A former Valve employee filed suit in April against the video game company, alleging wrongful termination and misclassification of employment status for four years of employment. The employee, who is referred only by initials in the complaint details a loss of benefits following a move for health reasons that led to reclassification from employee to independent contractor.
In 2012, the Plaintiff, who worked to localize content into Spanish and serve as liaison with law enforcement officials in Spanish-speaking countries, opted for gender reassignment surgery. That required a move to Los Angeles, where their doctors are located.
Valve authorized the move, allowing the individual to work from home. However, the move came with the condition of reclassifying them from an hourly employee to independent contractor.
The complaint alleges that responsibilities did not change. The law provides for what is called the “independent contractor test.” This set of guidelines indicates that if it is dictated when work must be accomplished (standard working hours), what specific tasks must be done, what tools to use, and where services and/or supplies instrumental to the work must be acquired, then the person is an employee.
Misclassification as an independent contractor often means that the individual loses benefits, as happened in this case. It also means the company is not withholding taxes for the independent contractor.
Additionally, the Plaintiff alleges that they were terminated for raising concerns about unpaid community translators who were supposedly led on by a supervisor. The individual also alleges discrimination related to the gender assignment surgery.
The former employee seeks a total of $3.15 million for damages (including post-traumatic stress disorder, humiliation, depression, mental anguish, etc.), unpaid overtime wages, loss of earnings, and special damages (out-of-pocket expenses, including loss of future earning capacity and medical related expenses).
Valve has filed a response completely denying the details of the former employee’s complaint. We’ve reached out to the company for more information. We’ll update should Valve respond.
The implication in the complaint is that there is proof for some of the more heinous allegations of discrimination. If the allegation regarding employment misclassification status bears out, Valve could also find itself with a knock on the door from the IRS. The independent contractor test exists, in part, to ensure that companies don’t skate on their tax responsibilities when it comes to employees and unemployment insurance.
This story was originally published on May 24, 2016 at 03:28 PM CT.