Courts Increasingly Say Cable Installers Eligible for Overtime Pay
The U.S. Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service and 37 states have created a “hit list” of industries that may be cheating workers from overtime and pay for time worked (“wage theft”). High on the list are cable and satellite companies that hire cable installers and claim they are so-called independent contractors.
Many cable and utility companies hire independent contractors to perform installation and customer service work. Cable companies like these arrangements because it allows them to avoid paying overtime. Simply because someone tells you that you are an independent contractor doesn’t mean they arr right, however.
Federal Fair Labor Standards Act
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act requires most employers to pay for all hours worked as well as pay time and one half for hours in excess of 40 hours per week. Like many laws, there are exceptions. The primary exceptions are for managers, professionals (e.g. CPA or lawyer) and certain administrative personnel.
Cable and satellite TV providers know they can find an exemption that will prevent them from paying overtime. So instead, they have adopted the novel scheme of claiming their installers are simply independent contractors and not at all employed by the company. That gets them out of overtime law, tax withholding and depending on the state, important worker protection laws.
Just because an employer says you are an independent contractor doesn’t mean anything! Employers frequently misclassify workers as exempt independent contractors.
The courts know this and have adopted a litmus test to help employers and workers know whether they are entitled to overtime and minimum wage protections.
Employer Defined for Federal Overtime Purposes
The FLSA allows workers who were not properly paid to sue employers who violate the overtime compensation and/or minimum wage requirements mandated in the Act. An “employer” subject to the FLSA is defined as “any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee….” An “employee” is defined as “any individual employed by an employer.”
The good news for workers is that the Fair Labor Standards Act defines ‘employ’ broadly. to mean, ‘suffer or permit to work.’” The rules published by the US Department of Labor specifically allow joint-employer relationship.
One court offered this summary of the joint employer relationships:
“The DOL, the regulatory body responsible for enforcing the FLSA, has enacted regulations outlining when multiple parties may be jointly liable under the FLSA due to the existence of a joint-employer relationship. Since Congress has not directly addressed the issue of when a joint-employer relationship exists, and since the regulations enacted by the DOL are based on a permissible reading of the FLSA, this Court grants deference to the DOL’s regulations. The regulation states:
[A] joint employment relationship generally will be considered to exist in situations such as: [ … ] Where one employer is acting directly or indirectly in the interest of the other employer (or employers) in relation to the employee; or [ … ] Where the employers [ … ] may be deemed to share control of the employee, directly or indirectly, by reason of the fact that one employer controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with the other employer.”
What does that mean for cable installers? Plenty! Depending on the level of control exerted by the satellite or cable company, they can be deemed a joint employer meaning they can be held responsible for unpaid overtime claims.
So how do courts determine when their are sufficient control by the cable company to make them them an employer?
One of the biggest tests is the so called control test.
This factor is described as the degree of control that the alleged employer exerted over the alleged employee. In this respect, the economic reality test asks the court’s inquiry to include “whether the alleged employer has the power to hire and fire employees, supervises and controls employee work schedules or conditions of employment, determines the rate and
method of payment, and maintains employment records.”
For most “independent” cable installers, the big company (Spectrum, Direct TV, etc) directly sets the schedule of the installers, establishes how they will be paid and even the uniform worn by the installers. For most courts, that is enough control to defeat the independent contractor status and establish that the satellite or cable company is a joint employer.
For cable and satellite installers, that distinction is huge. It means the installer is entitled to time and one half pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week.
Attention Cable Installers: Were You the Victim of Wage Theft?
‘If we are successful in prosecuting your claim, the law provides for double back wages and requires the employer to pay your legal fees. If you are an “outside” contractor, reclassification may also make you eligible for benefits.
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor settled a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claim with Bowlin Group, LLC. The government said that 77 installers would receive $1,075,000 in back wages. Bowlin did installations for Insight Communications. Bowlin tried to say the installers were “independent contractors.”
We have heard from other cable installers that Bright House Networks and Knight Enterprises are engaged in a similar scheme.
As part of our investigation, we are looking to speak with present and former installers and customer service workers doing work for cable companies or other utilities. Those we wish to speak with are people classified as independent contractors, workers that have been classified as exempt and workers being denied overtime.
In addition to Bright House installers, we are interested in folks doing work for any cable company or third party installer. If you believe you are a victim of wage theft, we want to hear from you. This includes workers from:
- Bright House Networks
- Kablelink Communications
- Knight Enterprises
- Comcast Cable
- Time Warner
- Charter Communications
- Cox Communications
- FTS USA / UniTek USA
- Medicom Cable
- Suddenlink Communications
- Wave Broadband
- Midcontinent Communications
- Grande Communications
- TDS Telecom
- Sprint Broadband
- Jaguar Technologies
- OC Communications
Wage theft is a growing problem. In recent years, each new year sets a new record for FLSA overtime and wage theft claims. Why should you and your family be deprived of fair pay?
We are paid only if we are successful. Don’t let another day go by without getting properly paid for your hard work. For more information, contact one of our overtime lawyers at:
- Washington DC: 202.800.9791,
- Detroit: 313.879-2070,
- Los Angeles: 213.291.2474
- MAIN OFFICE NUMBER Milwaukee: 414.258-2375
- or email attorney Brian Mahany directly at
If you have not been paid for time worked, were denied breaks or were denied overtime or believe that you were improperly classified, call or email us. There is no fee or obligation. In order to better evaluate your claim, please provide us the following:
- Email Address:
- Name of employer who owes you unpaid wages or overtime:
- Dates of employment as best as you can remember:
- Job title:
- Daily duties:
- Anything else you want us to know before we call:
- ¿Necesita un orador español?
All inquiries kept strictly confidential.
MahanyLaw – America’s Fraud Recovery and Wage Theft Lawyers
[Need more information? You can visit our Fair Labor Standards Act FLSA wage theft claims information.]