Callahan & Blaine Announces That California Court Approves Class Certification for 4,000 Newspaper Carriers

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According to Callahan & Blaine, the Sacramento Superior Court has ruled that 4,000 Sacramento Bee newspaper carriers are entitled to proceed as a class against the Sacramento Bee on claims that they were mislabeled as independent contractors when they actually were employees.

Daniel J. Callahan of Callahan & Blaine, which has pioneered class certification for newspaper carriers in California.

Daniel J. Callahan of Callahan & Blaine, which has pioneered class certification for newspaper carriers in California.

Certification of the carriers as a class is an important step in remedying
the mistreatment of hardworking Americans where they are denied their statutory rights and
benefits as employees.

On Friday, July 22, 2011, the Sacramento Superior Court ruled that 4,000 Sacramento Bee newspaper carriers are entitled to proceed as a class against the Sacramento Bee on claims that they were mislabeled as independent contractors when they truly were employees.

Counsel for the carriers, Kathleen Dunham of Callahan & Blaine in Santa Ana, California, said that, “Certification of the carriers as a class is an important step in remedying the mistreatment of hardworking Americans where they are denied their statutory rights and benefits as employees.”

Callahan & Blaine has pioneered class certification for newspaper carriers in California. Callahan & Blaine secured class certification for the newspaper carriers of the Orange County Register which resulted in a $40 million settlement during trial in 2009 (Gonzalez v. Freedom Communications, Inc., Orange County Superior Court Case No. 03CC08756).

Daniel Callahan of Callahan & Blaine said, “It is a nationwide trend to recognize delivery personnel, inherent in the conduct of many businesses, to be employees. Recent cases include FedEx and newspaper delivery personnel who were classified as independent contractors but who were determined to in fact be employees and entitled to the rights of an employee.”

Dunham noted that the primary test for determining whether one is an employee or an independent contractor is whether the employer has the right to control the manner and means of how the worker accomplishes his or her work.

"If an electrician, who is a true independent contractor, comes to your home, you would not direct the electrician on which wires to connect or the proper voltage," Dunham explained. "These are decisions that the independent contractor would make based upon experience and training. On the other hand, we believe that directing a newspaper carrier about delivery details such as putting the paper behind the screen door, on the front step, or over the fence, and such as assembling the newspaper in a precise manner, are indicative of control and, thus, employment."

The California Employment Development Department (EDD) has identified the mislabeling of employees as independent contractors to be part of the “Underground Economy," and has targeted companies in a crackdown on this practice. The EDD has stated that this practice not only violates the law, it also creates unfair business competition for those companies who properly label their workers as employees and pay employment taxes and benefits.

Additional newspaper carrier cases are awaiting class certification rulings in California, involving the Fresno Bee, San Diego Union-Tribune, and Antelope Valley Press newspapers. There have already been appellate decisions in California declaring that newspaper carriers are employees and not independent contractors, as well as California administrative opinions reaching the same result.

Callahan noted, “This ruling was hard fought but worth it, both for the employees and for the public at large, who will benefit by the increased tax revenue. It also enhances competition when all companies are on a level playing field complying with the same laws.”

The case is Sawin, et al. v. The McClatchy Company, et al (Case No. 34-2009-00033950-CU-OE-GDS) filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Sacramento.

For further comment, contact Daniel J. Callahan of Callahan & Blaine, telephone number (714) 241-4444, ext. 309.

Case citations:
Estrada v. FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. (2007) 154 Cal.App.4th 1 (Case No. BC 210130, filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles);
Antelope Valley Press v. Poizner (2008) 162 CA4th 839 (Case No. MS005119, filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles);
Los Angeles Herald Examiner v. Workers Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) (1993) 58 Cal Comp Cas 224 (WCAB No. 89 LA 614478, filed with the WCAB);
Brose v. Union Tribune (1986) 183 CA3d 1079 (Case No. BE521306, filed in the Superior Court of the State of California;
County of San Diego Freedom Newspapers v. WCAB (1985) 50 Cal Comp Cas 328 (WCAB No. 83 ANA 131-341, filed with the WCAB;
Espejo, et al. v. The Copley Press, Inc., et al, Case No. 37-2009-00082322-CU-OE-CTL, filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Diego;
Ayala, et al. v. Antelope Valley Press, Inc., Case No. BC403405, filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles;
Becerra, et al. v. The McClatchy Company et al, Case No. 08 CE CG 04411 AMS, filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Fresno.

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Daniel J. Callahan
Callahan & Blaine
(714) 241-4444 309
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