Washington DC Attorney General Karl Racine on Jan. 19 announced a wage theft lawsuit against Arise Virtual Solutions, Inc. and Comcast Cable Communications Management LLC. Arise is a customer service support company through which companies like Comcast outsource their customer service needs. The lawsuit alleges that Arise and Comcast denied customer service agents minimum wage, overtime and paid sick leave by misclassifying them as independent contractors rather than employees.
According to the attorney general’s office, Arise targets women of color in their marketing for service agents and then denies those workers the pay and benefits required by District law. Arise has employed at least 180 customer support agents from the district. The lawsuit seeks to hold Comcast liable for these wage violations as a joint employer that also exercised substantial control over Arise agents’ conditions of work.
“Arise has been elaborately constructed to avoid paying workers the minimum wage, overtime, and paid sick leave as required by District law,” Racine said. “Comcast … partnered with Arise and profited from that company’s theft of workers’ wages and benefits. Under District law, Comcast is liable for Arise’s illegal practices.” The office continues to investigate other companies engaged in similar ways with Arise.
The lawsuit alleges that Arise’s agents — whom the company classifies as independent contractors — are legally employees because Arise has the power to hire and fire them, determines their rate of pay, requires agents to meet with supervisors and managers, and controls agents with a digital surveillance apparatus that tracks their performance down to the precise second. Further, the agents’ work is the very heart of the company’s business, Racine’s office says — Arise could not operate its customer support business without its customer support agents.