An employee-based lawsuit can destroy a company. The management goes into bunker mode, chauffeurs choose sides, affidavits are signed, and animosity grows. It’s miserable.
In the end, everyone loses except the lawyers.
Unfortunately, most employers don’t realize until after the fact that a lawsuit could’ve been prevented. The key to avoiding or at least defending a lawsuit is to establish proper employment practices and procedures.
- Pay Gap & Setup Time – Most transportation lawsuits revolve around this issue. A chauffeur should be paid from the time he picks up a car until the time he drops it off. Chauffeurs should also be paid for gaps in between runs. In addition, a chauffeur should be compensated for car washes and setup time. This precedent was established with prince v CLS Transportation.
- Use “Independent” IOs – An independent operator should actually be “independent.” This means the chauffeur owns or leases the car, carries his own insurance, pays for gas, and is independently licensed by the state. Lawsuits arise when IOs are forced to pay the company workman’s compensation or other employee based fees.
- Don’t be a Jerk – Most class-action lawsuits aren’t based on greed. They’re based on deep-seeded chauffeur resentment and hatred towards managers and owners. When a class-action settlement is divvied up, the payouts are laughable. Chauffeurs pursue lawsuits because they want to hurt the company.
- Document Everything – It’s vital to document employee infractions and keep personnel files. If a chauffeur is terminated, a paper trail should support the dismissal.
- Don’t Retaliate – Even if an employee files a labor board complaint, don’t retaliate. This only opens you to a serious retaliation claim.
- Record Everything – Every call should be recorded. When a chauffeur has an issue, dispatch should resolve the problem on a monitored land line. If necessary, a manager can review the disagreement.
- Use a DriveCam – DriveCams help with two important legal problems. First, they keep small fender benders from turning in to personal injury lawsuits. Second, they create a permanent record of reckless driving. All incidents should be downloaded and put in the chauffeurs personnel file.
- Use an Employee Handbook – A fixed set of standards should be established for all chauffeurs. The handbook should include all matters of decorum, appearance, and behavior. Chauffeurs should be regularly evaluated based on expectations set in the handbook. If a grievance arises, consistent evaluations are the foundation of a strong defense.
The limousine business is tough. Most operators don’t make it past 5 years. The long hours, lousy clients, and cut-throat rates humble the best of businessmen. An employee-based lawsuit only makes it worse.
Luckily, chauffeurs rarely file lawsuits. By their nature, chauffeurs put up with a lot of B.S. and are largely transient. Unless they’re emotionally invested, chauffeurs will simply move on to a better company.
Unfortunately, it only takes one angry and resentful employee to destroy a company. Do you really want to take that chance? If it can happen to Bell and CLS, it can certainly happen to you.