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Dog walkers win $1 million in misclassification lawsuit against Wag Labs

Worker classification has been under a lot of debate following last year’s California Supreme Court decision. The court called for employers to use a stricter legal test to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor.

The ruling is likely to have a significant impact on thousands of people who work for gig economy companies like GrubHub, Postmates, Uber, Lyft and many others. The state Assembly recently passed a bill that would make it harder for employers to label workers as independent contractors instead of employees.

Earlier this year Wag Labs Inc., a company that uses a mobile app to connect dog owners with dog walkers, was sued for worker misclassification in California. The lawsuit reached a preliminary settlement of around $1 million.

Wag Labs has been described in the past as “Uber for dogs.” Almost 38,000 of its part-time dog walkers claimed they were misclassified as independent contractors and denied the legal protections given to employees. As a result of the misclassification, they were paid less than minimum wage.

Lead plaintiff Gary D. filed the class action lawsuit in September 2017. He said Wag Labs dog walkers were required to work off the clock. They were not paid for time spent getting ready for walks, harnessing and de-harnessing dogs, or waiting for directions to the dog owner’s home. Wag Labs was also accused of failing to provide wage statements and reimburse business expenses.

Worker misclassification is a serious problem. A small change in status from independent contractor to employee can make a huge difference to workers. They become eligible for labor protections under state law, various benefits, meal and rest breaks, overtime pay, and a guaranteed minimum hourly wage.

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