Boston Business Owners Take a Closer Look at Your Independent Contractors

Rudolph Friedmann recently filed a federal class action lawsuit against Pepperidge Farm alleging that the company has misclassified many of its workers as independent contractors.

What makes an individual an independent contractor? There are a number of factors that need to be examined on a case-by-case basis, including:

  • What level of control does the employer exert over the individual?
  • Is the work fundamental to the business?
  • Is the work relationship permanent or temporary?
  • Are special skills required to perform the work?
  • Does the individual supply his/her own equipment or supplies?

A federal class action lawsuit filed by a worker in Illinois, who is represented by Rudolph Friedmann attorneys Adam Shafran and Jonathon Friedmann, alleges that Pepperidge Farm exploited its sales development associates (SDAs) by classifying them as independent contractors. The SDAs, who work 55 to 70 hours per week, deliver Pepperidge Farm products to grocery stores, stock the shelves and set up promotional displays. The workers claim that Pepperidge Farm exerts control over their activities and requires that they buy and maintain handheld computer units to perform their work tasks and that they purchase/lease and insure an appropriate delivery truck. As independent contractors, the SDAs are not eligible for benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off and overtime pay. The potential class includes all SDAs in Illinois who were under contract with Pepperidge Farm between February 12, 2006, and February 12, 2016.

Rudolph Friedmann has also filed similar lawsuits against Pepperidge Farm in Massachusetts and California.

Misclassification lawsuits have become more and more common and a number of companies, including Uber and Amazon, are facing expensive, time consuming lawsuits. To avoid misclassification issues in your organization, have a Boston Business lawyer perform an audit to assess the status of the individual(s) in question as classification standards vary from state to state. Ask your attorney to review your company’s independent contractor agreements and take steps to avoid legal issues before they arise.

Read more about the Pepperidge Farm case in the Cook County Record and Food Navigator.


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