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Former Staffers Sue Bloomberg Campaign Over Layoffs

Mar 23, 2020 / News Item / The Wall Street Journal — Tarini Parti

Former field organizers for Michael Bloomberg’s campaign have filed two proposed class-action lawsuits in federal court in New York City, making the case that the staffers were terminated after being promised jobs and benefits through November.

One of the lawsuits, which is seeking a minimum of $48 million in damages, argues that Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign “fraudulently induced” staffers into working for him and failed to pay staff overtime wages, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Donna Wood, who worked in Miami for the former New York City mayor’s presidential bid, is named as the plaintiff.

After launching his long-shot White House bid in late November, Mr. Bloomberg said he planned to keep his staff on the payroll and field offices open in at least six competitive general election states, even if he wasn’t the party’s nominee. When the billionaire exited the race earlier this month after spending $935 million over roughly 100 days of his campaign, staffers in several states believed they would remain employed through November under a new super PAC.

Last week, the billionaire and his advisers decided against absorbing his existing infrastructure into a new outside group as he had planned and instead said he would transfer $18 million from his campaign account to the Democratic National Committee.

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Sally Abrahamson, a lawyer for Outten & Golden who is representing Ms. Wood, said she had already received calls from dozens of former staffers saying “they want to be an active participant in this case,” she said.

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Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign laid off all staffers on Friday after he decided not to launch a new outside group. Staffers were told they would be paid through the first week in April, have full benefits through the end of April and could still apply for jobs with the DNC without any guarantees of employment.

Although the campaign publicly committed to keeping staffers on payroll and used it in recruiting, employment through November wasn’t included in the contracts signed by the staffers, which specified that they were “at-will” employees who could be terminated, according to both materials reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and the lawsuit. Some of the hiring materials, however, included paperwork suggesting staffers could stay on payroll through November if they were willing to relocate.

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“By law, I can’t see what the exemption would be here,” Ms. Abrahamson said. The campaign declined to comment on the overtime allegation.

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