Los Angeles Wage Team Secures Significant Win in Worker Misclassification Case of First Impression

Los Angeles, Calif. (October 29, 2021) - Los Angeles Partners Jeffrey S. Ranen and William C. Sung, and Associate Zachary Tucker, recently secured a victory on behalf of a technical legal support services company and its vendor when the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted summary judgment in favor of Lewis Brisbois’ clients in a bet-your-business-model worker misclassification case of first impression.

In this matter, which was reported by Bloomberg Law, the plaintiff filed a wage and hour class action and Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) representative action, claiming that she and her fellow mock jury research participants were misclassified as independent contractors rather than employees under California’s AB 51 statute. Following an unsuccessful mediation, Lewis Brisbois took over the defense of the case from the client’s initial counsel. At the close of discovery, the plaintiff filed a motion for class certification and the client file a motion for summary judgment arguing that the plaintiff was properly classified as an independent contractor. 

Mr. Sung argued the motion for summary judgment during an intense, 90-minute oral argument before Judge Virginia DeMarchi, who ultimately determined that the plaintiff was properly classified as an independent contractor under both Borello and the ABC test. As such, the court granted summary judgment in favor of Lewis Brisbois’ clients, providing its analysis in a 54-page opinion.

This win is particularly significant because the specific question of whether focus group participants are employees or independent contractors under the ABC test is a case of first impression. If the court had denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the decision would not only have impacted the client’s own business model, but also the mock jury industry and potentially the entire consumer market research industry.

Mr. Ranen serves as the National Vice-Chair of Lewis Brisbois' Labor & Employment Practice. His practice is dedicated to defending employers in employment litigation and counseling. The Daily Journal named Mr. Ranen one of the Top 75 Labor and Employment attorneys in California in both 2017 and 2019. Mr. Sung serves as national co-chair of Lewis Brisbois’ Wage & Hour Class Action Practice. He specializes in the defense of complex wage and hour class and PAGA representative actions in federal and state court. Mr. Tucker is an experienced wage and hour attorney in the firm's Labor & Employment Practice. 

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