when it decided the delivery schedule was too busy. Drivers were required to paint their trucks white, and could not put signs on their trucks. The trucks had a Sears logo and Affinity’s name and motor carrier number on the door. Most drivers drove the same truck every day. Affinity handled upkeep of trucks and arranged for loaner trucks when trucks broke down, deducting these costs from drivers’ pay. Affinity required drivers to stock their trucks with certain supplies, as outlined in the Procedures Manual. These supplies included appliance and furniture totes, plastic mattress return bags, protective blankets, pads, tie-down straps, and tools including a level, power drill, and drill bits. Affinity required that drivers use a specific type of mobile telephone. Affinity supplied the phones and deducted monthly costs for the phones from drivers’ paychecks. Affinity also required each driver to have a “helper” or secondary driver on the truck with them. Helpers had to submit to a background check and be approved by Affinity. Drivers were required to wear uniforms and abide by certain grooming requirements.

Ruiz filed a class action claiming Affinity’s wrongfully classified the drivers as independent contractors and failed to pay drivers sick leave, vacation, holiday, and severance wages; and Affinity improperly charged drivers for workers’ compensation insurance.

After a three-day bench trial the district court concluded that Georgia law applied to the independent contractor/employee question and that Ruiz was an independent contractor under Georgia law. Ruiz appealed the district court’s ruling. Reversing the district court’s judgment on remand, the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel in the published case of Ruiz v Affinity Logistics Corporation held that home delivery drivers who alleged failure to pay sick leave and other state-law causes of action were employees, rather than independent contractors, under California law. The panel reasoned that the drivers’ employer had the right to control the details of their work, and that additional, secondary factors also weighed in favor of a finding that the drivers were employees. The panel remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.

Under California law, once a plaintiff comes forward with evidence that he provided services for an employer, the plaintiff has established a prima facie case that the relationship was one of employer/employee. The undisputed facts indicate that Affinity had the right to control the details of the drivers’ work, and the application of the secondary factors weigh in favor of a finding that the drivers were employees.