A class-action lawsuit was filed Monday against Mike Bloomberg 2020 Inc. by as many as 2,000 ex-employees who allege the since-abandoned campaign promised pay and health care benefits through the general election before he laid them all off.
Dozens of former campaign staffers for billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s Democratic presidential campaign have come forward to demand payment and health care benefits they say were promised in return for leaving lucrative jobs and even moving cities. Among them is Donna Wood, a former Campaign Field Organizer who says she and “thousands” of other Bloomberg campaign workers were laid off and exempt from benefits after he suddenly dropped out of the primary race on March 4. The complaint, filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges Bloomberg deprived them of promised income and health benefits just as the coronavirus pandemic began in the United States.
“Even if Bloomberg did not win the Democratic nomination, [his campaign] would pay for FOs and other campaign employees to support the Democratic nominee. Bloomberg’s campaign also promised to provide full employer-paid healthcare benefits to FOs and other campaign employees, and their spouses, partners and children,” reads the complaint.
Attorneys from Outten & Golden LLP and Shavitz Law Group, P.A., told Newsweek Monday that thousands of ex-Bloomberg campaign staffers were “induced to take the job with guarantees of employment through November.” But on March 4, they found themselves being deemed “uniformly classified as exempt” from Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protections.
The complaint notes that Bloomberg offered campaign staffers the opportunity to work through November for any Democratic nominee, even if he lost the nomination, in a move designed to entice them over to his late entry campaign. Bloomberg did not enter the 2020 Democratic race until November 24, 2019.
“Bloomberg is aware or should have been aware that federal law required them to pay employees performing non-exempt duties, including Plaintiff [Wood] and members of the FLSA Collective, an overtime premium for hours worked in excess of 40 per workweek,” reads the lawsuit filed Monday. “As a result of the unlawful acts of Bloomberg, Wood and other similarly situated current and former employees have been deprived of promised income and health care benefits, leaving them and their families potentially uninsured in the face of a global pandemic.”
The complaint adds that many of these individuals have lost their health care benefits and salaries they’d previously held at high-paying jobs “in the face of worldwide pandemic and likely global recession.”
In order to avoid paying overtime wages or other benefits, duties such as making phone calls, recruiting volunteers, phone banking and canvassing were labeled as “exempt” from FLSA protections. The complaint notes that “thousands” of ex-employees have been hurt by Bloomberg campaign’s alleged unlawful actions, but there are far too many to be individually joined in the lawsuit.
Justin Swartz, attorney at Outten & Golden LLP, told Newsweek Monday he’d spoken to dozens ex-Bloomberg workers and they were all shocked and disappointed that Bloomberg – a man who cares about his public image – would pull back on previous promises. Swartz said many of these people were induced to come work for Bloomberg after leaving “good paying jobs and moving to different cities.”
“I hope Mr. Bloomberg does what he needs to do make things right by these people,” Swartz said. “He got a lot of hard work from them – and not just regular office work. They’d given their heart and soul and 100 percent effort through organization leg work that was taxing on both a physical and emotional level and I expect he’ll do right by them.”
In comments made to The New York Timeslast week regarding a separate lawsuit against Bloomberg, several staffers expressed they were “so sorry” they’d ever worked for the billionaire.
Since dropping out of the presidential race, Bloomberg has donated $18 million from his campaign to the Democratic National Committee.