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Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Settles Owner-Operator Lawsuit for $100 Million

Mar 18, 2019 / News Item / Transport Topics — Eric Miller

Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc. has agreed to pay a $100 million settlement to an estimated 20,000 owner-operator truck drivers who alleged in a federal class-action lawsuit filed in 2009 that they were misclassified as independent contractors and not paid the legally required minimum hourly wage.

The lawsuit, originally filed in the Southern District of New York, was transferred in 2010 to federal court in the District of Arizona. It alleged that Swift, before its 2017 merger with Knight Transportation, had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The settlement agreement, filed with the federal court on March 12, must still be approved by the federal judge overseeing the case.

The lawsuit was filed against Phoenix-based Swift, Interstate Equipment Leasing, Swift founder and CEO until his retirement in 2017 Jerry Moyes, and Chad Killebrew, a Swift executive vice president.

The drivers also alleged violations of state wage and contract laws as well as violations of federal forced labor statutes, according to the settlement. The trucking company has denied the allegations and contends that the owner-operators were properly classified as independent contractors under state and federal law.

The settlement resolves resolution claims in the lawsuit arising during the period Dec. 23, 1999, through Sept. 8, 2017, the date of the merger between Swift’s parent entity and Knight Transportation.

The owner-operators alleged in the lawsuit that Swift controlled their work and by law employed them to transport goods by truck for the carrier’s customers.

“Defendants control when, where and how plaintiffs deliver freight,” the 2009 complaint said. “They control the route truckers use. They control virtually every aspect of the way truckers perform their work. They control the equipment the truckers are to use, its maintenance and condition.”

But after the more than nine-year court fight, the owner-operators and Knight-Swift management agreed it was time to settle, according to the settlement.

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