Comcast Faces Cable Installers’ Wage Class Action

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By Kevin McGowan

Dec. 9 — A Comcast Corp. affiliate unlawfully failed to pay cable installers the minimum wage or overtime pay required under federal and state laws, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Colorado ( Shahlai v. Comcast Cable Commc’ns Mgmt., LLC , D. Colo., No. 16-2556, amended complaint filed 12/8/16 ).

Comcast Cable Communications Management didn’t reimburse cable installers for their vehicle expenses and deducted tool expenses from their paychecks.

That caused installers’ pay to drop below the federal and Colorado hourly minimum wages, the lawsuit alleged. They also weren’t paid overtime for working more than 40 hours a week, according to an amended complaint filed Dec. 8.

The court will be asked to decide if the cable installers are Comcast Cable employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act or independent contractors.

It’s a common practice for cable or satellite television providers to classify their installers as independent contractors after using a third party for hiring. Courts have reached mixed results on whether such installers can be considered “employees” of the relevant cable or satellite TV company.

Ramin Shahlai, who filed the lawsuit, and other installers originally were hired by Icon Cable Inc., a former Comcast Cable contractor that’s no longer in business.

Comcast Cable should be deemed the installers’ employer, the complaint said. Installers were trained and supervised to serve only Comcast customers while using company-specific tools and wearing company uniforms and badges, it said. They were “entirely dependent” on Comcast for their employment, the complaint said.

In its answer to an earlier complaint, Comcast Cable said it’s neither the installers’ employer nor their “joint employer” along with Icon Cable. It asked the court to dismiss all the claims against Comcast.

Attorneys representing the parties weren’t available for comment Dec. 9.

Buescher Kelman Perera & Turner PC and the Milstein Law Office represent the workers. Ballard Spahr LLC represents the Comcast affiliate.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kevin McGowan in Washington at kmcgowan@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

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