San Francisco, CA (Law Firm Newswire) May 27, 2016 – Three former employees filed a class action lawsuit against their employers Moet Hennessey USA, Strategic Experiential Group and several related entities and individuals, alleging they were misclassified as independent contractors.
The claim was filed on March 14 in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Alameda. Plaintiffs Krystle Harrison, Napoleon Aparicio and Shyron McDougall worked for the companies as models, brand ambassadors and logistics personnel for four years. They alleged the defendants engaged in illegal payroll practices and failed to pay employees overtime, reimbursements for uniform expenses and compensation for missed or interrupted meal and rest breaks as required by California labor law.
The models are being represented by attorney Jason Erlich of McCormack and Erlich, a San Francisco, California-based employment law firm, and Jennie Anderson of Andrus Anderson LLP. “The defendants arranged sham contracts and labeled their employees as independent contractors in order to avoid paying overtime and wages in a timely manner,” said Erlich.
Strategic Experiential Group contracts with various liquor promotion companies — including Moet Hennessy USA — to provide brand ambassadors and logistics personnel for the promotion of liquor brands at bars and other public venues. The defendants allegedly managed and supervised all aspects of the models’ work during such promotional events, including what they said and how they dressed. In addition, the plaintiffs were required to attend training sessions without pay to learn sales pitches, how to introduce the products, and how to achieve the brand’s particular look with uniform and makeup.
The plaintiffs alleged logistics personnel consistently worked more than eight hours without being paid overtime. The models were also not paid on a regular basis, sometimes having to wait more than 30 days for their wages. The lawsuit alleges that the models and logistics personnel were not provided meal and rest breaks as required by California law.
Under the California Labor Code, the right to control is a key factor in the classification of a worker. “In this case, the defendants exercised significant control over multiple aspects of the models’ working conditions, duties and schedules,” said Erlich. “By misclassifying them as independent contractors, the employers claimed they did not have to provide health insurance, vacation days and other benefits.”
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