Appeals Court Allows IC Misclassification Suit by Models to Proceed

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From JDSupra, Richard Reibstein reports on a lawsuit by models alleging they were misclassified as independent contractors. A recent decision vacated summary judgment in favor of the company and allows the case to proceed to trial. Richard writes:

APPEALS COURT VACATES DECISION DISMISSING IC MISCLASSIFICATION LAWSUIT BY FIT MODELS, ALLOWING THEIR CLASS ACTION TO PROCEED TO TRIAL. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has vacated a federal district court’s decision that granted summary judgment in favor of a modeling company in a class and collective action brought by fit models.  The appellate court held that summary judgment was not appropriate because there are material issues of fact in dispute as to the fit model’s classification as an independent contractor.  The plaintiff brought her complaint on behalf of herself and other fit models who are retained based on body proportions so that clothing designers and apparel companies may test the fit of their designs.  She alleges that by misclassifying models as ICs, the modeling service, Model Service LLC d/b/a/ MSA Models, and its owner denied them overtime and minimum wages and made deductions from their wages in violation of the FLSA and New York Labor Law (NYLL).

In 2018, the district court granted the company’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of whether plaintiff was the company’s employee for purposes of the FLSA and NYLL. On appeal, the Second Circuit concluded that “[w]hen drawing inferences in the light most favorable to [Plaintiff], which the district court did not do, a reasonable jury could have concluded that she was [the company’s] employee.” The appeals court also determined that although no one element of the parties’ relationship was dispositive of the FLSA inquiry, there existed genuine disputes regarding control of the plaintiff’s work schedule, whether she had the ability to negotiate her pay rate, and her ability to accept or decline work. Those disputed factors were viewed as “significant” by the appellate court to the extent they relate to the degree of control exerted by the company over the plaintiff and her opportunity for profit – two of the factors considered by the courts when assessing IC/employee status under the FLSA’s economic reality test. The court also stated that it was premature to resolve the question whether plaintiff was an employee under the NYLL. The case, which we first reported on in a July 5, 2015 blog post, was remanded for trial on the misclassification claims.  Agerbrink v. Model Service LLC d/b/a MSA Models, No. 18-1471 (2d Cir. Sept. 24, 2019).

Source: August and September 2019 Independent Contractor Misclassification and Compliance News Update | Locke Lord LLP – JDSupra

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