Field Asset Services workers awarded restitution in misclassification case

By Elizabeth Alt | Jul 4, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO – Former workers at Field Asset Services in California were awarded restitution of more than $600,000 in May after the U.S. District Court of the Northern California District previously found the company misclassified the workers as independent contractors and were liable for damages.

SAN FRANCISCO – Former workers at Field Asset Services in California were awarded restitution of more than $600,000 in May after the U.S. District Court of the Northern California District previously found the company misclassified the workers as independent contractors and were liable for damages.

Judge William H. Orrick wrote the court order on May 18, determining restitution for the claims under the Unfair Competition Law and Business and Professions Code that were heard at a bench trial in January.

Former workers at Field Asset Services Inc. filed a class action complaint in 2013, claiming the class members were not paid for overtime and work-related expenses in violation of California’s Labor Code, Business and Professions Code and Unfair Competition Law. The claimants allege that they worked as vendors for FAS doing maintenance and other work on homes.  

In March 2017, Orrick granted partial summary judgment to the claimants, finding that the claimants were employees, not independent contractors as argued by FAS and that FAS failed to pay the class members overtime and to reimburse for business expenses.

In July 2017 a jury found FAS was liable for damages and awarded more than $2 million total for claimants Fred Bowerman, Jake Bess, Janeen Cloud, Matthew Cohick, Linda Dunham, Kenneth Freeborn, Amy Gowan, John Gowan, Matt Jaques, Kim Miller and Anthony Yager. 

The UCL claims were presented at a bench trial in January. The jury found the claimants worked an average of 10 hours a day, and at least six days a week, performing work at homes, uploading multiple required pictures, paying for dump services, and fixing any issues that arose.

Orrick stated that “A fundamental concern in this case was the lack of documentary evidence of the hours worked and expenses incurred by the vendors,” noting that FAS had not kept records of the invoices sent by the claimants for their jobs, and failed to produce job records despite requests made for discovery. 

“FAS has not presented evidence to 'wholly defeat' plaintiffs’ claims under the UCL,” the order states.

The court order stated that FAS classified its vendors as independent contractors without considering the law or re-evaluating its business model once they knew how vendors were treated.

“FAS would have to have been recklessly ignorant of the status of the vendors given its regular, often daily contact with the vendors,” the ruling states.

The court order stated that FAS “retained the right to discipline vendors, refuse to pay them, and cut off their supply of work altogether by unilaterally terminating them without notice.”

Orrick accounted for the “generous” jury awards in calculating restitution, noting at times the jury awards “at times exceeded the amounts sought by plaintiffs’ counsel in closing arguments.” 

The order denied adding prejudgment interest for the UCL claims but awarded prejudgment interest for the jury award through June 4.

Orrick granted the claimants’ requests for declaratory relief, and awarded restitution and attorney’s fees, finding FAS violated the California Labor Code, California Unfair Competition Law, and Business and Professions Code. The award for the UCL claims totaled more than $600,000.

U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California case number 3:13-cv-00057-WHO

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