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Laclede cab drivers are not independent contractors, says court

Laclede cab drivers are not independent contractors, says court

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Laclede Cab Company must pay unemployment taxes for its drivers, who are considered employees of the company rather than independent contractors, the Missouri Supreme Court said in an opinion issued Tuesday.

The court affirmed a previous decision by the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission that found drivers are Laclede employees, even though they sign independent contractor agreements.

Drivers can keep all cash they collect, but Laclede takes a 10 percent cut from credit card receipts and receipts from some company vouchers, both of which drivers are required to accept, according to court documents.

Drivers can use their own vehicles or lease cabs from the 140-car fleet belonging to a Laclede affiliate. But drivers who use their own cars must paint them the same as the fleet, use the same signs and pay a weekly fee to Laclede.

Laclede pays for insurance and maintenance of its vehicles and drivers pay for cleaning and gas, court documents say.

Most employers pay both a federal and a state unemployment tax, according to the IRS. Only the employer pays the federal tax — it is not deducted from an employee's wages.

The Division of Employment Security determined in 2012 that Laclede owed unemployment taxes between 2009 and 2011 because taxi drivers performed services for wages while in the employment of Laclede. The cab company appealed that order, and an appeals court reversed the decision and ruled the drivers were independent contractors.

The Division of Employment Security then appealed that decision to the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission, which ruled the drivers were employees of the cab company. Reasons it gave for that decision included that drivers were told not to carry cellphones and to have customers call Laclede's dispatch center; that drivers were not allowed to work for other taxi companies; and that supervisors trained new drivers.

The supreme court Tuesday affirmed that ruling.

Court documents do not say how much money Laclede owes in unemployment taxes or whether it is paying the taxes now. A call to the Brian McGovern, one of the attorneys representing Laclede, was not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.

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