A class-action case brought by two truck drivers who claim they were misclassified as independent contractors and deprived of employees' rights, privileges and benefits won't be heard in Ohio, according to an Allegheny County Common Pleas Court judge.
Last month, Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. denied the preliminary objections of the three defendants in the case.
In Watson v. Prestige Delivery Systems, according to Judge Wettick, plaintiffs Richard Watson and David Clary were truck drivers who delivered packages to customers of defendant Prestige Delivery Systems Inc. pursuant to an agreement with Prestige that refers to the drivers as an "independent contractor." Judge Wettick said the agreement requires each driver to be an affiliate of defendant National Independent Contractor Association, which provides third-party administrative services to independent contractors.
Under the agreement, NICA is responsible for paying each driver. But the plaintiffs allege the defendants have misclassified them as independent contractors as part of a scheme to make illegal deductions from their pay.
The defense filed preliminary objections arguing that, pursuant to the independent contractor agreement, the plaintiffs' claims must be brought in Ohio.
But Judge Wettick said that forum selection clause cannot be enforced because it was not freely agreed to by the plaintiffs. He wrote that, because the clause was buried deep in the agreement under the heading "Entire Agreement," it's unlikely the plaintiffs were aware of the clause.
He further reasoned: "In this case, the legislative goal of securing prompt payment of wages is thwarted if a worker must sue in Ohio rather than commencing an action before the local magisterial district court."
The judge also overruled the defendants' objections to the plaintiffs' claims for unjust enrichment.