California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced Friday that he filed lawsuits against a pair of trucking companies operating at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach over alleged labor violations.

Brown said Long Beach-based Pac Anchor Transportation Inc. and fleet operator Jose Maria Lira violated labor laws and sought to avoid state taxes by illegally classifying their drivers as "independent contractors."

The vast majority of the roughly 16,800 drivers that serve the ports are considered independent contractors because they own their own trucks and are free to contract with any licensed motor carrier.

However, Lira and Pac Anchor, Brown alleges, owned the trucks and forced employee drivers to claim independent status, exempting the employers from labor laws including disability benefits and workers compensation.

The attorney general's office said the lawsuits emerged from an investigation of port trucking companies by a task force assembled in February amid a dispute between the trucking industry and the Port of Los Angeles over motor carriers' operations.

The port, as part of a multi-billion dollar clean truck program, is requiring motor carriers that service the port to stop using independent trucker and hire drivers as employees. However, the trucking industry maintains that and other requirements of the program violate federal law.

An employee at Pac Anchor said she was unaware of the lawsuit. Lira could not be immediately reached for comment.

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