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.