This is nothing to snooze about. The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to rule on a case that will have a broad impact on NJ businesses and workers. In Hargrove v. Sleepy’s, Plaintiffs Sam Hargrove, Andre Hall and Marco Eusebio accused Sleepy’s of using an “Independent Driver Agreement” as a ruse to avoid paying them employee benefits. The case was initially dismissed by U.S. District Judge Peter Sheridan in March 2012, as he applied the common-law “right to control” test. This test focuses on how much control the employer has of the workers. In this case, the plaintiffs drove for several other companies in addition to Sleepy’s, and maintained their own trucks, paying for gas, tolls, tickets and repairs. This bolstered the argument that they were in fact independent contractors.
On appeal, the National Employment Law Project, a New York non-profit workers advocacy group, contended that the “right to control” test shouldn’t be a determining factor. They reasoned that the New Jersey statutes at issue- the Wage Payment Law and the Wage and Hour Law- define “employee” more broadly than common law. Under the NJ statute a worker is considered an employee unless he meets all of the following three provisions:
- The worker has been and will continue to be free from control or direction over the performance of such service, both under his contract of service and in fact
- The service is either outside the usual course of the business for which such service is performed, or that such service is performed outside of all the places of business of the enterprise for which such service is performed
- The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business