A group of friends, Chris Feola, Livingston, and Derek Mims, from Wake Country, N.C., were ecstatic to find work with AT&T after looking for jobs on Craig's List. Their job was to help bury cables for AT&T, and they were told they would make $20 an hour. However, after just a month of working, they were struggling to obtain their wages and proper health coverage.
Synchronicity, LLC, the Georgia-based company that hired them, treated them as if they were independent contractors. However, labor laws state that workers who are managed by supervisors must be treated as employees.
One worker was injured and lost his finger. The other workers had to fight to for their wages. When they sought help from labor officials, no one listened.
Synchronicity claims they have never had problems with workers receiving payment, and they treat all of their employees fairly.
Chris Feola was the first one hired out of he and his friends. He was given a 1099 tax form to fill out by Synchronicity, which is what contractors are given. Synchronicity encouraged him to get his friends to join the work crew and within a week they were all operating heavy machinery. Mims claims he was using a large drill on a job site, all alone, in Cary, N.C., when his glove got caught in the drill. He was rushed to the hospital, and the doctors could not save his pinky. He had to receive two surgeries to straighten his other three fingers.
He was given $50 in cash for his work, then $100 later that month, but Synchronicity would not listen when he said he was hurt on the job. Mims filed a workers' comp claim, but he knows Synchronicity may neglect him because he was treated as an independent contractor instead of an employee.
In North Carolina, companies can save 20% on their taxes and in workers' compensation cases if they treat their workers as independent contractors instead of employees. This type of practice is called a misclassification, according to The News and Observer. North Carolina has been working to fix this persistent problem. Former Governor Pat McCroy signed an executive order a year ago which created a group within the Industrial Commission to handle complaints made about companies committing the practice of misclassification.
The group of friends went to the NC Labor Department for help after they did not receive their wages on November 15, 2016. However, they were told since they were technically "independent contractors" they had to take their case to small claims court.
Payment did not come until two weeks later until Livingston called Ansco and Associates, a company that is contracted with AT&T and the company that hired Synchronicity. Ansco and Associates claimed they would investigate, and Livingston, Mims, and Feola all received their wages in cash.
"I'm just so tired of fighting," Livingston told The News and Observer, "It shouldn't be so hard to get paid for the work you do."