NWJP recently submitted an amicus or "friend of the court" brief to the United States Supreme Court on behalf of truck drivers and workers' rights organizations in New Prime v. Oliveira, a case dealing with forced arbitration as it applies to truck drivers. Public Justice, a public interest law firm, had successfully argued in the First Circuit Court of Appeals that truck drivers are not covered by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) and could therefore litigate their workplace complaints in court despite having been forced to sign an arbitration agreement. (NWJP recently opened a clinic to help workers who are forced to arbitrate- see link.) But the Supreme Court accepted certiorari of the case, meaning the justices agreed to review it next term.
NWJP attorney Kate Suisman, working with Nieves Bolaños of Potter Bolaños, a Chicago firm, wrote a brief supporting the decision of the First Circuit from the point of view of other impacted truck drivers. The attorneys contacted truck drivers across the country to collect their stories. Many of these drivers are misclassified as “independent contractors” and therefore don’t receive most of the benefits we associate with employment: job security, overtime premiums, workers’ compensation insurance, unemployment insurance and many others. Instead, these workers have to buy or lease their own truck and pay all its expenses. Some truck drivers work full time or more and still can’t afford to pay their rent.
In New Prime v. Oliveira, the trucking company is arguing that its truck drivers are independent contractors, and therefore not covered by the provision in the FAA that says the Act does not apply to “contracts of employment” of certain transportation workers. Kate and Nieves’ brief showed the many ways that the amicus drivers are treated like employees, and the uncertainty and difficulty they face as misclassified workers.
You can read the workers’ stories and the rest of the brief here. The workers’ stories start on page 26.