Disgruntled Workers Raise Class Action Against Sotheby’s After Alleged Independent Contractor Misclassification

Sotheby's is in the hot seat as former workers band together to fight alleged misclassification and payment qualms.
By: | April 13, 2022

Fine arts company Sotheby’s is currently facing a class action lawsuit from its workers.

The workers have alleged that they were misclassified as independent contractors instead of full-time employees.

The workers said they were denied benefits, such as workers’ compensation, sick days, health insurance, paid vacation and a retirement plan. This, the class action noted, has violated the New York City Freelance Isn’t Free Act.

Altogether, more than 40 workers joined the suit.

Spearheading the class action is New Jersey-based Francis Fenwick, a former accountant with the auction house.

Fenwick started on at Sotheby’s as an independent contractor, working two years under this employee type. Following his contract, Fenwick stayed on, continuing his work.

According to his lawyers, Sotheby’s is trying to “dismiss the misclassification claims by arguing [he] was an independent contractor, then dismiss the Freelance Isn’t Free Act claims by arguing that the complaint alleges [Fenwick] was an employee.”

Sotheby’s filed a motion to dismiss the case in November 2021, claiming that it was “so devoid of factual allegations … it was difficult (if not impossible) to discern.”

No conclusion has been reached yet, and more legal action is likely to follow.

Scorecard: Further court action will determine if Sotheby’s has misclassified its workers or not.

Takeaway: Though taken a backseat to the pandemic, the question of whether gig workers and/or independent contractors should be considered for benefits is still important. Employers are best served by reviewing their state laws and fully defining and documenting their workers’ employment. &

Autumn Demberger is the content strategist at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected].

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