Determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor was the center of a lawsuit held in Indiana. What was alleged in the lawsuit was that drivers performing identical duties for FedEx were treated differently. Some drivers were able to obtain the employment rights of full time employees while others were denied benefits on the grounds that they were deemed independent contractors.
This lawsuit was one of a series brought against FedEx across the nation. There were as many as 42 different suits going on in 27 separate states. However, to streamline the lawsuits it was decided that all of the suits would be tried together in the Indiana court. But because of the streamlining process many of the decision came into conflict with a number of other decisions decided in other state courts.
The Indiana court had decided that there were status distinctions between drivers that made the fact that the workers were performing the same tasks appear relatively unimportant. The court decided that some of the drivers were employees while others were independent contractors. Yet with this decision the Indiana court provided a different decision than did courts in California where the drivers were granted employee status rather than independent contract status.
What this indicates is that when it comes to wage and hour rules, the complexities as well as the contradictions that come into play between states and other states as well as state and federal laws makes it extremely difficult for workers to know their rights when employment disputes come into play. Employees would strongly be advised to consult with an employment lawyer under such circumstances to access their options.
Federal and state employment laws will likely remain in flux and so what's decided at this point in time may not hold true in five or ten years.
Source: The Cutting Edge, "FedEx Fails to Deliver for Drivers," by Amy Biegelsen, April 2, 2012