Global Ground Transportation Company Carey Limousine Sued by Drivers Based on Required Kickbacks and Unpaid Wages
January 9, 2013, San Francisco - A class action lawsuit recently filed by nine former limo drivers accuses South San Francisco-based Carey Limousine, S.F., Inc. and Washington, D.C.-based Carey International, Inc. of requiring that drivers pay kickbacks to managers to be assigned work, making drivers shoulder onerous costs just to keep working, and of misclassifying over one hundred chauffeurs falsely as "independent operators." The self-proclaimed "global leader" in ground transportation services, Carey has refused to pay workers for overtime and minimum wages when they work shifts sometimes lasting over a dozen hours, and has failed to pay state-mandated premiums for missed meal and rest breaks, among other unlawful practices.
Carey drivers are required to follow strictly Carey's policies and procedures, including wearing a Carey tie at all times, referring all customers to Carey's toll-free reservation line, and accepting all assigned jobs – at the threat of denied future fares. With their own limited funds, drivers are required to make costly purchases, including new luxury vehicles every three years, an overpriced insurance plan, and expensive communications equipment. Despite Carey controlling nearly every aspect of the chauffers' work, Carey has considered itself exempt from state and federal wage laws based upon the "independent operator" classification.
Carey has lost multiple legal challenges to its classification scheme, most recently in Los Angeles and Massachusetts. The L.A. subsidiary declared bankruptcy recently to avoid paying the Los Angeles arbitration award, prompting Carey S.F. last month to reclassify all of its drivers as employees and unilaterally cancel its contracts with the drivers.
"It is appalling to hear about the long hours these drivers were forced to work, often with little or no compensation, and with almost no ability to control their own schedules and work conditions," said Bryan Schwartz, counsel for the plaintiffs. "But what really shocked me," he continued, "were the kickbacks and exploitive overhead costs these drivers were forced to bear, just to keep working."
"The way Carey treated us was really abusive," said Heshmat Azadi, one of the plaintiffs in the case. Azadi continued: "They took advantage of the fact that many of us are immigrants to this country, desperate to find work and support our families, assuming that we would never stand up for ourselves. But, enough is enough."
"We were required to pay kickbacks in order to get work," said Gaber Shalaby, another plaintiff in the case. "In addition to paying the managers cash, I had to take Carey managers out to dinners and strip clubs. When I stopped paying off the bosses, I was barred from getting work."
According to Schwartz, the suit against Carey is the most recent in a line of cases challenging "independent contractor" misclassifications in the ground transportation industry, allowing employers to reap the benefits of the workers' efforts without having to pay the employers' share of payroll taxes or adhere to statutory worker protections. Bryan Schwartz Law currently represents a subclass of drivers in a similar, independent contractor misclassification case against Supershuttle, the airport shuttle service provider. On December 12, 2012, California's Employment Development Department found that Supershuttle's "franchise" drivers were actually employees of Supershuttle and assessed state taxes and interest against the company.
The newly-filed case against Carey Limo is Heshmat Azadi, et al. v. Carey Limousine, S.F., Inc., et al, San Francisco County Superior Court Case Number CGC-12-527396.
Bryan Schwartz Law is an Oakland, California-based law firm dedicated to helping employees protect their rights in the workplace. Bryan Schwartz Law has successfully litigated individual, class, and collective action complaints nationwide, helping to recover millions of dollars for thousands of employees, forcing corporations and Government agencies to change their practices and punish wrongdoers.
Patelco employees or former employees who would like to learn more about the case should contact Bryan Schwartz at (510) 444-9300 or Bryan@BryanSchwartzLaw.com.