Three individuals hired as replacement workers by Verizon Communications and PS Splicing, LLC during a union strike have filed a proposed collective and class action against the companies looking to recover allegedly unpaid overtime wages. The named plaintiffs allege the unpaid overtime stems from the Verizon’s misclassification of the replacement workers as independent contractors despite the “economic reality” of the working relationship between the parties indicating otherwise.
From the complaint:
“[The defendant], Verizon Communications, Inc. … is responsible for a far reaching ‘fissured employment’ scheme. In order to ensure services to its customers during a union strike, Verizon engaged hundreds of replacement wireline workers – including the Plaintiffs in this case – to service copper and fiber cabling used for cable television, telephone and internet. Although Verizon required these workers to perform their work according to Verizon’s exacting policies and procedures, Verizon disclaimed any legal relationship with these workers, tagging them instead as ‘independent contractors’ of subordinate entities, including PS Splicing, LLC. But it is the economic reality of the relationship – not Verizon’s self-serving labels – that controls whether Plaintiffs meet the definition of an ‘employee’ under the FLSA and comparable state wage and hour laws.”
The lawsuit notes 36,000 Verizon wireline associates in 10 states went on strike in April 2016. That same day, the case says, Verizon announced it would bring on hundreds of replacement wireline workers to ensure that customers still received service. Verizon and the striking employees reached an agreement in May 2016, and the replacement workers, tasked with servicing the copper and fiber cabling that brings TV, internet and phone service into customers’ households, were promptly laid off, according to the case.
According to the plaintiffs, the replacement workers’ relationship with Verizon and subordinates like PS Splicing was that of an employer and employee. The men claim, for instance, that Verizon ran background checks before bringing on replacement workers, had them complete I-9 Employment Eligibility forms, and required them to participate in mandatory on-boarding programs and safety meetings. The defendants also withheld money from the replacements’ paychecks for workers’ compensation and other deductions, the suit alleges.
Per the named plaintiffs, the lawsuit says the men regularly put in 90 or more hours per week without time-and-a-half overtime pay. Instead, according to the case, the plaintiffs were paid $75 per hour for every hour worked.