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Costello v. Beavex Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 31, 2014

THOMAS COSTELLO, MEGAN BAASE KEPHART, AND OSAMA DAOUD, ET AL., INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, Plaintiffs,
v.
BEAVEX INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

VIRGINIA M. KENDALL, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Thomas Costello, Megan Baase Kephart, Osama Daoud, and the class they seek to represent, worked for Defendant BeavEx, Inc., a courier company, as delivery drivers. The Plaintiffs brought the instant three-count Complaint on January 11, 2013 alleging that BeavEx unlawfully classified its delivery drivers as "independent contractors" when they should have been deemed "employees" under both Illinois statutory and common law. (Dkt. No. 34). This misclassification allegedly resulted in (1) deprivation of overtime wages in violation of the Illinois Minimum Wage Law ("IMWL"); (2) illegal deductions taken from the Plaintiffs' wages in violation of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act ("IWPCA"); and (3) unjust enrichment of BeavEx. Specifically in Count II, the Plaintiffs allege that BeavEx unlawfully took deductions from their pay in order to fund uniforms, cargo insurance, workers' accident insurance, administrative fees, scanner fees, and cellular phone fees in violation of the IWPCA that would not have occurred were the Plaintiffs properly classified as "employees." See 820 ILCS 115/9. BeavEx moves for summary judgment claiming that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 ("FAA") preempts the IWPCA because the FAA expressly preempts a State from enacting or enforcing a law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier. See 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1). The Plaintiffs filed for summary judgment on Count II claiming that BeavEx cannot satisfy the IWPCA independent contractor exception to wage deductions based on the undisputed facts while concurrently moving the Court to certify this case as a class action pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 23. For the reasons set forth below, BeavEx's motion for summary judgment and the Plaintiffs' motion for class certification are denied, and the Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on Count II is granted as to the named plaintiffs.

STATEMENT OF MATERIAL UNDISPUTED FACTS[1]

Each of the parties to the present dispute has moved for summary judgment in their respective favor. Therefore, the Plaintiffs submitted a statement of undisputed material facts in support of their partial motion for summary judgment as well as a response to BeavEx's statement of undisputed material facts. Further, a majority of the undisputed material facts submitted by BeavEx are supported solely by the Declaration of Sandra Foster, the Senior Vice President for BeavEx. There are numerous statements throughout Foster's declaration that constitute statements of opinion and arguments, not statements of fact, contrary to Local Rule 56(a)(3). See Judson Atkinson Candies, Inc. v. Latini-Hohberger Dhimantec, 529 F.3d 371, 382 (7th Cir. 2008). ("It is inappropriate to make legal arguments in a Rule 56.1 statement of facts.") (internal citations omitted); Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 2006) (a party's statement of material facts submitted pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 is improper where it fails to cite to the record and is "filled with irrelevant information, legal arguments, and conjecture"). The purpose of Local Rule 56.1 statements of facts is to identify the relevant admissible evidence supporting the material facts that each party contends require either the granting or the denial of summary judgment. See Markham v. White, 172 F.3d 486, 490 (7th Cir. 1999) (the local rules governing summary judgment "assist the court by organizing the evidence, identifying undisputed facts, and demonstrating precisely how each side proposes to prove a disputed fact with admissible evidence."). It is improper for a litigant to include legal or factual conclusions, arguments, or conjecture in a statement of material facts and accordingly, statements constituting such will be ignored by the Court.[2]

Background

BeavEx is one of the largest courier companies in the nation and its primary function is to perform same-day delivery service for clients across the country including in Illinois. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 1, Ex. A; Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 1). BeavEx provides these delivery services for compensation through drivers classified as independent contractors by BeavEx, who drive their own vehicles. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 3, Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 6). Plaintiffs and the class they seek to represent comprise a group of approximately 825 courier drivers who performed delivery services for BeavEx in Illinois from October 1, 2002 to the present. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 3). BeavEx offers its clients both scheduled-route and on-demand delivery services. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 4). With regard to scheduled-route services, BeavEx clients dictate regular times and locations that pick-ups and drop-offs must be made, which are communicated to drivers through a manifest listing that day's delivery route information, including customer names, locations, order of deliveries, and a specified time for each delivery. ( Id. at ¶ 5; Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 11). At this time, BeavEx has approximately 280 scheduled routes in Illinois that it coordinates on a regular basis. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 7). With regard to on-demand delivery services, BeavEx often receives calls from clients for rush deliveries which tend to be variable and unpredictable. ( Id. at ¶ 9-10).

