Newspaper Carriers are Employees, Not Independent Contractors, Mass Appeals Court Holds

The Massachusetts Appeals Court has deemed newspaper delivery drivers of a Braintree distributor to be employees, not independent contractors, under state law. The decision makes the carriers eligible for a number of employment benefits and raises important concerns with respect to minimum wage, insurance, worker’s compensation, and other issues. The decision may have a far-reaching impact on the distributor, GateHouse Media, and companies like it.

A driver who delivered the Patriot Ledger brought this class action claiming that GateHouse failed to pay its carriers a minimum wage, violated state tip-sharing laws, and improperly charged certain fees. GateHouse publishes and distributes newspapers pursuant to written agreements with carriers, wholesale to stores, and online. Associate Justice Peter Sacks, authoring the decision for the court, concluded that GateHouse failed to prove that the work the carriers perform is outside the usual course of its business. As such, the carriers were deemed employees under the Massachusetts independent contractor law, G. L. c. 149, § 148B. The court did not consider whether federal law preempted part of the statute, concluding that GateHouse had waived that argument by not raising it earlier.

The decision is Carey v. GateHouse Media Massachusetts I, Inc., AC 17-P-82 (Mass. App. Ct. Feb. 28, 2018). For more information about the proper classification of workers as employees or independent contractors, refer to Johanna Matloff’s  prior post discussing the MA Independent Contractor Law.

CATHERINE M. DIVITA

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