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Advocacy groups file federal wage payment suit against remodeling firm

Former employees of a Halethorpe-based home remodeling company filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday accusing the business of failing to pay them adequate wages and engaging in racial discrimination.

Homefix Custom Remodeling Corp. employs “lead developers” to canvass neighborhoods and to work at trade shows to encourage homeowners to make appointments with sales representatives to enter contracts, according to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

According to the lawsuit, the business operates as a “multi-level or pyramid marketing operation that relies on underpaid and mistreated employees to maximize revenue.”

A spokeswoman for Homefix declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit Friday but said the company was an equal employment opportunity employer committed to diversity.

The four named plaintiffs, who worked in Maryland, Washington and Virginia, claim they were misclassified as contractors but were treated as employees — and then were not paid the minimum wage or overtime for working 50- to 80-hour weeks.

“This business, one of the largest remodeling businesses in the country, reports millions of revenues each year … and it generates those revenues on the backs of everyday workers,” Monisha Cherayil, an attorney with the Public Justice Center, said Friday. “Once it builds that army of workers, it doesn’t allow them to share in the profits, even to the extent of paying people the minimum amount required by law.”

The lawsuit is a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act and also a class action for violations of various state wage payment laws, breach of contract and discrimination.

“The reason we have these bedrock protections in place is we want workers to get an honest day’s pay when they’ve put in an honest day’s work and be able to contribute to the economy,” Cherayil said.

Daniel A. Katz, an attorney with co-counsel Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, said the plaintiffs were seeking lost wages and additional damages as permitted.

“What we allege in the complaint should not have been happening,” Katz said. “People have to be paid under the requirements of the wage and hour statutes and people have the right to go to court to seek relief.”

The plaintiffs are also represented by Murphy Anderson PLLC in Washington.

Lead developers were divided into teams and teams were grouped into legions, according to the lawsuit. The developers were given quotes and pressured to work long hours and into weekends and then were not paid as promised, the suit said.

The plaintiffs also allege that white lead developers were sent to canvass predominantly white neighborhoods and that non-white employees were sent to non-white neighborhoods, according to the lawsuit, which noted that the white neighborhoods tended to have higher-income homeowners and generated more leads.

“That ultimately made it harder for non-white workers to have the same sort of earning potential because they were generally assigned to poorer neighborhoods,” Cherayil said.

The case is Torray Baylor et al. v. Homefix Custom Remodeling Corporation et al., 1:19-cv-01195.

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