BeavEx currently employs nine full-time employees and one part-time employee in Illinois to handle administrative and warehouse duties. ( Id. at ¶ 16). The employees are paid on an hourly or salary basis and receive health insurance and other benefits. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 17). BeavEx also provides workers' compensation insurance, pays payroll taxes, and makes unemployment insurance contributions for its employees. ( Id. at ¶ 18). BeavEx classifies its drivers as independent contractors as opposed to employees. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 6). The drivers are paid by route for each delivery completed, instead of by hours or weeks worked, and do not receive benefits such as health insurance or workers' compensation. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 19-20). Nor does BeavEx pay drivers' payroll or unemployment insurance taxes. ( Id. at ¶ 21). BeavEx uses drivers who are incorporated and others who are not, and some who utilize subcontractors to complete scheduled routes which are bid on and accepted by the driver. ( Id. at ¶ 39). BeavEx does not prohibit or discourage its drivers from utilizing subcontractors, but drivers cannot engage a subcontractor or replacement driver without approval from BeavEx. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 40; Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 31, Ex. E, F, and G).

Drivers' Operations

BeavEx drivers generally begin their shift by reporting to one of BeavEx's office locations. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶ 8). Drivers use their own vehicles to provide the delivery service. (Def. 56.1 St. ¶ 29). Drivers are required to wear apparel with the BeavEx logo when performing deliveries and their cars are required to have the BeavEx name, logo, phone number, and Illinois Commerce Commission number on both sides. (Pl. 56.1 St. ¶14-15, Ex. D, E, F, and G). BeavEx drivers operate their assigned routes under BeavEx's Illinois motor carrier number, and in order to utilize this number, drivers are required to lease their personal vehicles to BeavEx. ( Id. at ¶ 32-33). Further, drivers are required to use scanners and record logs to make a record upon delivery of a package. ( Id. at ¶ 16). BeavEx manages all communications with customers, however. ( Id. at ¶ 20). BeavEx also has authority to discipline or terminate drivers who violate its policies through either an accumulation of minor breaches or one major breach. ( Id. at ¶ 38-41).

Owner/Operator Agreement and Contract Management Services Contract

As a precondition of employment, all BeavEx drivers are required to sign both an Owner/Operator Agreement, which classifies drivers as independent contractors, and a contract with Contract Management Services ("CMS"). ( Id. at ¶ 7 and 46). Under the owner/operator agreements, a driver can be terminated any time for any improper conduct. ( Id. at ¶ 42). Further, if a customer stops contracting with BeavEx, BeavEx may terminate the driver's contract assigned to that customer's route. ( Id. at ¶ 44, Ex. E, F, and G). Under the CMS agreements, BeavEx takes various deductions from drivers' pay, including deductions for occupational accident insurance, cargo insurance, uniforms, scanners, and "chargebacks." ( Id. at ¶ 45, Ex. P, Q, and R). The drivers purchase both the occupational accident insurance and cargo insurance through BeavEx and CMS. ( Id. at ¶ 48-49). BeavEx also takes deductions from drivers' pay for scanners, uniforms, phone chargers, CMS processing fees, and "chargebacks" if BeavEx determines a driver failed to satisfactorily complete a delivery. ( Id. at ¶ 50-53).

The IWPCA and the FAAAA

The Plaintiffs bring their claim under Count II relying on the language of the IWPCA. The IWPCA provides that:

deductions by employers from wages or final compensation are prohibited unless such deductions are (1) required by law; (2) to the benefit of the employee; (3) in response to a valid wage assignment or wage deduction order; (4) made with the express written consent of the employee, given freely at the time the deduction is made; (5) made by a municipality with a population of 500, 000 or more... or (6) made by a housing authority in a municipality with a population of 500, 000 or more...

820 ILCS 115/9. The IWPCA applies to all employers and employees in Illinois. See 820 ILCS 115/1. The term "employee" does not include any individual:

(1) who has been and will continue to be free from control and direction over the performance of his work, both under his contract of service with his employer and in fact; and (2) who performs work which is either outside the usual course of business or is performed outside all of the places of business of the employer unless the employer is in the business of contracting with third parties for the placement of employees; and (3) who is in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business.

820 ILCS 115/2. This is commonly referred to as the independent contractor exception. The Defendants, on the other hand, base their motion for summary judgment on the preemption clause found in the FAAAA. Congress enacted the FAAAA in 1994 to address deregulation of the trucking industry. The FAAAA provides, in part:

[A] State, political subdivision of a State, or political authority of 2 or more States may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier... with respect to the transportation of property.

49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

"Summary judgment is proper when, viewing all facts and inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, no genuine dispute as to material fact exists, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Carroll v. Lynch, 698 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2012). Whether a fact is material depends on the underlying substantive law that governs the dispute. Id. And a genuine dispute is one where "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. (citation omitted). Summary judgment is appropriate where the moving party shows that the nonmoving party cannot prove an element essential to its case. Parent v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 694 F.3d 919, 922 (7th Cir. 2012). Where the moving party has properly supported its motion, the nonmoving party must come forward with facts that show there is a genuine issue for trial. Cincinnati Life Ins. Co. v. Beyrer, 722 F.3d 939, 951 (7th Cir. 2013).

DISCUSSION

I. BeavEx's Motion for Summary Judgment

A. Preemption

BeavEx's motion for summary judgment claims there is preemption of the IWPCA based on FAAAA section 14501. If this federal statute preempts the Plaintiffs' unlawful deduction claim, then Count II of ...


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