Week Adjourned: 1.29.16 – Google, Disney, Lyft

google logoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Couple of big names hit with employment class actions this week…

First up: Googlers Not Gettin’ Paid? A former Google recruiter has filed an unpaid overtime class action lawsuit against Google Inc, for class-wide wage and hour violations, asserting it illegally and deliberately cheated her and other employees of their wages.

Former Google contract employee Tymuoi Ha filed the complaint in Santa Clara Superior Court against Google, Inc. and Urpan Technologies (UrpanTech), one of the many staffing agencies through which Google acquires temporary and contract workers.

The Google unpaid overtime complaint alleges that Defendants violated the California Labor Code by denying employees compensation for all overtime worked, failing to pay owed wages upon separation from employment and not furnishing accurate wage statements.

It also alleges Google, working with staffing agencies like UrpanTech, hires recruiters on a contract basis and refuses to pay them for their many of hours of tireless work, attorneys representing Ha state. The companies restrict the number of hours recruiters can report, knowing that they must work overtime to meet performance goals. In return for the unpaid labor, the companies dangle the possibility of permanent employment. Talk about dangling a carrot…

I’m hearing “do no evil”…somewhere…

Plaintiff Ha seeks to recover damages, including unpaid wages, on behalf of herself and a California class of Google contract recruiters.

And then there’s Disney…the master of magic is facing an employment class action lawsuit filed by a former IT worker who claims Disney violated the anti-racketeering RICO statute by engaging in a “conspiracy to displace US workers.”

According to the Disney labor lawsuit filed by Dena Moore, an IT worker at Disney, the entertainment giant broke the law when it hired cheaper foreign replacements, then fired its current IT department. According to the suit, IT workers were told they would remain employed for 90 days while they trained their less expensive replacements, who were H-1B visa holders. The workers were also told that “if they did not stay and train they would not get a bonus and severance, which most employees reluctantly accepted,” the lawsuit asserts.

Moore also names labor contractor Cognizant Technology Solutions as a defendant in the suit, which goes on to claim that the defendants weren’t truthful when they filled out immigration documents, thus violating a section of the RICO law that bars “fraud and misuse of visas, passports, and other documents.”

This is one of two such suits filed against Disney claiming violations of the RICO statute. “Each making of false and fraudulent statement[s] on an individual visaholder’s H1B application constituted a separate racketeering act,” Moore claims in her proposed class action complaint. It is estimated the total number of IT workers laid off by Disney last year is between 200 and 300.

Who would a thunk it?

The Case is 6:16-cv-00113-JA-KRS. Moore vs. Cognizant technology Solutions and Walt Disney World. 

Top Settlements

Lyft Drivers get a Lift…Bet these guys are feeling a bit of a “lift” right now. Yes indeed, Lyft drivers in California have won their employment class action and reached a $12.25 million settlement this week. However, Lyft refuses to classify its drivers as employees.

Currently, drivers for Lyft are classified as independent contractors. According to the terms of the Lyft settlement, Lyft will also concede its right to terminate drivers at will, pay the costs to arbitrate drivers’ grievances and implement a pre-arbitration process, and provide drivers with additional information on prospective riders such as their passenger ratings.

The lawsuit was filed by Lyft driver Patrick Cotter, in September 2013, over allegations that while the company classified its drivers as independent contractors it treated them as employees, including taking 20 percent off their tips as an “administrative fee”, a violation of California labor laws.

Further, Cotter claimed in the suit that Lyft required inspection of drivers’ personal cars and insurance policies, and that the company maintained the right to fire drivers, and enforced mandatory policies and training, all of which is treatment more befitting employees than contractors under California law.

The suit was initially proposed as a nationwide class action but was later changed to cover drivers in California only, court records show.

Additionally, the settlement agreement stipulates that Lyft create a “favorite” driver option in which riders can designate their preferred drivers, and, as such, give them additional benefits. Further, because Lyft has surrendered its at-will termination right, drivers will now be able to turn down rides without fear of their account being deactivated, the settlement motion states.

Well done.

The next settlement hearing will be on February 18, 2016. The case is Cotter et al. v. Lyft Inc. et al., case number 3:13-cv-04065, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. 

Ok—So that’s a wrap folks… Happy Friday…See you at the Bar!

One thought on “Week Adjourned: 1.29.16 – Google, Disney, Lyft”

  1. While the Lyft drivers may feel “lifted” and get some “minor” relief from this settlement, this settlement further clouds the independent contractor/employee status as defined by a federal agency, the IRS. As such this settlement is breaking federal law that defines worker classification. Clearly the direction and control exercised by Lyft requires dirvers to be classified as employees.
    The fact that Ms. Riordan’s firm agreed to settle for such a small amount is because they didn’t want to go through the expense of individual arbitrations (unlike Uber’s case and arguments) and should be addressed by the courts as possibly criminal. It appears Ms. Riordan would rather focus on the Uber class action suit. The court has made it easier for her to go after Uber by striking down the poorly written arbitration language in the Uber driver contract.
    There have been great abuses by Lyft as well as Uber. What independent business owner has no say in the price he/she charges for services? Or has no say in what markets they are willing to drive to/from?
    Price per mils is being driven ridiculously low, so Lyft and Uber can establish market dominance. Exercising these types of control over their drivers is a shady are in which the driver is no longer an independent contractor able to determine when and how they accept jobs, which makes them employees.

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