- Vox Media has agreed to pay $4 million to settle a trio of lawsuits alleging that bloggers and site managers for its SB Nation teams sites were wrongly classified as independent contractors (Bradley, et al. v. Vox Media, Inc. dba SB Nation, No. 1:20-cv-01793 (D.D.C., Aug. 17, 2020)).
- The plaintiffs alleged they were denied minimum wages, overtime pay, and other benefits under California, New Jersey and federal law.
- The plaintiffs estimate the average award for site managers in the Bradley litigation will be $4,940.88, with a median award of $3,989.08. The average award for site managers in the Spruill lawsuit will be $9,451.49 with a median award of $7,538.43 and the average award for each Spruill contributor will be approximately $2,980.07 with a median award of approximately $2,410.20. In Reddington, site managers will receive approximately $7,360.79 with a median award of approximately $5,579.96. The average award for each Reddington contributor will be approximately $2,505.09.
Misclassification of workers can be an expensive mistake for employers. But compliance can be difficult because of varying standards and tests used to determine workers' status. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Internal Revenue Serve and the U.S. Department of Labor each have their own test for determining independent contractor status.
Most of these tests, however, center on the amount of control the employer exerts over the worker. The more control the employer exercises over the worker, the greater the likelihood that the worker will be viewed as an employee and not an independent contractor.
Vox Media attorneys discussed the issue of worker control in the proposed settlement. In testimony, the plaintiffs confirmed that "Vox Media lacked control over the manner and means by which plaintiffs performed work," according to court documents. "Plaintiffs performed work when and where they chose, had unfettered editorial control over the content they produced and had minimal, if any, contact with Vox Media employees."
California employers must meet an especially high bar to prove workers are independent contractors. The California Supreme Court adopted a test in April 2018 that generally assumes workers are employees. The test, known as the ABC test, was later signed into California law.