TRENTON, N.J. — A federal district court judge in New Jersey ruled in favor of Williams-Sonoma in an wage suit filed by a class of delivery workers in one of the company’s furniture warehouses, alleging that they were unlawfully denied overtime in violation of New Jersey’s state wage and hour law. The class consists of 166 drivers from the company’s Monroe, New Jersey warehouse. They were paid a daily flat rate, receiving customer tips but were not paid overtime.
Two Levels of Separation from Williams Sonoma
The employees alleged in their lawsuit that the drivers were misclassified as independent contractors when they should have been classified as employees of Williams-Sonoma and MXD Group, Inc., the company overseeing logistics of deliveries to Williams-Sonoma customers. To support their contention that they were employees, they argued that they were told how to resolve issues with customers by both companies, were required to wear a uniform with the Williams-Sonoma logo, and were told to check in with an MXD dispatch office throughout the day.
However, the judge found that the individuals were not employees of Williams Sonoma. The judge observed that the employee drivers were separated by two levels: MXD and the transportation companies. Additionally, the judge found using several tests for whether an employer-employee relationship exists, including the “economic realities” test under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
FLSA’s Economic Realities Test
The “economic realities” test should be used to determine whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor under FLSA. This test is used in determining whether an individual is economically dependent on the putative employer (and thus an employee) or is really in the business for him or herself (and thus is an independent contractor). A worker who is economically dependent on an employer is suffered or permitted to work by the employer, which provides a broader scope of employment than older common law standards.
In this case, the judge found that under the economic realities test, Williams-Sonoma was not the plaintiff’s employer because it did not hire or fire them, determine salaries, keep records or otherwise control or supervise them. Additionally, the judge found that the company did not exercise significant control over the drivers.
However, the judge indicated that MXD exerted some control over the drivers by requiring that they fill out paperwork at its corporate office, performed background checks, and decided not to hire drivers with spotty driving records and set certain conditions of employment such as generating the regular delivery routes and requiring drivers to check in from the road on a regular basis. Therefore, the judge ruled that MXD could be an employer, but not Williams-Sonoma.
Employee misclassification remains an often-raised issue that leaves many workers without the valuable protections of FLSA and state labor laws. You should call (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form on the top right of this page if you feel your employee wage rights have been violated because you have been misclassified as an independent contractor. Our top-rated team of wage lawyers will evaluate your situation to determine your best course of action. We will also determine if it is in your best interest to file a lawsuit against your employer. There are strict time limitations for filing, so it is important that you call our experienced attorneys today.