8 states ask FedEx Ground to properly classify drivers By Len Iwanski, Associated Press Writer On Thursday June 25, 2009, 7:32 pm EDT Companies: Fedex corporation HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- Attorneys general from Montana and seven other states Thursday asked FedEx Corp. to ensure that FedEx Ground properly classifies its drivers to comply with state employee protection laws. Thirty states are investigating FedEx Ground to determine if the company is misclassifying FedEx drivers as independent contractors through its owner-operator model. And more than 45 class-action lawsuits have been filed in state and federal courts against the company's classification of drivers. In a joint letter Thursday to FedEx, the eight attorneys general cited shared concerns about workers' compensation and unemployment insurance, wage-and-hour laws and protection of workers' civil rights. "Each of our states has a responsibility under our respective laws to protect a broad range of interests associated with the employment status of an individual," said the letter sent jointly by Montana's Attorney General Steve Bullock and attorneys general from Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont. The letter said the eight states have formed a working group to address changes in FedEx Ground's business model to ensure proper classification of workers. "The right of FedEx Ground independent contractors to own and operate their own business has been repeatedly validated, most recently by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit," said Maury Lane, a FedEx spokesman in Memphis, Tenn. "We're happy to work with the attorneys general to answer any questions that they might have," Lane said in a telephone interview. The federal appeals court ruled April 21 that FedEx Ground did not break federal labor laws when it refused to negotiate with The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which was bargaining on behalf of some of its workers who want to be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. The court ruling overturned an earlier finding by the National Labor Relations board regarding Massachusetts-based workers of FedEx Ground Package System Inc. The Teamsters had filed petitions to the board in 2006 alleging the company's failure to bargain. The company maintains that drivers who are allowed to own multiple routes should be classified as independent contractors. But as contractors, the workers don't get benefits, are responsible for their own equipment and are precluded from directly organizing under federal labor laws. FedEx has about 13,000 of these employees nationwide. The Teamsters issued a statement Thursday praising the action by the eight attorneys general.