Comcast installer LeCom improperly classified workers as indie contractors, suit says

Former cable installers for Detroit-based Lecom Utility Contractors are pressing a multi-million-dollar class action suit, alleging the company, which touts Comcast as a client, improperly classified them as independent contractors. 

According to plaintiffs' attorney David Blanchard, more than 20 former Lecom workers have joined the class action. He told FierceInstaller that his Ann Arbor, Mich. law firm, Blanchard-Walker, is currently recruiting from a list of more than 150 other eligible litigants.

LeCom's officials have yet to respond to FierceInstaller's inquiry for comment.

According to Blanchard, the company routinely recruits "unskilled" workers to its facilities, promising high wages and control of their work schedules. Workers fill out LeCom employment forms, but are then directed to satellite offices that treat them as independent contractors. 

"It's a shell game of control, and [LeCom] ends up with people who aren't using their own tools, aren't using their own vans, and who are not in control of their destiny or success," Blanchard said. "There's no risk to Comcast, and there's no risk to middle-man company."

Blanchard wouldn't explain why Comcast isn't named in the lawsuit, although the specter of the top MSO's formidable legal team joining the litigation might provide some answers here. 

The workers-rights attorney said he's previously dealt with "half a dozen" similar cases involving cable companies such as Bright House Networks and WOW. 

He said it's now common practice in the cable industry for MSOs to hire "middle-man" contractors who improperly classify their workers as independent contractors. 

"The model is illegal," Blanchard said. "They try to pass on all the risk to unskilled people who are often times sold on an idea of independence. In the end, they work harder and don't make more money. They don't have control over the jobs they do or the hours they work. The law says they're an employee, and they're eligible for overtime pay and compensation in case they hurt themselves on the job."

Describing LeCom's early defense strategy, Blanchard said, "They came into court and said, 'Judge, everybody is doing this. This is our business model.' Just because everyone is doing it this way doesn't make it legal."

Notably, in January, Detroit-area ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV ran a local news segment, noting that LeCom is hiring up to 40 cable TV installers, no experience necessary.

Comcast spokesperson Jenni Moyer didn't comment on the suit directly, but noted, "Based on the seasonality of our business, we do work with a select group of contracting companies to help manage workload. "[But] we have tens of thousands of employees that work directly for Comcast today, and we're hiring hundreds of Comcast technicians this year."

For more:
- see this WXYZ-TV report

Related articles:
Comcast increasingly reliant on under-paid installation contractors, Slate report says
Comcast used 'corrupt' internal scoring system to measure installers, lawsuit claims