Workers’ complaints illustrate pitfalls of new economy

Modern Man dispute mirrors problems for independent contractors in other industries.

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Modern Man dispute between owners and its barbers mirrors problems for independent contractors in other industries.

The workers picketed the store over unpaid wages and now the state is hinting that they may have had legal recourse.

Barbers awaiting paychecks were urged by a Bureau of Labor and Industries spokesman to file complaints so the state agency could assess each case individually to see if any were eligible to file a wage claim.

The barbers said they split their income with Modern Man and paid a daily fee to rent space, but renting out space was not enough to make them independent contractors, a bureau spokesman said at the time. More critical is whether the worker is free from the employer’s direction and control and has an independently established business.

Five individuals wound up filing nine complaints, including three wage claims totaling $4,100, against two Modern Man shops, according to bureau records. Six complaints resulted in a warning letter to the employer.


The issue remains, though, as Uber drivers complain about unfair treatment: Do independent contractors who function as employees deserve the same protections?

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