Spotify Faces Class Action Lawsuit Over Employee Mistreatment

U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Los Angeles

U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Los Angeles

A California man has filed a class-action lawsuit against Spotify over the company’s alleged misclassification of his employment status and failure to provide legally required breaks and payments.

Matthew Elias submitted the lawsuit both on his behalf and on behalf of “all others similarly situated and allegedly aggrieved,” according to court documents shared with Digital Music News. In the filing, Elias, who says he was a nonexempt employee for Spotify between July 2016 and July 2018, alleges that he was misclassified as an independent contractor roughly one year into his tenure.

Accordingly, Elias and his counsel believe that he should be compensated for Spotify’s failure to provide him with the same benefits that other nonexempt employees receive under the Fair Labor Standards Act. These protections include appropriate overtime pay (one and a half times hourly compensation for workweeks over 40 hours in length), meal breaks, rest breaks, and more.

Elias also claims that Spotify forced him to buy “streaming services and cellular data services” with his personal funds — expenses he thinks should have been charged to the company.

At the time of this piece’s writing, Spotify had not publicly commented on the matter. However, the music streaming giant did file a request to move the case from a state court to a federal court, as Spotify is registered in Delaware. Elias filed the suit in the District Court for the Central District of California.

That venue is certainly more favorable than California for Spotify.

Effective January 1st, California passed stringent worker classification laws under AB5. But that law, designed to curb independent contractor abuses by companies like Uber and Lyft, has been openly flouted by both ride-sharing giants. Meanwhile, thousands — even hundreds of thousands — of contract workers have been tossed out of work without replacement gigs.

Those jobs have quickly moved to different states or overseas, where independent contracting is perfectly legal. Numerous industries, including the commercial trucking industry, have filed aggressive legal challenges against AB5.

Meanwhile, the law has created a veritable disaster for the music industry in California.  That’s because music productions frequently involve a range of hired musicians and assistants, all of whom have traditionally been classified as independent contractors.  Earlier, groups like the RIAA were unable to craft simple exemptions for musicians, labels, and other music industry groups, even though dozens of other industries forged such agreements.  Those lackluster results were likely caused by industry in-fighting, particularly with musician unions.

Additionally, Spotify’s lawyers argue that the case should also transition to a federal courtroom because it concerns potential damages in excess of $75,000—including “at least $110,086.40” just for allegedly owed overtime wages.