The California Supreme Court’s Dynamex Decision Impacts Standards

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The California Supreme Court’s decision on Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles is affecting legal standards determining whether a worker should be legally classified as an employee or an independent contractor. The company in the case, Dynamex, put a test in place as a standard determining classification that made it more difficult for businesses to classify workers as independent contractors.

For example, Lawson v. Grubhub, Inc. was a case heard before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley. It was a closely watched case out of California federal court. The judge on the case noted in a new order that her decision on the case may have been different if the Dynamex opinion had already been recorded. While Judge Corley declined to vacate her earlier finding, it is likely the order will be reversed upon appeal.

In Lawson v. Grubhub, Inc. the plaintiff, Raef Lawson was a GrubHub driver who claimed he was misclassified as an independent contractor. When GrubHub moved to dismiss the suit in early 2018, the district court found the company did not “control” Lawson’s work – siding with the company. Lawson appealed. After the Dynamex decision, Lawson filed a motion. He sought relief from the judgment on record. Lawson argued that his case would have had a different outcome if the California Supreme Court had adopted a new legal standard for use when determining the classification of workers as employee or independent contractor. The court responded by allowing that a careful consideration of the issues and with the benefit of an oral argument, the motion raises substantial issue, but they declined to definitively rule on vacating the judgment. They court noted that deciding whether or not the Dynamex ruling should apply retroactively is a decision to be made by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

If you have questions about misclassification or if you need to discuss how you can seek justice when your employer refuses to provide you with overtime pay, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.


Worker Misclassified as Independent Contractors Sues Google

Jacob McPherson, former Google Play unit site merchandiser out of New York, sued Google and the online staffing company Elance-oDesk. He alleges that he and others in similar positions were misclassified as independent contractors by the online search engine giant. He is demanding unpaid wages, including wages that should have been paid for overtime hours. He also seeks damages and attorneys’ fees.

The plaintiff, McPherson, worked for Google from January 2013 through December 2013 as contracted. McPherson claims that he (and many others) worked up to 45 hours/week, but that Google never provided them with payment for more than 30 hours/week. While at Google, McPherson worked through oDesk who released a statement regarding the lawsuit. In their statement about the overtime suit, oDesk stated that they were committed to operating in a “lawful and ethical manner.” They researched the claims and are confident that they have no merit.

McPherson was offered employment at $35/hour for a maximum of 15 hours per week (the maximum hours per week was later raised to 30 hours, according to the suit filed against Google). McPherson was required to register at oDesk in order to receive their employment offer and he would be considered a freelancer paid only through oDesk.

McPherson claims in the lawsuit that he performed work similar to that of (and alongside at the same offices as) W-2 employees. He was assigned to teams that included W-2 employees. He was required to be in attendance for mandatory meetings and training alongside W-2 employees. He was even issued a Google owned cell phone, tablet and laptop just like the W-2 employees of the massive online search engine giant. “Freelancers” were also required to use an email signature that designated them as representatives of Google and offering the office address, follow a Google-approved method for completing assigned tasks, adhere to dress codes and the Google blogging policies, etc.

This case could be a stepping-stone for others and could mean drastic changes for online staffing and freelance sites regarding the risk associated with managing independent contractors.

If you have questions regarding your employer/worker relationship and whether or not the classification of independent contractor is appropriate according to federal regulations, contact the southern California employment law experts at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.