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The overlords of Silicon Valley’s thriving service economy received some bad news this week as two sisters filed a class-action lawsuit against Handy, claiming the maid-on-demand service violated a ream of labor laws.
In a complaint filed in California state court, former workers Vilma and Greta Zenelaj said that Handy failed to remit tips or overtime wages, denied them rest and meal breaks, and failed to issue wage stubs as required by law.
In response to the lawsuit, which was reported by ValleyWag, a Handy spokesperson provided the following statement:
“Professionals who use the Handy platform to book jobs are independent contractors, not Handy employees. They choose the Handy platform because it provides much needed flexibility by allowing them to book whatever jobs best suit them. Moreover, on average, professionals earn more than $18 an hour for each job booked on the platform, far above minimum wage. The lawsuits filed by Vilma & Greta Zenelaj, as well as Lulu Malone, are without merit and we intend to defend them vigorously.”
The crux of the lawsuit, which seeks to represent hundreds of current and former Handy workers, is whether the sisters were independent contracts — as the company claims — or employees, which would trigger a raft of labor law obligations.
The sisters, who say Handy workers make between $15 to $22 an hour, point to a range of factors that define them as employees, such as: mandatory uniforms, control over phone and headphone use, a mandatory company greeting and so on.
More broadly, the Handy case could be an important bellwether for the future of a raft of other service economy companies, including TaskRabbit, that rely on armies of casual workers, but also seek to avoid the obligations of being an employer.
The situation of these workers is attracting growing attention, including a withering profile in New York magazine that reported how workers from cleaning company Homejoy were living in homeless shelters, even as the company that paid them is flush with cash from Google Ventures.
In an odd coincidence, the following Handy ad — offering to clean a luxury apartment for $29 — appeared in my Facebook feed shortly after I published this story:
Here’s a copy of the lawsuit, which was filed in late October, via ValleyWag.
Correction: an earlier version of this story stated that the workers cited in the New York story were from Handy; they were from Homejoy.
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