Carter Brothers was first sued on February 4, 2014, in the federal court in Sacramento, California, by former technicians hired and trained by Carter Brothers to provide security system installation services to AT&T Digital Life nationwide. Carter Brothers and AT&T Digital Life, Inc., are joint employers of the technicians, the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit claims violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and numerous California Labor Code provisions. The case is filed as a California class action, a FLSA collective action and California Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act representative action (Labor Code section 2699). The case also claims violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law (Business and Professions Code Section 17200 et. seq.).
The lawsuit alleges Carter Brothers and AT&T Digital Life purposefully misclassified the technicians as independent contractors to avoid paying overtime wages and other mandatory benefits and requirements. The lawsuit alleges technicians were not paid minimum wages for hours worked “off the clock,” including working lunches, travel, training, attending meetings, and time corresponding with customers and the company. The lawsuit demands reimbursement for work-related expenses including required cell phones and cell phone plans and tools required for the job, and seeks significant penalties and FLSA liquidated damages against the joint employers.
On October 30, 2014, the Chief Judge of the Eastern District Federal Court denied Carter Brothers’ motion to dismiss the case and force the workers to arbitration in Atlanta, Georgia, based on an arbitration clause in the “independent contractor agreement.” The judge found the arbitration clause to be procedurally and substantively unconscionable and unenforceable against the technicians. The judge also refused to transfer venue of the case to federal court in Georgia, finding numerous unconscionable terms in the “independent contractor” agreement. The judge agreed the central purpose of the “independent contractor” agreement was to illegally misclassify the technicians as independent contractors to avoid overtime wages and other legally required employment benefits.
Carter Brothers appealed the judge’s denial of its arbitration motion to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on November 11, 2014. Now that briefing in the case is complete, the Ninth Circuit could set oral argument in November, 2015, at the earliest.
The technicians and class members are represented by employment class action attorneys Lisa Bradner and Joe Rose of Rose Law APC based in Sacramento, California. More information about this lawsuit is available here, or by calling (916) 273-1260.