All posts by natecalef@gmail.com

Cleaning Companies

Over the past 10 years, we have brought cases against a number of so-called “cleaning franchise” companies that have preyed on immigrant workers by charging thousands of dollars for low-paying cleaning jobs. These companies frequently churn cleaning accounts to make a profit. In a number of our cases, the courts have ruled that the franchisees are actually employees entitled to the protections of the wage laws. Several years ago, in our case against Coverall, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a landmark ruling that these franchisees, because of their misclassification, may recover as damages the fees they paid for their franchises, as well as fees paid for additional business and for insurance. The court held that these fees essentially require the workers to “pay for their job” in violation of state wage law.

Related Articles

Independent Contractor Misclassification

One of our main specialities has been litigation challenging employers’ misclassification of employees as independent contractors. We have brought cases around the country that have affected a number of industries, including transportation, trucking, cleaning, cable installation, and adult entertainment. More recently, we have been at the forefront of challenging so-called “gig economy” companies for shortchanging workers through misclassification, including Uber, Lyft, Postmates, DoorDash, GrubHub, Amazon, Instacart, Handy, and others.

Companies that misclassify their workers as independent contractors save on labor costs by avoiding the obligations of employment. Their workers are deprived of many benefits including protection under the wage laws, overtime, minimum wage, expense reimbursements, as well as other employee benefits. Misclassified employees also do not receive unemployment when they lose their jobs and workers’ compensation when they are injured on the job. These companies compete unfairly with law-abiding companies that provide their workers employment protections and benefits.

If you have been classified as an independent contractor and believe you may have been misclassified, please contact us for a consultation. 

The following categories describe examples of the misclassification cases we have litigated.

“Gig economy” Companies

Over the last several years, a new breed of companies has flourished, which claim to be technology companies linking consumers with small independent businesses. Unfortunately, many of these companies are simply taking advantage of workers who are actually employees and depriving them of their rights under the wage laws. Our case on behalf of Uber drivers—which seeks reimbursement of expenses and unpaid tips—has been certified as a class action in California. Many companies are taking notice of the cases we have brought and are changing their practices and reclassifying their workers as employees.

For information regarding the Uber Lawsuit see www.uberlawsuit.com or email us at uberlawsuit@llrlaw.com

Delivery Drivers

For more than 10 years, beginning with our work on the cases against FedEx Ground, we have brought lawsuits in many states, on behalf of package, appliance, and furniture delivery drivers, who contract with large delivery companies, to deliver goods and furnishings to homes and businesses. Although these drivers often work full time for these companies, often as much as 12 hours a day, six days a week, and must purchase or lease their trucks, they are labeled as independent contractors and thereby miss out on all of the protections employees have. We currently have such cases pending in Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Exotic Dancers

Beginning with our pioneering work in Massachusetts establishing exotic dancers as employees, we have brought a number of lawsuits around the country on behalf of exotic dancers to recover back wages and tips. Strip clubs have long classified dancers as independent contractors. By doing this, the clubs have illegally required dancers to pay to work, by requiring them to pay shift fees, and to share their tips with management and non-service employees. We have recovered these fees for dancers, as well as full minimum wage for all hours worked. We currently have cases pending on behalf of exotic dancers in Massachusetts, California, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Nevada.

Marketing and Call Center Workers

We have filed lawsuits against a number of marketing and customer service outsourcing companies who purport to treat their marketing and customer service reps as independent contractors, paying them by commissions or piece rate, and failing to pay any overtime or training. These companies also require the workers to pay for their own expenses. There have been a number of court rulings finding such arrangements to violate federal and state wage and hour law, because these workers are really employees subject to the protections of the wage and hour laws.

Cleaning Companies

Over the past 10 years, we have brought cases against a number of so-called “cleaning franchise” companies that have preyed on immigrant workers by charging thousands of dollars for low-paying cleaning jobs. These companies frequently churn cleaning accounts to make a profit. In a number of our cases, the courts have ruled that the franchisees are actually employees entitled to the protections of the wage laws. Several years ago, in our case against Coverall, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a landmark ruling that these franchisees, because of their misclassification, may recover as damages the fees they paid for their franchises, as well as fees paid for additional business and for insurance. The court held that these fees essentially require the workers to “pay for their job” in violation of state wage law.

Cable and Satellite TV Installers

We have successfully brought class action cases around the country on behalf of cable TV and satellite TV installation and repair technicians, who have been wrongfully classified as independent contractors and therefore denied lawful overtime, as well as being subject to unlawful deductions from their pay. We have brought such cases in the states of Florida, Michigan, Illinois, South Carolina, and Massachusetts.

