Twenty-three current and former drivers for Connecticut Limousine have secured a $750,000 settlement against the company after challenging the alleged misclassification of drivers as independent contractors, instead of employees.
In their November 2017 amended complaint, the drivers alleged the New Haven-based limo company illegally withheld wages.
“Although defendants have classified plaintiffs as independent contractors, the behavioral and financial control manifested over plaintiffs by defendants demonstrates that they are the defendant’s employees,” the lawsuit stated. “Defendant’s conduct was malicious.”
Connecticut Limousine’s attorney, John Walsh Jr. of Licari, Walsh & Sklaver, told the Connecticut Law Tribune Thursday that the company would have no comment on the matter.
In court papers, the company denied unjust enrichment and illegally withholding wages, and left the plaintiffs to prove their case.
The lawsuit cited numerous examples of the company’s alleged control of its drivers, which it argued was proof the drivers met the criteria to be classified as employees. It listed, for instance, drivers’ inability to set their own schedules but instead having to accept work on the company’s timetable. Also, the suit alleged the prohibition of drivers from accepting customers who do not book their trips through the company, and a mandate to wear Connecticut Limousine uniforms.
In addition, the lawsuit alleged the illegal withholding of wages and cited examples, including drivers paying $463 a month for umbrella insurance; and other fees such as fuel costs, vehicle maintenance costs, administrative fees, parking and licensing fees, and tolls that would normally be borne by the employer.
“This settlement is important because Connecticut employees can’t classify workers as independent contractors unless they are really free from control and are also truly independent. In this case they are neither,” said Michael Petela Jr., of The Hayber Law Firm, who represented the drivers.
Petela continued: “The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants violated an important public policy, and that is you cannot make employees pay for their jobs. We allege they shifted a lot of business expenses from their business operations to the employees. In my opinion, what the employer did was unfair.”
Petela said few drivers earned more than $60,000 annually and “some of them were losing money because of what’s alleged in the lawsuit.”
The drivers and the company agreed to the settlement Feb. 22, and New Haven Superior Court Judge Sheila Ann Ozalis signed off on the agreement. The money will be divided up based on actual damages done to each driver.
Petela celebrated the outcome, saying, ”This should send a message to Connecticut employers to take the proper measures to properly classify their workers.”