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Western Home Transport, Inc. v. Idaho Dept. of Labor

Supreme Court of Idaho, Boise

February 11, 2014

WESTERN HOME TRANSPORT, INC., Claimant-Appellant,
v.
IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, Respondent.

Page 941

David H. Leroy, Boise, attorney for appellant.

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, attorney for Respondent. Cheryl George argued.

Holden, Kidwell, Hahn & Crapo, PLLC, Idaho Falls, amicus curiae.

W. JONES, Justice.

I. NATURE OF THE CASE

The Idaho Department of Labor (the Department) determined that Western Home Transport, Inc. (Western) owed $13,277.93 in unemployment insurance taxes and penalties because the owners/operators who hauled goods interstate for Western were engaged in covered employment under Idaho's Employment Security Law. On appeal by Western, the Idaho Industrial Commission (the Commission) affirmed the Department's decision. Western now appeals the Commission's decision to this Court. The decision of the Commission is vacated and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Western is an Idaho corporation that facilitates the interstate transportation of oversized mobile homes from shippers to purchasers. Western does not own any equipment to transport the homes. Instead, Western leases equipment from owner/operators. The owner/operators then use their own equipment to transport the homes for Western. All of Western's owner/operators transport the homes with Western's motor carrier authority through the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), hereinafter referred to as DOT authority. Under the terms of the lease, and required by federal law, Western has exclusive possession, use, and control of the owner/operators' equipment.

Page 942

Truth-in-Leasing Regulations, 49 C.F.R. ยง 376.12(c)(1) (2012). Western pays the owner/operators a percentage of each haul.

Due to an inquiry from the Department, a tax auditor with the Department audited Western's records covering January 1, 2008, through December 31, 2010. The auditor issued Western a " Redetermination of Employer's Unemployment Insurance Tax Liability" and concluded that the remuneration received by Western's owner/operators during the audit period was wages for services performed in covered employment under Idaho's Employment Security Law. Consequently, the Department imposed an unemployment insurance tax liability of $13,277.93 on Western for the audit period.

Western timely appealed the Department's redetermination. An appeals examiner held a hearing and subsequently affirmed the Department's decision. Western then appealed to the Commission. After a de novo review of the record, the Commission affirmed the Department's decision. Western appeals the Commission's decision to this Court. We vacate and remand.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

This Court exercises free review of the Commission's legal conclusions. Giltner, Inc. v. Idaho Dep't of Commerce & Labor,145 Idaho 415, ...


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