U.S. First Circuit - The FindLaw 1st Circuit Court of Appeals News and Information Blog

Independent Contractor v. Employee Battle Wages On

In boxing, fighters learn the old one-two.

It's one punch followed up quickly by another, like a left jab followed by a right cross, or another combination. The combination isn't as important as the execution; it has to be as automatic as a reflex to punish the opponent before he has a chance to react.

That's what's happening to the defendant in Djamel Ouadani v. TF Final Mile LLC.

Independent Contractor v. Employee

Djamel Ouadani started as a delivery driver for Dynamex Operations East in March 2016. Dynamex had a contract with Silwyn and Birtha Shipping, and required Ouadani to work directly for the shipping company.

The shipping company paid Ouadani directly until August 2016, when he complained to Dynamex that he should be paid as an employee rather than a contractor. That's when Dynamex fired him and started a much bigger fight.

Quadani filed a class action soon after, alleging that Dynamex misclassified him and other drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, an issue flogging Dynamex and other businesses in the "gig economy." He also claimed the company retaliated against him for complaining.

Dynamex filed a motion to compel arbitration, citing an arbitration clause in its contract with the shipping company. The judge denied the motion and the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.

Arbitration Clause

The judges said Ouadani was not a party to the contract between Dynamex, later known as TF Final Mile, and the shipping company.

It was one-two punch because the arbitration loss put the defendant's back against the ropes on the class-action issue of independent contractor versus employee. By firing Ouadani -- a worker for only six months -- the company stepped into a much bigger fight than it expected.

The appeals court also showed the defendant who was winning the fight. It issued an order to show cause, citing Angelo v. New Hampshire and other cases, "why the court should not assess double costs for 'needlessly consuming the time of the court and opposing counsel.'"

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