Other Industries

Unfortunately, independent contractor misclassification spans many industries.  We are investigating allegations of independent contractor misclassification in a variety of fields. We recently settled a case against Harvard University for misclassifying workers as independent contractors.  If you have worked anywhere in the country in any industry and believe you have been misclassified, please contact us to discuss your options.

Harvard Settles Lawsuit, Will Change Labor Policy
The Harvard Crimson | March, 2018

Shannon Liss-Riordan Sues Harvard on Behalf of Massage Therapists
JDJournal | January, 2016

Massage Therapist Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Harvard
The Harvard Crimson | January, 2016

Potential Cases

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If you are an employee anywhere in the country and want to seek a consultation with us, please fill in the information below.

Our particular specialties are independent contractor misclassification, tips and service charge violations, and overtime and other wage violations.

We will do our best to respond to your inquiry as soon as possible but regret that we cannot take on all cases that are submitted. Please note that filling out this form does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Thank you!

Job Opportunities

Lichten & Liss-Riordan welcomes applications from lawyers interested in joining our team, who have proven commitment to advocating for employee rights. We look for candidates with outstanding writing and oral advocacy skills. If you are an attorney seeking employment with Lichten & Liss-Riordan, P.C., please email us a cover letter and resume, and we will contact you if we would like to invite you for an interview.

Lichten & Liss-Riordan welcomes law students to apply to us for internships during the summer and term-time. To apply for a position, please submit a cover letter, resume, and writing sample and we will contact you if you have been selected for an interview.

Our firm also employs a dedicated staff of paralegals and assistants. To apply for a position, please contact Office Administrator Rebecca L’Abbe at rlabbe@llrlaw.com.

Referrals

We welcome referrals from attorneys around the country, and we always pay fair referral fees.

We are also frequently contacted by attorneys from around the country seeking to collaborate with us in one of our specialty areas (independent contractor misclassification, tips and service charges litigation, and overtime and other wage violations).

If you would like to contact us about a proposed case or referral, please email us at info@llrlaw.com.

Starbucks

We filed cases against Starbucks in Massachusetts and New York on behalf of baristas challenging the company’s practice of requiring tips to be shared with shift supervisors. We won this issue in Massachusetts. The federal courts in Massachusetts agreed with our interpretation, ruling that Starbucks’ tip sharing policy violates the law of Massachusetts, which requires that only employees with no managerial responsibility may share in tip pools. The magistrate judge granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and class certification, which was affirmed by the district court in March 2011. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed this decision in November 2012. In New York, the case was certified to the state’s highest court, the New York Court of Appeals. The court held that shift supervisors can participate in a tip pool under New York law.

Skycaps

In 2008, we won a jury trial against American Airlines, challenging the airline’s collection of a $2 per bag charge for curbside check-in and not allowing skycaps to keep this money. After this trial, most airlines stopped charging the $2 per bag fee.

The case was on appeal twice. We won the first appeal in 2009, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected American’s argument that it could not be liable to skycaps whom it did not directly employ. The Court reinstated the $333,000 verdict for the skycaps who were part of the initial trial. Click here to read the Court’s decision. Click here to watch the oral argument.

In the second appeal, the federal First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in American’s favor and decided that the case is preempted by federal law, thus reversing the verdict we obtained at trial for the nine original Boston skycaps. We filed a petition to appeal this decision to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

After the jury verdict in favor of the American skycaps, we brought similar claims on behalf of United and US Airways skycaps. The courts ruled that those cases were preempted.

In a companion case we filed against American, which the federal court certified as a national class action on behalf of American skycaps across the country, we have argued that the case should not be preempted under recent Supreme Court caselaw. The district court has ruled that the case is preempted, but we are appealing that ruling.

Hawaii Hotel

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Major Cases

Amero v. Townsend Oil Company, 2008 WL 5609064 (Mass. Super. 2008) (in one of the first decisions issued under the Massachusetts Independent Contractor statute, the court held as a matter of law that an oil delivery employee had been wrongfully misclassified as an independent contractor)

Welch v. Town of Stoughton, 542 F.3d 927 (1st Cir. 2008) (won appeal and jury verdict finding that the Town of Stoughton had violated the First Amendment and whistleblower rights of a sergeant in the Town’s police department)

In The News

Mr. Lichten was named a 2003 Lawyer of the Year by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

Cable company loses bid to end overtime class action
Law 360 | October, 2013

11th Circ. revives cable installers’ contractor status case
Law 360 | July, 2013

Black police officials sue city
Boston Globe| February, 2012

Police hit with bias decision; Two officers may be due ‘millions’
Worcester Telegram | November, 2011