Former presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg’s 2020 election campaign has been hit with two proposed class actions filed by former staffers who claim they were deprived of promised wages, health benefits and continued employment after the New York billionaire dropped from the race.
Filed in the Southern District of New York, the lawsuits allege that the campaign promised staffers that even if Bloomberg did not win the Democratic nomination, they would continue to have jobs through the November 2020 election. The former staffers allege that Mike Bloomberg 2020, rather than uphold its promise of continued work, health benefits and wages “nearly double that of other campaigns,” instead terminated thousands of campaign workers amid one of the most turbulent and economically uncertain times in the nation’s history.
“Thousands of people relied on that promise,” one lawsuit reads. “They moved to other cities. They gave up opportunities, school, jobs, and job opportunities. They uprooted their lives. But the promise was false.”
Behind one lawsuit are three former Bloomberg campaign field organizers who say they were drawn to working for the candidate due to both their shared interest in defeating Donald Trump and the promise that field offices would stay up and running and pay workers through election day. According to the complaint, the plaintiffs and other field staffers were assured during their initial job interviews and throughout the campaign that they would work through the general election regardless of whether Bloomberg won the nomination, the case says. Upon signing on with the campaign, the plaintiffs respectively relocated, postponed applying for law school and declined other work on the basis of the Bloomberg campaign’s promises, the lawsuit says.
The campaign again reiterated its promise to keep Bloomberg’s main field offices open regardless of the outcome of Super Tuesday days before Bloomberg dropped out of the presidential race, the plaintiffs say. Indeed, it was “unprecedented” for a candidate to promise staffers continued employment through a general election when the individual was not on the ballot, the complaint says, emphasizing that “this unique opportunity to perform both primary and general election work was necessary to entice many staffers to join Mike Bloomberg 2020.”
Without mincing words, however, the plaintiffs allege that “all of these promises were false” and built on misrepresentations of the specifics of at-will employment. From the lawsuit:
Notwithstanding the fact that the defendant made these statements, the campaign required all of its field staffers to sign take-it-or-leave-it form contracts that identified the staffers as ‘at-will’ employees who could be ‘terminate[d] . . . at any time, with or without notice and with or without cause, for any reason or for no reason.’ In at least some cases, representatives of Mike Bloomberg 2020 made false or misleading statements to members of the putative class about the law—e.g., that a contract must specify that employment is at-will in a state that recognizes at-will employment—in order to convince the field staffers to sign the form contracts that the campaign presented to them.”
After announcing that Bloomberg would no longer seek the democratic presidential nomination, Mike Bloomberg 2020 informed field staffers on March 20, 2020 that they had been terminated, the lawsuit says. The plaintiffs allege that instead of making good on its promises of continued work, the campaign told staffers they could apply for field staff positions with the Democratic National Committee for work on the general election. The case claims, however, that the applications of Bloomberg staffers who applied for Democratic National Committee work would be “considered in the same fashion as all other applicants,” that is, on a competitive basis with no preference one way or another.
The plaintiffs argue that despite their qualifications, it is unlikely that a large portion of former Bloomberg staffers will be hired by the DNC. And those who are lucky enough to be hired are certain to earn nowhere near as much as promised by Mike Bloomberg 2020, the case says.
“From one day to the next, defendant left thousands of loyal employees without a paycheck and without health insurance, in the middle of the worst global pandemic since 1918,” the lawsuit scathes, noting that each plaintiff would have pursued other, potentially more stable work opportunities had they not signed on with Bloomberg. The campaign “knowingly made false promises” to induce proposed class members to work for Mike Bloomberg 2020, and those who signed on suffered injury as a result of the campaign’s false statements, the lawsuit alleges.
“They all left or forewent other work opportunities or educational plans, and undertook considerable time and effort to relocate or rearrange their lives to work on the Bloomberg campaign,” the suit reads.
Unpaid Overtime Claims
Whereas one lawsuit reads more narratively in detailing the plaintiffs’ experiences working for Mike Bloomberg 2020, the other case alleges textbook violations of federal labor law. The former field organizer (FO) who filed the suit claims she and similarly situated workers regularly worked upward of 40 hours per week for Mike Bloomberg 2020 without receiving time-and-a-half overtime pay due to their improper classification as exempt employees under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The plaintiff argues that the duties performed by Bloomberg field organizers did not fit the federally defined mold that allows for the exemption of paying overtime wages under the FLSA and that these workers should have therefore received overtime.
“The primary duties of FOs do not fall under any exemptions to the FLSA,” the case argues. “Defendant violated the FLSA by failing to pay FOs, including Plaintiff, the overtime wages they have earned and to which they are entitled by law.”
Specifically, the suit claims the plaintiff and other field organizers were tasked with calling prospective voters nationwide and recruiting volunteers for the campaign’s phone banking and canvassing efforts. While no doubt an essential part of the campaign, the field organizers were not performing management-related work and did not exercise “a meaningful degree of independent discretion” with respect to how their tasks were carried out. More broadly, the lawsuit says field organizers were required to follow the “policies, practices, and procedures set by Bloomberg,” with no discretionary authority to deviate from these rules.
The case argues that the campaign “is aware or should have been aware” that it would be required by law to pay proper overtime for field organizers’ non-exempt job duties.
The suit rings similar to the one previously described on this page in that it says many field organizers and other Bloomberg staffers resigned or took leaves of absence from their then-current jobs and/or relocated to different cities and states to sign on with the campaign. Many did so under the belief that they would be working through the November election—and with health benefits—regardless of whether Bloomberg won the nomination, according to the suit.
Who do these lawsuits look to cover?
The lawsuit filed over allegedly unpaid overtime wages looks to represent a collective of former Mike Bloomberg 2020 field organizers. It also looks to represent those employed by Mike Bloomberg 2020 who were terminated on or after March 4, 2020.
Similarly, the complaint filed by three former field staffers also aims to represent all individuals employed since November 2019 as field staff—field organizers, deputy field organizers, or regional organizing directors/regional field directors—who were fired in March 2020 due to the campaign’s ceasing of operations.
Both lawsuits can be read below.
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