This lawsuit is brought as a nationwide class and collective action on behalf of truckers who lease a truck from New Horizons Leasing, Inc. and are treated as “owner operators” by Western Express, Inc. The lawsuit claims that Western Express 1) misclassifies drivers as “independent contractors,” exercising virtually the same control over lease operators as it does over its employees, and then makes unlawful deductions from their wages, resulting in minimum wage violations; 2) misrepresents the amount the amount drivers will make as “owner operators,” and; 3) engaged in a scheme of “forced labor” coercing drivers to drive for Western Express even though it was unprofitable, under threat of financial harm if they tried to leave. Plaintiffs seek unpaid wages as secured by the Fair Labor Standards Act (minimum wages), liquidated (double) damages, damages for unlawful deductions, costs and attorneys’ fees as well as declaratory relief under the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) and state wage laws.The complaint was filed on August 25, 2017 in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. You can see the complaint by clicking here.
Any truck driver who leased a truck from New Horizons Leasing, Inc. to drive for Western Express, Inc. at any time during the prior three years is eligible to join the case. To join the case, fill out and sign a Consent to Sue form and return it to Getman, Sweeney & Dunn PLLC. The Consent to Sue form is available here.
How to Join this Case
If you have also worked for this defendant you can join this case by downloading and filling out the Consent to Sue form and faxing, emailing, or mailing it to Getman Sweeney. You need the free Acrobat Reader installed to view the form.
Plaintiffs Oppose Defendants’ Motion to Compel Arbitration – Posted January 8, 2018
Defendants, Western Express and New Horizons Leasing, have asked the Court to send the case to arbitration. Arbitration is a way of privately resolving disputes outside of the court system. Defendants assert that the Named Plaintiff signed a contract that contained an agreement to arbitrate disputes and a class action waiver. Defendants argue that as a result of this, the Court must order both sides to resolve the claims of the case in arbitration rather than in federal court, and individually instead of in a collective or class action.
Plaintiffs, the drivers who have joined this case, have opposed Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration on several grounds. Plaintiffs argue that the drivers in this case are exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act, the law that Defendants seek to compel arbitration under. Plaintiffs further argue that the arbitration agreement and the class action waiver violate several federal laws and are unreasonably unfair to Plaintiffs, and are therefore unenforceable.
We now await the Judge’s decision on this matter. We will post another update once it is decided.
Answers to Common Questions – Posted August 31, 2017
What claims are covered in this lawsuit?
The lawsuit claims that Western Express and New Horizons Leasing treated the truckers who leased trucks through New Horizons as “independent contractors” when they were really employees of Western Express AS A MATTER OF LAW. As such, Western Express and New Horizons failed to pay all the wages due, and made unlawful deductions from truckers’ pay for truck lease payments, gas, equipment, maintenance, insurance, tolls, Qualcomm, and bonding, etc. The case also raises class action claims under Tennessee laws for fraud and misrepresentation for Western misrepresenting the amount drivers would make as “owner operators”. The case also raises class action claims that Western Express and New Horizons operate an unlawful scheme to force drivers to work only for Western Express for long periods by threatening them with serious financial harm, exorbitant debt, and harm to their DAC Reports if they fail to drive for Western Express. The case also raises claims that the Contract Hauling Agreement (“Contract”) and Equipment Lease (“Lease”) are unconscionable in that Western Express can terminate the Lease for any reason at all, then continue to demand that all lease payments continue to be made. Other grounds for unconscionability include the imposition of liquidated damages and the mischaracterization of employees as independent contractors.
What remedies are sought?
Under the federal minimum wage law, back pay and an equal amount of liquidated damages are claimed for each violation. Under Tennessee fraud and misrepresentation laws, plaintiffs seek the difference between what Western Express represented owner operators would be paid and what they were actually paid. Plaintiffs also seek compensatory damages and punitive damages for the forced labor violations. Under the law of contract, plaintiffs seek to declare the Contracts void or voidable for unconscionability.
How far back can claims be made?
Generally claims can be made at least for the three years preceding the date the complaint was filed. You are entitled to file FLSA claims (using the Consent to Sue form) for the period extending back three years from the date you file the form. Tennessee fraud and misrepresentation also have a three year limitation period. Tennessee contract claims have a four year limitation period. Federal forced labor claims have a ten year limitation period.
Do I have to pay to join the case?
No. The attorneys are handling this case on a contingent basis and will only be paid when we win through a settlement or final judgment. When plaintiffs win a pay case, the defendant must pay the plaintiffs’ costs and attorneys’ fees.
Can I wait to file my Consent To Sue Form?
You may be part of the class action if the Court later “certifies the case as a class action.” However, certain claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act are not covered in the case until your Consent to Sue form is returned to the plaintiffs’ attorneys and then filed with the Court. If you delay in filing the Consent to Sue Form, part or all of your claim may be barred by the “statute of limitation.”
Can Western Express or New Horizons fire me or take action against me for joining the lawsuit?
The law prohibits retaliation for joining a pay lawsuit. If any employee suffered retaliation, Western Express and New Horizons would be liable for double the injury caused by retaliation against an employee. Notify us immediately if you hear of any threats of retaliation or if you think any retaliation occurs. Retaliation is extremely rare in overtime cases, because an employer can suffer such serious penalties.
What locations are covered by this lawsuit?
Past and present truckers leasing trucks from New Horizons and driving for Western Express as “owner operators” anywhere in the U.S. may be included in this lawsuit.