Business

Workers win $42,000 suit after saying they were denied overtime, minimum wage

A Miami-Dade jury last week awarded $42,000 to two drivers who said they were denied proper minimum wages and overtime pay by a courier service they worked for.

Jeorbis Rodriguez and Roberto Ruiz said in court papers that their employer, a Miami-based company called Quick Messenger Services that delivers over-the-counter and prescription medications, wrongly treated them as independent contractors instead of full-time employees, an illegal tactic known as “misclassification.”

Treating workers as independent contractors is a common scheme that saves companies money. Independent contractors aren’t eligible for overtime pay, health benefits and other labor protections. Employers also do not have to pay federal and state taxes on contractors. Misclassifying employees allows companies to undercut law-abiding competitors when bidding for jobs.

After a four-day trial, a jury for the state circuit court ruled that Quick Messenger Services showed a “reckless disregard” for the Fair Labor Standards Act. It decided that Rodriguez and Ruiz should have been treated as employees, not contractors.

Rafael Abreu Sr., who owns the courier company, declined to comment but said he planned to appeal the decision.

The law firm of Remer & Georges-Pierre represented the plaintiffs.

READ THE FULL “CONTRACT TO CHEAT” SERIES

There’s no one test to determine if a worker is an employee or a contractor. In general, contractors often work without a direct supervisor, set their own hours, provide their own materials and get paid by the job, not the hour. In contrast, employees have their labor and schedule rigorously directed by their bosses.

A Miami Herald investigation published last year found that misclassification in Florida’s construction industry alone costs taxpayers about $400 million a year in lost revenue.

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