Achieving Victory in Class and Collective Action Against Transportation Client

April 12, 2017

Epstein Becker Green has obtained a significant victory for its client Corporate Transportation Company and affiliated entities (collectively, “CTG”) when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit handed down its long-awaited decision involving whether “black car” drivers in New York were employees or independent contractors. The Second Circuit, in Saleem v. Corporate Transportation Group, Ltd., Case No. 15‐88‐cv (2d Cir. April 12, 2017), unanimously ruled for CTG, holding that CTG’s “black car” drivers in the New York City area are independent contractors, not employees.

The drivers had brought this action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, asserting claims pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the New York State Labor Law (NYLL) for unpaid overtime. Epstein Becker Green defeated plaintiffs’ motion for class certification in November 2013 and, in early 2014, filed a motion for summary judgment on behalf of CTG. The district court granted CTG’s motion for summary judgment on the FLSA and NYLL claims as to both the named and opt-in plaintiffs, concluding that, as a matter of law, plaintiffs were properly classified as independent contractors rather than employees for purposes of both statutes. The plaintiffs filed an appeal.

After Epstein Becker Green presented its oral argument to the appeals bench, the Second Circuit found that the plaintiffs independently determined (1) the manner and extent of their affiliation with CTG; (2) whether to work exclusively for CTG accounts or provide rides for CTG’s rivals’ clients and/or develop business of their own; (3) the degree to which they would invest in their driving businesses; and (4) when, where, and how regularly to provide rides for CTG clients. In short, the workforce was composed of individuals who came and went as they pleased. Thus, the Second Circuit agreed with the district court that, even when the historical facts and the relevant factors were viewed in a light most favorable to plaintiffs, the plaintiffs constituted independent contractors as a matter of law, despite the broad sweep of the FLSA’s definition of “employee.”

Attorney Evan J. Spelfogel led the Epstein Becker Green team in this case.