Law School Case Brief
Alexander v. FedEx Ground Package Sys. - 765 F.3d 981 (9th Cir. 2014)
California's right-to-control test requires courts to weigh a number of factors: The principal test of an employment relationship is whether the person to whom service is rendered has the right to control the manner and means of accomplishing the result desired. California courts also consider several secondary indicia of the nature of a service relationship. The right to terminate at will, without cause, is strong evidence in support of an employment relationship.
As a central part of its business, FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. (“FedEx”), contracts with drivers to deliver packages to its customers. The drivers must wear FedEx uniforms, drive FedEx-approved vehicles, and groom themselves according to FedEx's appearance standards. FedEx tells its drivers what packages to deliver, on what days, and at what times. Although drivers may operate multiple delivery routes and hire third parties to help perform their work, they may do so only with FedEx's consent.
FedEx contends its drivers are independent contractors under California law. Plaintiffs, a class of FedEx drivers in California, contend they are employees.
Were the drivers considered as employees of FedEx?
The court held that while much of the Operating Agreement was not ambiguous, to the extent it was ambiguous, the extrinsic evidence supported a conclusion that FedEx had the right to control its drivers. FedEx can and did control the appearance of its drivers and their vehicles where FedEx controlled its drivers' clothing from their hats down to their shoes and socks and defendant assigned each driver a specified service area and told drivers where in their service area to deliver packages. The other factors did not strongly favor either employee status or independent contractor status.
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