Lawsuit Alleges Hewlett-Packard Misclassified Employees

March 24, 2005

Workers have filed a class-action lawsuit against Hewlett-Packard Co., claiming the company wrongly classified them as contractors instead of employees.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Boise, Idaho, claims that the misclassification denied benefits such as health insurance, vacation and sick leave, and retirement plans to more than 3,000 H-P workers throughout the United States. The suit seeks more than $300 million in damages.

The 33 named plaintiffs, most from the company’s Boise plant, claim they qualify as employees instead of contractors under a questionnaire used to determine employee status by the Internal Revenue Service.

Hewlett-Packard spokeswoman Brigida Bergkamp said the company “believes this case has no merit.” She said the Palo Alto, Calif.-based computer and consumer electronics maker had no further comment.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Robert Huntley, declined to comment on the suit.

One of the plaintiffs, Jennifer Miller, said she worked as an employee at Hewlett-Packards’ Boise plant from 1989 to 1995, when she accepted a voluntary severance package as the company moved some jobs overseas. But a short time later, she ran into a former Hewlett-Packard manager who had taken a job with a company that contracts to provide employees to Hewlett-Packard.

The manager offered her a three-week contracting job at Hewlett-Packard, she said.

“That three-week job turned into an 18-month position. And then, every time an assignment ended, I was qualified for something else at H-P and so I did that. So I’ve been at H-P, on their premises, for almost every day of the past 10 years,” Miller said.

Though technically she was employed by the companies Veritest and Manpower Professional during that period, she said, Hewlett-Packard could set her hours, train her and change her title from “software integration support engineer” – as set by Manpower Professional – to Hewlett-Packard’s preferred “software/firmware engineer.”

Still, Miller said, she did not get the vacation time or health insurance Hewlett-Packard’s own employees had.

Miller said she and several other contract employees were laid off earlier this month.

H-P employs about 3,700 people in Boise, according to its Web site.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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